Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has released the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson's testimony given to her committee on August 22, 2017.
The following are key excerpts from that 312-page transcript.
On why Fusion GPS, which does not do a lot of political work, got involved in a Trump-related project and what the nature of that work entailed:
Page 58 ...[M]y specialty is really sort of financial investigations and business practices. In the last -- you know, in a current example we have a businessman who had a far-flung business empire all around the world. So, you know, that was a natural subject for me. So we do, we investigate multinational enterprises on a frequent basis.
Q. Just to be clear, when you say "in the current example," what are you referring to?
A. 2016 presidential election.
Page 62 It was, broadly speaking, a kind of holistic examination of Donald Trump's business record and his associations, his bankruptcies, his suppliers, you know, offshore or third-world suppliers of products that he was selling. You know, it evolved somewhat quickly into issues of his relationships to organized crime figures but, you know, really the gamut of Donald Trump.
On Trump's known connections to convicted criminal Felix Sater:
Page 70 I found it notable this was something he didn't want to talk about and testified under oath he wouldn't know Felix if he ran into him in the street. That was not true. He knew him well and, in fact, continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix's organized crime ties. So, you know, that tells you something about somebody. So I concluded that he was okay with that and that was a troubling thing. I also, you know, began to -- I keep saying I, but we as a company began to look at where his money came from and, you know, that raised a lot of questions. We saw indications that some of the money came from Kazakhstan, among other places, and that some of it you just couldn't account for.
On Fusion's lack of political affiliation:
Page 76 Q. At a news briefing on August 1, 2017 White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Fusion GPS as a democratic linked firm. Is that an accurate description?
A. I would not agree with that description. I was a journalist for most of my adult life and a professional at not taking sides, and I'm happy and proud to say I have lots of Republican clients and friends and I have lots of Democratic clients and friends. I've lived in this city for 30 years or so and I know a lot of people on both sides and we have a long proud history of not being partisan. And the same is true for my colleagues. We intentionally don't hire people who have strong partisan affiliations. We prefer journalists who don't see things through ideological prisms and ideological prisms are not helpful for doing research.
On why Fusion hired Christopher Steele in May or June of 2016:
Page 78 What happens when you get to this point in an investigation when you've gathered all of the public record information and you've begun to exhaust your open source, you know, resources is that you tend to find specialists who can take you further into a subject and I had known Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the government and an extremely well-regarded investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we're friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy and organized crime issues. I would say that's broadly why I asked him to see what he could find out about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia.
On Steele's reputation and credibility and the information he was collecting:
Page 148 It's coming from Chris Steele who's a guy that I've worked with for, you know, about eight or nine years and Chris, as I say, has a Sterling reputation as a person who doesn't exaggerate, doesn't make things up, doesn't sell baloney. So the one thing that you get good at if you do this for a while is finding reliable sources, finding reliable people who have a record of giving it to you straight and not making stuff up and not making mistakes. So from that perspective, you know, this was alarming because Chris is a credible person, he's well respected in his field, and, as I say, everyone I know who's ever dealt with him thinks he's quite good. That would include people from the U.S. government.
On how Steele came to approach the FBI with his findings and why:
Page 159 You know, after the first memo, you know, Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to -- he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information. He thought from his perspective there was an issue -- a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed. From my perspective there was a law enforcement issue about whether there was an illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws, and then somewhere in this time the whole issue of hacking has also surfaced.
So he proposed to -- he said we should tell the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence of these events, but my recollection is that I questioned how we would do that because I don't know anyone there that I could report something like this to and be believed and I didn't really think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do that.
In any event, he said don't worry about that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am, I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So, you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate way, I said it was okay for him to do that.
Page 161 Q. You said you had asked for some time to think it over. What in particular did he articulate to you was of significant national security concern to indicate that it should be taken to the FBI?
A. His concern, which is something that counterintelligence people deal with a lot, is whether or not there was blackmail going on, whether a political candidate was being blackmailed or had been compromised. And the whole problem of compromise of western businessmen and politicians by the Russians is an essential part of -- it's like disinformation, it's something they worry about a lot and deal with a lot and are trained to respond to.
So, you know, a trained intelligence officer can spot disinformation that you or I might not recognize, certainly that was Chris's skill, and he honed in on this issue of blackmail as being a significant national security issue.
Page 162 Q. And with specific regard to the issue of blackmail, what was the -- what were the facts that he had gathered that made him concerned about the possibility of blackmail and who did he think was going to be blackmailed?
A: ...it's well known in intelligence circles that the Russians have cameras in all the luxury hotel rooms and there are memoirs written about this by former Russian intelligence agents I could quote you. So the problem of kompromat and kompromating is just endemic to east-west intelligence work. So that's what I'm referring to. That's what he's referring to.
Page 164: A. Well, I mean, let's be clear, this was not considered by me to be part of the work that we were doing. This was -- to me this was like, you know, you're driving to work and you see something happen and you call 911, right. It wasn't part of the -- it wasn't like we were trying to figure out who should do it. He said he was professionally obligated to do it. Like if you're a lawyer and, you know, you find out about a crime, in a lot of countries you must report that. So it was like that. So I just said if that's your obligation, then you should fulfill your obligation.
Steele first met with someone from the FBI in July and then again in September, and Simpson says that during that second meeting, Steele heard about the FBI having a source inside the Trump campaign:
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 ... 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.
On why Steele stopped communicating with the FBI:
Page 178 A: There was some sort of interaction, I think it was probably telephonic that occurred after Director Comey sent his letter to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. That episode, you know, obviously created some concern that the FBI was intervening in a political campaign in contravention of long-standing Justice Department regulation.
So it made a lot of people, including us, concerned about what the heck was going on at the FBI. So, you know, we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether they were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question. You know, I think -- I'm not sure we've covered this fully, but, you know, we just encouraged them to ask the FBI that question.
On October 31st the New York Times posed a story saying that the FBI is investigating Trump and found no connections to Russia and, you know, it was a real Halloween special.
Sometime thereafter the FBI -- I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn't know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn't really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them.
On how Senator John McCain (R-AZ) got involved and why:
Page 219 So after the election obviously we were as surprised as everyone else and Chris and I were mutually concerned about whether the United States had just elected someone who was compromised by a hostile foreign power, more in my case whether the election had been tainted by an intervention by the Russian intelligence services, and we were, you know, unsure what to do. Initially we didn't do anything other than to discuss our concerns, but we were gravely concerned.
At some point a few weeks after the election Chris called me and said that he had received an inquiry from David Kramer, who was a long-time advisor to Senator McCain, and that according to -- Kramer told Chris that he had run into Sir Andrew Wood at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that Kramer was accompanying Senator McCain to this conference and that the three of them had had an unscheduled or unplanned encounter where the issue of this research was discussed and the essence of it, I guess, was conveyed to Senator McCain and to David Kramer from Andrew Wood...
But anyway, he did say someone that he worked with in the past who was a former UK government official with experience in Russia had had this conversation with David Kramer and John McCain and that Senator McCain had followed up on it as to what more there was to know about these allegations, this information.
Page 221 David is someone I've known for a long time and he knows a lot about these issues and he's very concerned about Putin and the Kremlin and the rise of the new Russia and criminality and kleptocracy. So he said, well, can we trust him? And I said yes, I think we can trust him. He says he wants information to give to Senator McCain so that Senator McCain can ask questions about it at the FBI, with the leadership of the FBI.
That was essentially -- all we sort of wanted was for the government to do its job and we were concerned about whether the information that we provided previously had ever, you know, risen to the leadership level of the FBI. We simply just didn't know. It was our belief that Director Comey if he was aware -- if he was made aware of this information would treat it seriously.
Again, at this time, you know, while we believed that we had very credible reporting here, you know, what we really -- we just wanted people in official positions to ascertain whether it was accurate or not. You know, we just felt that was our obligation.
Simpson says as far as he knows, the FBI never paid Steele for research:
Page 232 Q: And I think you've already answered this question, but to the best of your knowledge, did Mr. Steele ever obtain payment from the FBI for actual research that he was doing on Russian interference or on possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia?
A. He told me he did not, and I have no independent information other than what he told me. I don't believe he ever received compensation for working on anything related to Trump and Russia.
On Steele's trust in his sources:
Page 239 In British intelligence the methodology's a little different from American intelligence. There's a practice of being faithful to what people are saying. So these are relatively straightforward recitations of things that people have said. Obviously as we talked about before, you know, disinformation is an issue that Chris wrestles with, has wrestled with his entire life. So if he believed any of this was disinformation, he would have told us.
Q. And did he ever tell you that information in any of these memos, that he had concerns that any of it was disinformation?
A. No. What he said was disinformation is an issue in my profession, that is a central concern and that we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this was disinformation or I had concerns about that I would tell you that and I'm not telling you that. I'm telling you that I don't believe this is disinformation.
On Carter Page:
Page 241 ...there's a lot of skepticism in the press about whether he could be linked between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign because he seemed like a zero, a lightweight. I remember sort of not being able to kind of explain to people that's exactly why he would end up as someone who they would try to co-opt.
Of course, you know, when we talk about things in the dossier that are confirmed, this is one of the things that I think really stands out as notable, which is that Chris identified Carter Page as someone who had -- seemed to be in the middle of the campaign, between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and he later turned out to be an espionage suspect who was, in fact, someone that the FBI had been investigating for years.
On the White House labeling the dossier "phony":
Page 257 Most importantly the allegation that we were working for the Russian government then or ever is simply not true. I don't know what to say. It's political rhetoric to call the dossier phoney [sic]. The memos are field reports of real interviews that Chris's network conducted and there's nothing phoney about it. We can argue about what's prudent and what's not, but it's not a fabrication.
On Simpson and Steele sharing their findings with reporters:
Page 278 Essentially there was -- at some point the controversy over the Trump campaign's possible relationship with the Kremlin became, you know, one of the main -- major issues in the campaign and there were things that Chris knew and understood to be the case that only he could really explain in a credible way, and I thought that -- we thought that he should be the one that explains them, you know. 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.
On Simpson's personal opinion of Trump:
Q. And given that you had been trained not to allow etiology to cloud your work, it sounds like you reached a conclusion and had concerns about Candidate Trump. What steps did you take to then ensure that your conclusion didn't cloud the work that was being done?
A. Well, to be clear, my concerns were in the category of character and competence rather than -- I didn't have any specific concerns for much of the time about his views, which I don't share, but that wasn't really the issue. Most of what we do has to do with do people have integrity and whether they've been involved in illicit activity. So those were the things I focused on.
Page 294 You know, just to reiterate, the facts of these investigations are the facts and we don't try to drive an investigation to any particular conclusion, certainly not based on our political views. So I think it would be, you know, not believable for me to tell you I didn't reach, you know, views about Donald Trump's integrity, but, you know, those were -- those didn't influence the research in terms of the findings. Those were the findings.
On Michael Cohen:
Q. And what did you learn about Mr. Cohen's role in the Trump campaign?
A. We learned that his job included dealing with inquiries about Russia and he seemed to get all of the serious inquiries, investigative inquiries about Russia. He seemed to know a lot about that. We learned that he was a very intimidating person who had a history of threatening reporters with libel suits. We learned that he's married to -- his father-in-law is a Ukrainian emigre, that he had some Ukrainian clients and connections to the taxi industry in New York which is heavily populated with Russian emigres, and we learned that he was involved in some of Trump's projects where there was a lot of Russian buyers. The only other thing I can think of is that he was also the person who dealt with allegations against Mr. Trump from the tabloids.
On Fusion GPS' research goals:
Page 309 I think when you're doing research on any subject you're trying to figure out what the truth is. So if Donald Trump's got a good business record and he's really worth billions of dollars, that's important information. In fact, you shouldn't be feeding reporters stories about how Donald Trump is not worth billions of dollars if he's worth billions of dollars. So, you know, I think the connotation of negativity, I get, you know, where you're coming from, but, in fact, you're just trying to figure out what's true.
...I do my job well and I get rehired when I give them the right information, when I give them accurate information. So if Donald Trump turned out to be a great businessman, that's what I would have to tell people.