It’s no surprise that congressional Republicans would rather you didn’t pay attention to the actual content of Glenn Simpson’s November 14 testimony in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). That’s because Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS and the person who contracted with former MI-6 Russia specialist Christopher Steele to investigate the Trump campaign’s Russia ties in 2016, gave committee members a virtual master class in how to investigate Russiagate: what to look for, where to look, and how to find it.
First, though, a quick reminder about Simpson and his company: A former journalist who had worked for Roll Call and then The Wall Street Journal, in 2011 Simpson founded Fusion GPS—which according to its website provides “research, strategic intelligence, and due diligence services to corporations, law firms, and investors.” In September 2015, Simpson’s firm was retained by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, apparently acting on behalf of one or more of Donald Trump’s Republican primary opponents. After Trump secured the GOP nomination in the spring of 2016, Fusion GPS was retained by a Democratic law firm, Perkins Coie, acting on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, after which Fusion continued its investigation of the alleged Russia connections, hiring Steele to help in the effort.
In six hours of testimony before the HPSCI, whose transcript was released only on January 18, Simpson elaborated on what he and his colleagues found during a year-long inquiry into Trump’s business practices, ranging from money laundering to Trump’s vodka brand, the Miss Universe pageant, unprofitable golf resorts, shady Central Asian business deals, real-estate shenanigans in Toronto, Panama, and New York, and Trump’s reputed ties to both the Italian and Russian mafias. What Simpson outlined, gathered over at least 14 months of digging by his firm, went far beyond the so-called Trump-Russia dossier, the 35-page series of raw intelligence reports compiled by Steele and published in full in January 2017 by BuzzFeed.
Simpson’s HPSCI testimony—which took place three months after his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was released earlier this month by Senator Dianne Feinstein and reported by The Nation on January 12—provides a virtual road map not only to congressional investigators but to Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel (although Mueller, whose team has been digging for a while, was probably already looking into most of the dark corners Simpson pointed to).
The Republicans, who have lined up as a virtual Donald Trump defense team (especially in the House), have recently raised a big fuss under the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. Building to a crescendo over the past two weeks or so, the GOP claims that a particular memo—apparently written by Republican staffers on HPSCI—will help unveil a conspiracy between Mueller, the FBI, Fusion GPS, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee to foist Russiagate on an unsuspecting America. “Not surprisingly, the GOP campaign to attack the FBI now has been joined by the same forces that made common cause during the Trump campaign—Wikileaks, Julian Assange and a multitude of online Russian bots are now involved in promoting this effort,” said a statement released on January 19 by all nine Democrats who sit on HPSCI. “It should be seen for what it so plainly is: yet another desperate and flailing attempt to undermine Special Counsel Mueller and the FBI, regardless of the profound damage it does to our democratic institutions and national security agencies.”