By Kyle Cheney, Politico, January 9, 2018
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday unexpectedly released the transcript of congressional investigators’ August 2017 interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm was behind a controversial dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russians.
Feinstein’s move represents an escalation of partisan tensions that have long been simmering on the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Simpson had called for the transcript of his appearance to be made public, but Republican leaders so far had not agreed to release it.
A spokesman for Grassley said Feinstein posted the transcript with “no agreement” from committee Republicans.
“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, said in a statement about her decision to release the Simpson transcript.
“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public,” she said.
The dossier has come under fire from some Republicans, both because it contains some unproven salacious material and because they see it as a trigger to the Trump-Russia investigation. After it was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, the dossier was handed over to the FBI. Later, it was published by BuzzFeed.
Feinstein’s move came days after Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) referred Steele to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. Feinstein said Grassley and Graham did not consult committee Democrats beforehand.
Simpson and his co-founder Peter Fritsch said in an op-ed earlier this month that Republicans had selected leaked details of the testimony but refused to release the full materials.
“Fusion GPS commends Sen. Feinstein for her courage,” a spokesman said Tuesday. “The transcript of Glenn Simpson’s lengthy responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning speaks for itself.”
In his testimony, Simpson rejected suggestions — pushed by Trump allies and Republicans in Congress — that Fusion paid journalists to publish anti-Trump material. But he acknowledged briefing journalists before the election.
“There were things that Chris knew and understood to be the case that only he could really explain in a credible way, and… we thought that he should be the one that explains them,” Simpson said. “So we sat down with a small group of reporters who were involved in investigative journalism of national security issues and we thought were in a position to make use of him as a resource.”
Simpson also said Steele initiated communication with the FBI in July 2016 with “someone that he said he knew.”At the time, Simpson said, Steele was told that his information tracked with what they had heard from a source from the “Trump organization.” It was unclear whether he might have been referring to Trump’s business or his presidential campaign. Simpson said he wouldn’t share the identity of that source for “security” reasons.
I know that I just don’t feel comfortable sharing because obviously it’s been in the news a lot lately that people who get in the way of the Russians tend to get hurt,” he said.
Steele later briefed a senior FBI official in Rome, Simpson testified, but later “broke off” communications with the bureau.
“Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn’t think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn’t understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down,” Simpson said explaining Steele’s decision.
Elsewhere, Steele added that “there was concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people.” He did not provide further detail.
He added that Steele told him the FBI didn’t pay him for his work.