Reading the transcript of Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that was made public last week, I was mostly struck by how little of substance in it was new. I thought it largely duplicated the testimony elicited by the Senate Intelligence Committee that had been made public the previous week. John and I had dwelt on Simpson’s Senate testimony at length in several posts.
More than anything else, I was struck by the sheer nuttiness of Simpson’s House testimony. For this readers must take a look with their own eyes. This is a guy who is in the grip of a mania.
Lee Smith isolates this thread of the testimony in his Tablet column “Glenn Simpson, conspiracy theorist, finds a place for the Jews in his Trump-Russia fantasia.” I recommend it highly to readers who have been following Simpson’s role in the elaborate production that is intended to lead to President Trump’s removal from office. It is a most perceptive contribution and unlike anything else that has been written on Simpson.
I found the nuttiness manifested, to take an example beyond the scope of Lee’s column, in Simpson’s description of the family of Jared Kushner as “ethnic Russian,” although I’m not sure where it fits into the larger picture. At page 86 of the transcript, Simpson asserts:
You know, the Kushners are ethnic Russian and they, we were told, had relationships of their own with Russian capital. And, you know, the exact story I think was that their relationships were with the Russian diaspora in the New York area.
So more broadly speaking, during the ‘7Os, in the Refusenik era, there was a lot of Russian Jewish immigration to the New York area. And a lot of those people had — well, I’ll just say there was a lot of immigration, and that community is very large, and a Jot of people became very successful and wealthy. And, as I understand it, those are the connections that the Kushners have to outside capital.
The paternal side of Kushner’s family came from Novogrudok, a Belaurus town that reverted to Poland from Russia in 1921. I think this is Simpson’s point of reference. A brief history of Novogorud is posted here.
After reverting to Poland, Novogorud was occupied first by the Soviet Union in 1939 and then by the Nazis in 1941. The story of the Kushner family’s escape from the Nazis is recounted here. Kushner’s maternal grandparents also came from Poland. Even so, Kushner’s family isn’t “ethnic Polish” let alone “ethnic Russian.” What is he talking about? In Simpson’s mind, we have a phantasmagoria of Russian capital, Jews, and wealth related to the Kushners’ ethnic circle.
Simpson’s mania comes further into view as Adam Schiff seeks guidance from Simpson on the future course of the investigation. “You have itemized a number of things, including Russian money involved in transactions with Trump properties, and suspicious activity potentially between the campaign, Nigel Farage and Assange-Wikileaks. Are there other issues that came to your attention that are not contained in the Steele dossier that you think we ought to be aware of that you either were able to substantiate in part, or you were not able to fully investigate but you think that, in the exercise of due diligence, that we really need to?” Simpson takes flight (pages 112-113):
So I guess the first one that I think that we haven’t covered at all, would be the Center for the National Interest and the people involved in the Center for the National Interest. And among other things – well, importantly Dimitri Simes is known in the Russian expat community as a suspected Russian agent. And I believe he is known to the FBI as a suspected Russian agent. And I think that you could develop more information in that area from talking to Russian intelligence defectors and people who come to this country and have been given refuge from Russian intelligence.
There are a number of Russian defectors who, I think, maybe could speak to that. I think there are some records around that might reflect some of that. And I think that is — given their fundamental role in creating the Trump foreign policy, I think that is a really important area. I think talking to Russian intelligence defectors in general about what they think was going on and what they’ve heard is probably a useful thing to do.
I think that the origins of the Manafort-Stone-Trump relationship is an interesting area. I have looked, spent a lot of time looking last year at Roger Stone — you know. Roger Stone made a joke at one point about how Paul Manafort had disappeared, and he was last seen like carting bags of cash onto Yanukovich’s plane or something like that. You know, Roger Stone has done work in Ukraine. He did work in Ukraine around the same time as Manafort.
And I think he has a little more knowledge of Manafort’s Ukrainian activities. And they both – Stone was a protege of a Republican political fellow named Arthur Finkelstein, who hired him to work on the Nixon campaign. And Finkelstein was one of the first consultants to really appreciate how to target voters in a way that somewhat resembles the way the Trump campaign and the Russians did. And he spent many years — he worked — Finkelstein worked with Stone and Manafort in Ukraine in or around 2005, 2006, for the same cast of bad guys. And later went off to Hungary to work for the pro-Russian prime minister there, Victor Orban, and went into business over there.
And there is a lot of allegations coming out of the Hungarian expat community about all of that. And, so, I think that is an important area. That is one of the — you know, we’ve picked up that Hungary is inside the EU, and it’s essentially — you know, Orban is essentially a Putin puppet and the GRU has a big station there, and there is a lot of unexplained travel by various people. And we have heard a lot of rumors about that, and a lot of allegations since beginning of last year.
Ah, it’s all becoming clear. With the help of another friendly question or two, Simpson rattles on in this vein with testimony that covers four more pages.
At page 111, Simpson gives us the authorized or heroic version of his work on behalf of the Clinton presidential campaign that we have heard once or twice before:
It was to expose a sinister plot by Vladimir Putin, a hostile foreign power, to attempt to alter the outcome of an American Presidential election. And that was the goal. You know, and again, I mean, basically our behavior after the election was of the same basic character. At some point, it became about blowing the whistle on this. And I would say that was the point at which it was a lot bigger issue. And as an ex-journalist, I still have a little bit of that in my blood, and I wanted to expose it for the sake of letting people know what’s going on.
About the veracity of the Steele dossier Simpson has approximately nothing to say except that he believes in Steele. Courtesy of Steele, however, Simpson seems to have injected something that looks like Russian disinformation into the highest reaches of the United States government in the course of his well compensated service to the Clinton presidential campaign.
In his testimony, of course, Simpson, vouched for the work of his Secret Agent Man and the dossier he compiled on behalf of their mutual client. According to Simpson, Steele had “attempted to filter out unreliable sources or disinformation. And so it’s not totally raw. I mean, it’s been through one round of harvesting” (page 72). Having set off the hysteria in which we have been engulfed now for more than a year, though round one Simpson has reaped a bountiful if blighted harvest.