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Since the expected shock revelation from Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that a source from within the Trump campaign had supposedly confirmed to the FBI the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has fallen flat with the revelation that the source in question was actually the already indicted George Papadopoulos, the media’s attention has shifted to a claim made over the course of Simpson’s testimony by his lawyer Joshua Levy that someone has supposedly already been murdered because of the publication of the Trump Dossier.
The claim appears on page 278 of the transcript of Simpson’s testimony. The wording is as follows
MR. FOSTER: So without getting into naming the sources or anything like that, what steps did
you take to try to verify their credibility?
MR. SIMPSON: I’m going to decline to answer that.
MR. FOSTER: Why?
MR. LEVY: It’s a voluntary interview, and in addition to that he wants to be very careful to protect his sources. Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.
These comments have understandably enough attracted a lot of attention. However are they true?
Over the course of his testimony Glenn Simpson consistently refused to identify any of the people who provided Christopher Steele with the information he used to compile the Trump Dossier. Simpson would not even confirm whether or not Steele had provided him with the names of these people.
However if someone who provided information to Steele really had been killed I cannot believe that that fact would not have been far more widely publicised by now.
Most probably Levy was referring to Oleg Erovinkin, a former high ranking officer of the Soviet KGB who became an executive of Russia’s state oil company Rosneft and who is said to have been personally close to Igor Sechin, the powerful CEO of Rosneft who plays a major role in the Trump Dossier.
On 27th January 2017 the Daily Telegraph reported that Erovinkin had been found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day 2016.
Supposedly foul play was initially suspected. However the official cause of death is now said to have been a heart attack. A heart attack it must be said would not be an unusual cause of death for a Russian man of 61, which was Erovinkin’s age when he died.
The Daily Telegraph in its article speculated that Erovinkin was killed because he was a source for the Trump Dossier.
However according to a review by Paul Robinson of Luke Harding’s book Collusion Christopher Steele – the Trump Dossier’s compiler – has categorically denied that Erovinkin was one of his sources for the Trump Dossier
Harding discusses the sudden death of Oleg Erovinkin, who worked for the oil company Rosneft. He speculates that “Erovinkin was Steele’s source deep inside Rosneft,” and was murdered because word of Steele’s document had leaked out. The murder, he implies, is proof of the dossier’s validity. Except that Harding admits that, “there was nothing suspicious about Erovinkin’s sudden death” and “Steele was adamant that Erovinkin wasn’t his source.”
(bold italics added)
Of course it is possible that Erovinkin was murdered because he was mistakenly suspected by someone of being a source for the Trump Dossier even if he was not one. However what is the evidence for that? The short answer is none.
At this point the huge difference in perception of the situation in Russia comes into play.
Glenn Simpson in his testimony admits that he has never visited Russia. He is however as his testimony makes clear a convinced believer in the standard Western view that Russia is a corrupt and ruthless kleptocracy, a “mafia state”.
This is despite the fact that in much of his testimony Simpson is sharply critical of William Browder, against whom Simpson has been pitted in the Magnitsky/Prevezon case, and who as Simpson must know is one of the most zealous promoters in the West of the bleakly negative view of Russia that Simpson has internalised.
It is very easy to see how someone like Simpson or indeed his lawyer Joshua Levy who believes these sort of things of Russia would believe that murders of the sort supposedly carried out on Erovinkin happen there, so that if the identities of the people who were the sources for the Trump Dossier were ever revealed their lives would be in danger.
My experience of Russia – formed after repeated visits to the country – could not be more different. In my opinion the days when someone like Erovinkin might have been murdered for providing the sort of information which appears in the Trump Dossier are long since passed and it is inconceivable that he was murdered in the way that is being said.
If the Russian authorities genuinely suspected Erovinkin of being a source for the Trump Dossier they would not murder him, which would be a grossly illegal and immoral act for which there would be no point. They would arrest him, question him and put him on trial on fraud and possibly treason charges.
It is not after all as if other Russians, including FSB officers caught giving away secrets to foreigners – even fictitious secrets invented for money – have not been arrested, questioned and tried in exactly that way. Why suppose Erovinkin would be treated any differently?
There is no evidence Erovinkin was murdered or suffered anything other than a natural death. Even Luke Harding apparently admits as much.
Nor is there any evidence that anyone else involved or suspected of being involved in the making of Trump Dossier has been murdered either.
Joshua Levy’s comment should be seen for what it is: another one of those myriad of unsubstantiated assertions which have clouded understanding ever since the Russiagate affair began.