Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made a fateful decision acting unilaterally with a phony “criminal referral” of Christopher Steele, a Brit over whom the United States has no jurisdiction anyway and whom they never saw testify, not just because it made them look like partisan hacks. They set a new standard that anyone on the committee could act independently and without bipartisan consent of their colleagues. So Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) did them one better. The Post reports:
The British ex-spy who authored a dossier of allegations against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was told the FBI had someone inside Trump’s network providing agents with information, according to a newly released transcript of a congressional interview.Glenn R. Simpson, a founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, spoke to investigators with the Senate Judiciary Committee for 10 hours in August. As the partisan fight over Russian interference in the 2016 election has intensified, Simpson has urged that his testimony be released, and a copy of the transcript was made public Tuesday.It was released by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
You can understand why the Republicans were furiously trying to suppress the transcript, which contains no classified information.
- First, it makes clear that Steele was engaged because of his expertise and contacts. He was not told to find anything in particular, but just to research the totality of Trump’s involvement in Russia.
- Second, according to Simpson, Trump was doing business all over the former Soviet states of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Interestingly, Trump repeatedly denied having financial ties in Russia itself but never publicly denied operations in states in which Russians exercised substantial influence.
- Third, in investigating Trump’s finances they found his properties were not as highly valued as he suggested and, in the case of several golf courses, weren’t making money.
- Fourth, Steele took it upon himself to report his finding to the FBI because he believed there was a “crime in progress” and matter of national security. He later relayed to Simpson that the FBI already had information from a campaign source.
- Fifth, Trump lied about not knowing who Felix Sater is. Simpson testified, “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.” We do not know if Sater was in fact tied to organized crime.
- Sixth, Simpson called it a reasonable “interpretation” that the Trump Tower meeting was designed by Russian officials to reach out to and cooperate with the Trump team.
- Seventh, far from interfering in the election to benefit Hillary Clinton, the FBI did not publicly disclose during the campaign the wealth of information it was learning about Trump and Russia.
What stands out most from an initial perusal of the transcript is the professionalism and seriousness of Fusion GPS and Steele. By attempting to suppress a candid look into the dossier (really a series of memos, Simpson explains), Republicans once again are caught acting like Trump henchmen, trying to play down the investigation into Russia, not unearth and air what they learn.