As Scott noted earlier today, the House Intelligence Committee has released transcripts of its interviews with Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS and the source of the Democrats’ smear campaign against Donald Trump. I have spent considerable time reviewing the two transcripts, found here and here. I will have more to say about Simpson’s testimony tomorrow, but for the moment I want to make the following points:
1) Simpson appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, in response to a subpoena, on November 8, 2017. At that time, his lawyer indicated that he would not answer questions, but rather would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
The Fifth Amendment does not give a witness carte blanche to say that it would be more convenient for him not to answer questions. It is a constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. To invoke it, a witness must allege that if he were to answer questions on a certain topic, his answers may tend to show that he is guilty of a crime. What crime did Glenn Simpson commit, or at least arguably commit, in connection with Fusion GPS’s absurd “investigation” of Donald Trump, and his later publicizing of the results of that investigation? We don’t know.
2) A few days later, on November 14, Simpson gave a statement under oath to the committee, under ground rules that I find ridiculous. Trey Gowdy, who is a competent lawyer, was allowed to question Simpson for a mere 45 minutes, much of which was taken up with wrangling over Simpson’s refusal to answer questions. As an experienced litigator, I could pretty easily get to the bottom of Simpson’s claims if I had him under oath as a witness, with a judge to rule on frivolous refusals to answer. It would take at least a day, and perhaps two days, not 45 minutes. Congressional investigations border on the useless.
3) As best I can tell, Fusion GPS has nothing on Donald Trump. When asked about President Trump’s supposedly nefarious dealings, Simpson speculates, he bloviates, he obscures, he alleges, he wonders. If he has any facts to support the claims in the infamous dossier, he has yet to come forward with them. Trump was once photographed with a Russian! Trump made “four or five” visits to Russia from “the late Soviet years” to the present–so, over a period of 25 years or more. I’m guessing that Trump made a lot more visits than that to most places in the world over those same 25 years. Simpson says he found the fact Trump made “so many” visits to Russia without ever making a deal there suspicious. This is the level of absurdity at which Fusion GPS operates–at least when it is working on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, as Simpson has finally admitted.
4) One thing Simpson did elucidate is why he and his colleague Christopher Steele took their fake dossier to the press in the last days of the presidential campaign:
MR. SIMPSON: Come the end of October, some extraordinary things started happening. The Russians — WikiLeaks releases John Podesta’s emails, and then, you know, most extraordinary of all, James Corney sends a letter to Congress saying he is reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation. And that was, I believe, around the 25th. And, you know, if you are me, you know, and you have been in politics and campaigns and investigations, and this is your whole world, and you have been doing it basically since you got out of college, you know, one of the things that you — that is really ingrained in you is the rules of Washington — and when I say rules, I mean like regulations of the Justice Department about interfering with an election. It is not something that you are just aware of as a technical requirement, it is something the people embrace, which is that law enforcement shouldn’t interfere in elections by announcing investigations of people at the last minute.
And so we were shocked, and I felt – I mean, I guess I was angry. But in any case, you know, the result of that was predictable, which is that, you know, it began to influence the election. And, so, we tried to decide how to respond to that.
So at that point, I, of course, was really confused, and I would say Chris was a little scared, because he didn’t — he thought that – he didn’t really understand what was going on with the FBI. In any event, at that point I felt like the rules had just been thrown out and that Corney had violated the sort of one of the more sacrosanct policies, which is not announcing law enforcement activity in the closing days of an election.
And so, we began talking to the press again about — we decided that if James Corney wasn’t going to tell people about this investigation that, you know, he had violated the rules, and we would only be fair if the world knew that both candidates were under FBI investigation.
So Simpson and Steele went to the press in order to try to influence the outcome of the election.
Q You said we had to decide how to respond. Who is “we” in that statement?
A It’s mainly a reference to myself and to Chris. You know, it was mainly between Chris and myself.
Q Anyone else?
A You know, I am not going to get into client communications, but, you know, I was still working for a client at that time.
Simpson has already said that his client was the Democratic National Committee.
Q Did you discuss with your client how to respond?
MR. LEVY: I think that is confidential.
MR. SIMPSON: I am not going to give you that.
Q And did you discuss that plan to expose this information with Perkins Coie, the Clinton campaign, or the DNC?
A I am going to decline to answer that.
There you have it: James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the Hillary email investigation–an investigation in which he eventually whitewashed Mrs. Clinton, notwithstanding unequivocal evidence of crimes on her part–triggered a response. Hillary, or the DNC, ordered Simpson and Steele to promote to the press their quarter-baked dossier of fabrication and speculation, in an effort to counterbalance Comey’s reopening of the email investigation. That pretty much tells you all you need to know.