There are a few bombshells tucked in the new book authored by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, co-owners of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm responsible for the most infamous dossier in American political history.
Here’s one that—as far as I know—hasn’t been disclosed until now: Before Fusion hired Christopher Steele in 2016 to produce his sketchy dossier on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Steele hired Fusion to help him with a client at odds with a key figure in the Trump camp. The London-based operative, misleadingly portrayed in the press as a mere former British intelligence officer, needed help investigating the Trump advisor for his client.
The campaign advisor? Paul Manafort.
Steele’s client? Vladimir Putin-tied oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
“Weeks before Trump tapped Manafort to run his campaign, Christopher Steele had hired Fusion for help investigating Manafort,” Simpson and Fritsch write. “The matter had nothing to do with politics and was a typical commercial assignment.” Fusion and Steele’s firm “inked a small deal to research Manafort’s finances for Steele’s client.”
The Fusion chiefs insist that Steele had been hired by an “unidentified client” to find out whether Manafort had stolen millions of dollars from him. That anonymous client—Deripaska—also happened to be in trouble with the U.S. government for money laundering.
“[Steele] did not disclose the ultimate client for the job, and Fusion didn’t press the issue,” Simpson and Fritsch explain unconvincingly.
That means Glenn Simpson represented not one but two Russian tycoons in 2016: At the same time Fusion was helping Steele on behalf of Deripaska, Simpson also was representing Prevezon, another company owned by a Putin-tied Russian also under investigation by the Justice Department for money laundering. (Prevezon paid a fine of $5.8 million in 2017 to settle the case.)
But wait, there’s more! Fusion’s investigation into Manafort’s finances on behalf of Steele’s Russian client just happened to coincide with Fusion’s dirt-digging into Team Trump, particularly Manafort, Trump’s short-lived campaign manager.
Steele hired Fusion. Fusion hired Steele. They both represented Russian interests as they accused the Trump campaign of treasonous ties to the Kremlin. It was just happenstance, Simpson claimed. “As with the Deripaska case, the coincidence of two work streams coming together would fuel wild conspiracy theories and color congressional inquiries into the whole of the Trump investigation.”
Egregiously Dishonest Spin
There are a lot of coincidences described in Fusion’s book, “Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion Investigation of Donald Trump. The obvious purpose of the book is to provide Democrats, NeverTrump, and the news media with ammunition to debunk allegations of wrongdoing contained in a long-awaited report on potential FISA abuse.
A lengthy investigation, conducted by Michael Horowitz, the inspector general for the Justice Department, is done. His findings are scheduled to be released to the public next Monday. Horowitz is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 11.
At issue is the way James Comey’s FBI used the Steele dossier as evidence to convince a secret court to allow the government to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Nearly two years ago, a memo authored by then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) detailed how Comey misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by presenting unverified political opposition research as legitimate intelligence to accuse Page of being a foreign agent.
Further, Comey withheld from the court the identity of the dossier’s financial backers: the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, working through a politically-connected law firm, hired Fusion to dig up Russian related dirt on Trump. (Simpson explained how that pass-through allowed Fusion to escape congressional inquiries under the guise of attorney-client privilege.)
Fusion’s book is pure spin. It’s an egregiously dishonest attempt to legitimize a document that most pundits now agree is garbage. None of the dossier’s core accusations have been validated; it was a sloppy disinformation campaign from start to finish.
But that won’t stop Simpson and Fritsch from continuing to back their shoddy work. “A handful of documents in recent times have bent the course of history deeply enough to merit their own sobriquet,” they solemnly write. “The Pentagon Papers. The Warren Report. The Starr Report. Time will tell whether the Steele dossier . . . deserves to take its place among them.”
There Are No Coincidences
Any criticism of the dossier, Fusion, or Steele is waved away by the authors with one word: Coincidence.
It was a coincidence that Nellie Ohr, hired by Fusion to work on its anti-Trump project, is married to Bruce Ohr, a former top official at the Obama Justice Department who greenlighted the counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign.
It was just a coincidence that the FBI formally opened that investigation one day after the Ohrs had breakfast with Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016 in Washington, D.C. to discuss his anti-Trump work. One of the targets of the FBI’s probe, coincidentally, was Paul Manafort, the lobbyist targeted by both Steele and Simpson.
It was a coincidence that Simpson met with Natalia Veselnitskya, the so-called Russian lawyer, both before and after the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 that Trump foes insist represented “collusion” between the campaign and the Russians.
Further, it was just a coincidence that Veselnitskya worked for Prevezon, the same Russian company Fusion was repping. “The meeting marked a shocking overlap of events, one of those truly hard to fathom coincidences,” Simpson and Fritsch confess.
It was just a coincidence that Simpson and Fritsch, who describe themselves as nonpartisan, traveled to the Democratic National Convention in July 2016 just as the party was being rocked by the release of damaging internal emails that showed how the organization helped Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Simpson and Fritsch met with top news organizations and editors, including the New York Times’ Dean Baquet, to (successfully) change the story to Trump-Russia election collusion.
It was just a coincidence that Fritsch lives in the same suburban D.C. neighborhood as Jonathan Winer, an Obama State Department official who also (inexplicably) is friendly with Steele.
“One evening in late September , Fritsch went to Winer’s house with a copy of all the reports Steele had produced to date,” the duo write. “Fritsch allowed Winer to read them and take notes for the express purpose of making [Secretary of State John] Kerry aware of the substance of Steele’s reporting.”
It was just a coincidence that Simpson met in early 2017 with Dan Jones, a former staffer to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and that they began “kicking the idea” about how to fund Fusion’s anti-Trump propaganda machine. In short order, Jones just happened to form a nonprofit and coincidentally enlist the help of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta to raise money. Shockingly, the team found several Silicon Valley billionaires eager to help finance their “public interest project,” which raised $7 million in 2017 to smear Trump.
It was just a coincidence that, in 2018, Fusion happened to get involved in congressional races, allegedly for the first time, and happened to pick one race in a solid Republican district on the other side of the country that happened to be represented by Nunes, the firm’s nemesis in the House. Fusion just happened to get the Democrats’ 660-page opposition research book to “topple” Nunes and helped spread false allegations about Nunes before the midterm election. (He won anyway.)
The Patriotism of Scoundrels
While Simpson and Fritsch take cheap shots at their detractors, including one vile attack on a former contractor suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Simpson is portrayed as “Captain America,” the title of one chapter, for his heroic efforts to “protect the republic at all costs.”
Steele is described as an American patriot even though he’s British. After Senate Republicans sent the Justice Department a criminal referral on Steele, the British operative complained to Simpson. “I’ve served my country loyally for twenty years and only did what I thought was right. This is how I am thanked? These people have no shame.”
The Fusion GPS founders might try to equate the dossier with the Pentagon Papers, but it’s more likely their efforts will go down as the biggest con job in American history. The dossier will bend “the course of history,” just not in the way Simpson, Fritsch, and Steele hope. No amount of self-aggrandizing spin can salvage them now.