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Feinstein’s leak of Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony backfires

Attempt to give Trump Dossier credibility fails, instead highlighting its role in triggering Russiagate investigation

An infallible sign that a bad case is collapsing under its own weight comes when its proponents show that they have misunderstood the evidence which is supposed to underpin it.

A classic example of this happened yesterday in the Russiagate case when Senator Dianne Feinstein unilaterally published the transcript of the testimony of Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS given to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 22nd August 2017.

Fusion GPS is the political consultancy firm which acting on behalf of the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign commissioned from the ex British spy Christopher Steele the ‘research’ which became the Trump Dossier.

As it has become increasingly clear that the Trump Dossier is the primary evidence – indeed so far it is the only evidence – behind the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that information from it was used by the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants on members of the Trump campaign from the FISA court, hard questions have increasingly been asked about it by the Republicans in the Senate and the House.

Recently the FBI has admitted that it has been unable to verify the collusion claims in the Trump Dossier, whilst Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham have recently written a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation of Christopher Steele – the Trump Dossier’s compiler – because of inconsistencies in his statements.

Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s letter about Steele to the Justice Department annoyed Feinstein, who has now countered by publishing Simpson’s testimony without first consulting Grassley, who is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Feinstein’s reasons for doing this are not entirely clear – her statement explaining her reasons is vague and unhelpful – but initial media reports strongly suggest that she thought Simpson’s testimony would rescue the credibility of the Trump Dossier by showing that its claims had been corroborated by a source within the Trump campaign who had independently contacted the FBI.

I say this because that is what the media reports which appeared directly after Feinstein’s publication of the transcript of Simpson’s testimony were saying.  See for example this article in Politico which says the following

Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm commissioned a controversial dossier alleging secret ties between President Donald Trump and the Kremlin, told congressional investigators last summer that the FBI found the dossier credible because an undisclosed “human source” associated with Trump had offered the bureau corroborating information.

(bold italics added)

The transcript runs to 312 pages and I doubt that the media could have read it through thoroughly when the initial reports appeared.  That suggests to me that they were directed to the relevant section of the transcript by Feinstein’s staff, who presumably interpreted it for them as Feinstein understood it.

The relevant section in Simpson’s testimony appears on pages 174 to 175 of the transcript and reads as follows

Q. You said that he told you of the meeting with the FBI in Rome in mid or late September, that

he “gave them a full briefing”?

A. A debrief I think is what he probably said, they had debriefed him. I don’t remember him articulating the specifics of that. You know, my understanding was that they would have gotten into

who his sources were, how he knew certain things, and, you know, other details based on their own intelligence.

Essentially what he told me was they had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and that — that they — my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris’s information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.

Q. And did you have any understanding then or now as to who that human intelligence source from inside the Trump campaign might have been?

MR. LEVY: He’s going to decline to answer that question.

MS. SAWYER: On what basis?

MR. SIMPSON: Security.

MR. LEVY: Security.

These words do not in fact say the FBI had been tipped off by someone working for the Trump campaign that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, though it is easy to see how Feinstein might have thought they did.

What these words actually say is that the FBI had obtained information which originated from someone within the Trump campaign which appeared to confirm that collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was taking place.

That is not of course the same thing.

We now know that what Simpson was referring to was George Papadopoulos’s drunken bragging in a London bar in May 2016 in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner, during which he was overheard saying that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.

In the hours that followed Feinstein’s publication of the transcript of Simpson’s testimony the fact that it was Papadopoulos Simpson had referred to was confirmed by someone ‘close to Fusion GPS’ ie. to Simpson himself. That it was Papadopoulos Simpson referred to is in fact obvious if one reads his words closely.

In a recent article for The Duran I discussed the Papadopoulos affair in detail and showed how the claim about the Russians having ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton was most likely Papadopoulos’s own invention and is in any event a false clue which leads nowhere.

In other words the information in Simpson’s testimony which Feinstein seems to have thought would corroborate the Trump Dossier actually does no such thing, and it is doubtful that anyone in Special Counsel Mueller’s team or in the Justice Department or in the FBI any longer thinks it does.

In fact the most important thing which Simpson’s testimony does is that it confirms something completely different.

This is that Steele first informed the FBI about the contents of the first entry in the Trump Dossier in late June or early July 2016, shortly after it was written on 20th June 2016, and before Wikileaks published the DNC emails on 22nd July 2016, and before the FBI received the tip-off about Papadopoulos’s bragging in the London bar from Australia, which was after the DNC emails were published.

Simpson’s extensive discussion of Steele’s first meeting with the FBI in late June or early July 2016 is set out at length on pages 160 to 170 of the transcript.

Over the course of this discussion Simpson claims that the idea of contacting the FBI first came from Steele, that Steele was concerned that the Russians were blackmailing Trump presumably with the film they had made of the Moscow hotel orgy referred to in the first entry of the Trump Dossier, and that Steele knew who to contact at the FBI and actually met with this person and briefed him about what the first entry of the Trump Dossier said.

Simpson gives the name of this FBI official who met with Steele in late June or early July 2016.  The name is redacted from the transcript but based on what we now know it was probably Peter Strzok, who was at the time the FBI’s deputy director of counter-espionage and its expert on Russia.

According to Simpson Steele then met with the FBI again in Rome in September 2016 – his interlocutor was probably again Peter Strzok – who then told him that they believed the Dossier was true because of the tip-off they had got about Papadopoulos (this is what the passage on pages 174 to 175 quoted above refers to).

This information all but confirms the primacy of the Trump Dossier in triggering the Russiagate inquiry.

Contrary therefore to what the New York Times has recently claimed, Simpson’s testimony suggests that the information about Papadopoulos was treated by the FBI as important because it was thought (wrongly) to confirm the collusion allegations in the Trump Dossier.  It was not the evidence which independently of the Trump Dossier started the inquiry.

That at least seems to me the obvious interpretation of Simpson’s words

Essentially what he told me was they had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and that — that they — my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris’s information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.

As the Trump Dossier’s credibility has collapsed the FBI and the Democrats have sought to distance themselves from it even if they cannot bring themselves to repudiate it.  Simpson’s evidence however appears to confirm its essential role in triggering the whole Russiagate scandal.

For those who are concerned about the truth or otherwise of the Russiagate collusion allegations, it is at this point useful to note that the information which originally inspired those allegations and which led to their investigation by the FBI is now admitted to be (1) the Trump Dossier, which cannot be verified, and (2) the information coming from Papadopoulos, which supposedly corroborated the Trump Dossier, but which does no such thing and which is now known to have been a false clue.

Why then if the evidence upon which the Russiagate investigation was launched has been discredited is the investigation still continuing?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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