Co-founder of firm tied to Trump dossier interviewed by House
WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee is interviewing the co-founder of the firm that assembled a dossier claiming links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS, which conducted opposition research during the presidential election, arrived Tuesday afternoon to be questioned by Republicans who want to know whether U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies relied on the dossier to pursue surveillance of Trump or his campaign associates.
Democrats on the panel have called that a distraction from investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. They have shown more interest in verifying the accuracy of the dossier.
Trump has denied the allegations contained in the 35-page document, which was written largely by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by Fusion GPS.
Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, was testifying privately under a deal reached last week that enables him to choose not to answer some questions, according to his lawyer, Joshua Levy.
During the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid Fusion GPS through a law firm for some of the dossier’s research, taking over from earlier work funded by Republican donors who opposed Trump during the primary.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California and other House Republicans have said they’re concerned U.S. agencies relied on unverified information from the dossier— some of it possibly planted by Russians — to justify investigating Trump or to obtain federal surveillance warrants. Nunes has been demanding records from the Justice Department and the FBI on whether that took place.
Republicans also have said they want to know why Simpson met in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya — a day before she met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son. Emails released by Trump Jr. show that he was expecting to receive compromising information about Clinton from Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya said in an interview with NBC News that incriminating information about Clinton she was to bring that day to Trump Tower — describing alleged tax evasion and donations to Democrats — came from Simpson.
Trump Jr. has said she provided no useful information. The Trump campaign dismissed the meeting as part of a lobbying effort to amend a 2012 law that placed sanctions on Russians for human rights abuses known as the Magnitsky Act.
A former U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has said that the dossier didn’t exist as a formal document when the FBI began its investigation in July 2016. It’s possible, however, that the FBI was made aware of some of the allegations that eventually went into the dossier, and those allegations played a role in the FBI opening its investigation, the former official said.
Appearing at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wouldn’t say whether the FBI paid Steele.
A transcript of the committee’s Nov. 3 interview with Trump campaign adviser Carter Page indicates some of the information in the dossier is true. That includes a claim that Page had contact with high-level Russian officials in Moscow in July 2016, including a deputy prime minister, and notified others in the Trump campaign of these contacts.