By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/11/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The Trump-Russia collusion news of this cycle is dominated by the release of the transcript of the Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) unilaterally released the transcript on Tuesday. The testimony – 312 pages long – is the result of Simpson’s appearance before committee investigators for ten hours in August 2017. Now you can be an active citizen and read it for yourself.
There are many news outlets offering access to the full document. The best resource I’ve found so far is from the Washington Post and can be linked to here.
The last edition of the Russia Monitor focused on Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury. The January 4 edition of the Russia Monitor focused on Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson and Steele dossier author and former Britisn MI6 Russia expert Christopher Steele.
Let’s come at this from two perspectives:
1) Why did Sen. Feinstein release the transcript and;
2) what do we learn from the transcript?
1) Why Did Feinstein Release the Transcript?
Again from last edition, we ran this headline, The GOP’s New Year’s Resolution: Make Russia Go Away.
Senators Grassley (R-IA; Senate Judiciary Committee chair) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have lately viewed Steele as the issue, and not the subjects of Steele’s investigation. How often do we see the whistleblower treated as the problem? This paragraph appeared in the last edition:
“For months, Republicans have pursued a strategy that boils down to: obstruct, divert, and undercut. They have stymied Democratic efforts to probe various Russia threads, mounted diversionary inquiries related to Hillary Clinton, and sought to kneecap the special counsel investigation by launching an attack on the credibility of the Justice Department itself. On Friday, two Republican Senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Justice Department to investigate whether former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the author of a series of memos allegations regarding Trump and Russia, broke the law by lying to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding his findings. The request the first known congressional criminal referral related to the Trump-Russia scandal, and it targeted a figure known for exposing Trump’s Russia ties.”
Feinstein had enough – the whistleblower is not the problem. The FBI is not the problem.
Trump-Russia collusion is the problem and GOP complicity is a BIG problem.
The uncomfortable truth for the republicans is that the Fusion GPS Transcript Undercuts GOP Attack On Steele And FBI.
Grassley and Graham will have to plot a new line of defense, and they will.
“The decision by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to release the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee did more damage to Republicans on the committee than to President Trump. For starters, it debunked the position of Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the transcript had to be kept under wraps. Two Republican senators supported Feinstein’s decision. : “I think that’s a good idea. I’m glad that it was done.” He added, “I respect Chairman Grassley, and I don’t really understand how this happened, but I do think more transparency is important.” Likewise, , “It doesn’t bother me to have the American people know the facts or at least the alleged facts.””
We can all now know Simpson’s statement of what happened and why. We all now can see the deliberate misrepresentations offered by Grassley, Graham and others. We don’t know their motivations but we can see the lies.
The morning after the release of the testimony Trump was still tweeting the old game plan:
“ on Wednesday called on Republicans to “take control” of the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia and labeled the ongoing probe the “single greatest Witch Hunt in American history.”
““There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!” Trump tweeted.”
But even if Trump doesn’t get it, Grassley does seem to know when to let go of a failed defense:
“Sen. (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’s not sure what the president had in mind with his comments, adding that he doesn’t plan to follow up with Trump on the matter.
““I don’t intend to have a discussion with the president on that point and I hope he doesn’t call me and tell me the same thing that you said he said,” Grassley told CNN’s Manu Raju on Wednesday when told about Trump’s tweet.”
This doesn’t mean that Grassley is happy, he’s not:
“In a statement, the spokesman, Taylor Foy, said that Feinstein’s decision to release the transcript without first consulting Grassley compromises the Judiciary Committee’s ability to conduct its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“”Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses,” Foy said.”
We do also know – the GOP will come up with new targets and lines of attack to defend Trump and his denials of Trump-Russia collusion.
Now we know more about what they are hiding; what they really, really didn’t want us to see.
2) What Do We Learn From The Transcript?
‘It’s not a fabrication’: Six Times The Firm Behind The Infamous Dossier Contradicted Trump’s Claims.
The Washington Post offered a summary of the 312 pages of testimony: ‘It’s not a fabrication’: Six Times The Firm Behind The Infamous Dossier Contradicted Trump’s Claims.
The Post began with this:
“It’s not made up. It wasn’t politically motivated. And it did not set out with the intention to smear Donald Trump.
“That’s what the co-founder of a research firm, Fusion GPS, told Congress about a dossier his firm produced during the presidential campaign.”
This is a common take-away from the testimony. No one involved expected to find what they found. The decision to go to the FBI was made by Steele with Simpson’s agreement. Trump defenders somehow mix Fusion GPS, Steele, Democrats and the FBI together with some notion of embarrassing Trump – that’s the real collusion. But per the testimony:
““The purpose of this was to see if we could learn more, generally speaking, about his business dealings in Russia. What came back was something very different and obviously more alarming,” Simpson said.”
The FBI told Steele the agency believed him. There is corroboration for many parts of the Steele dossier. Donnie Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower and former Trump foreign policy analyst and his contact with Russians are two easily oft citted examples.
The Washington Post highlights comments by Simpson in the testimony saying that Steele had told him, “other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source,” someone “inside the Trump organization.” Simpson added, “It was someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something.”
The Washington Post highlights this as “the biggest headline”. There is much speculation about whether this is someone we already know about, such as George Papadopoulos, former Trump foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI, or whether there is another whistleblower. There are many opinions, much debate and – at this point – no answers. But this debate signals a change in tone – there is less debate about the veracity of the work done by Simpson and Steele and much more debate about the attempt to bury the story.
Here’s how The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin summarizes her view:
“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.”
There are many observations offered by Simpson worthy of note and further review. Here are several remarks along with the page numbers from the transcript.
(Simpson commenting on Trump investigation) “…it evolved quickly into issues of his relationship to organized crime figures…” (pg. 62)
(Simpson commenting specifically on the interest in Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin) “…it wasn’t a giant secret” that “Donald Trump had a relationship with the Kremlin.” “People were talking about it freely.” (pg. 87-88)
(Simpson commenting on their focus on Trump business in Russia) “…very different and obviously more alarming, which had to do with . . . a political conspiracy . . . the government of Russia or someone was doing some hacking. . .”; “…there were rumblings at that time about whether there had been lot of hacking and there was going to be — political digital espionage was going to be a component of the campaign.” (pg. 143-144)
(Simpson commenting on Trump and his inner circle with regard to information helpful to the Trump campaign) “…he and his inner circle accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin.” “If you’re getting help from a foreign government and your help is intelligence, then the foreign government’s interfering“. (pg. 154-155)
(Simpson commenting on Steele’s concerns and his intent to contact the FBI) “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.” (pg. 159) “He thought from his perspective there was an issue – a security issue about whether someone being blackmailed. (pg. 160) [Emphasis added. Ed.]
(Simpson when asked about independent Fusion GPS verification if any) “I was aware at the time (mid-2016) that the Russian mafia and Russian cyber crime was a subcontractor to the Russian intelligence services.” (pg. 233)
(Simpson when asked to name sources) “I’m going to decline to answer that.” (Simpson’s lawyer, Levy adds) “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. [Emphasis added. – Ed.]
Political corruption, hacking, political digital espionage, foreign government interference, national security threat, Russian mafia, Russian cyber crime. Murder.
That’s a long list of concerns that Grassley, Graham and other republicans were motivated to keep the American public from seeing – while making up their own theories of Russian/Clinton/FBI collusion. Of course, some media outlets accept fake GOP collusion fantasies at face value while attacking whistleblowers that have brought forward real evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
There’s more. Starting on page 261 of Simpson’s testimonry there is an exchange about a hedge fund working through Cyprus for investments made in Russia. The hedge fund is Hermitage Capital and was led by Bill Browder. Much has been covered about his experience eventually leading to the murder of Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, and the resulting sanctions against Russia known as the Magnitsky Act, which Putin has long wanted overturned.
Simpson is handed an exhibit for remarks: the contemporaneous notes of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment. The troubling aspect that is work reading is a quick discussion of the use of Hermitage Capital for investments in Russia by “active sponsors of the RNC (Republican National Committee)”. There is an acknowledgement by Simpson that “Browder hired Joanna Glover”, who is in fact Juliana Glover, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s press secretary during the Iraq war.
The main focus here is Simpson’s testimony about the work performed by Fusion GPS and Chris Steele, and their concerns about the very real political-crime-in-progress that needed to be brought to the attention of the FBI.
As always – and it seems forever – there is more news:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is in discussion with Trump lawyers about an interview with the president.
Trump commented on a possible interview after a few days of speculation by offering, “we’ll see what happens”. Trump added, “When they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.”
Given the Simpson testimony, it is worth noting that Mueller has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team.
A newly released Senate report details Russian interference in elections over the last two decades in 19 countries. MOST importantly the report lists 30 recommendations to safeguard our elections. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee commissioned the report. A summary and the full report can be found here.
Since US banks weren’t willing to lend to him, Deutsche Bank is often mentioned for their loans to Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. If you want to know just how corrupt and how many times the bank has been found to have broken many laws, here’s a long read compiled by Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division. It even offers mini-lessons in how to launder money, appropriately, since one of the bank’s many criminal activities was the laundering of $10,000,000,000 in Russian money.
Have we finally reached a point where we can give serious attention to the question of what happened with Trump-Russian collusion? Has Sen. Feinstein given us the impetus to quiet the detractors and focus on finally getting real answers?
Or will Trump and the complicit GOP cook up new distractions? History says it only takes hours for Trump and his apologists to launch a new noisy distraction. They are wrong-footed at the moment, expect that to change.
Link To The Commoner Call Archive Of Past ‘Russia Monitor Columns’ By Dan Peak, HERE.
(Commoner Call cartoons by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )