Notes on the Simpson transcript, cont’d

Yesterday I posted 15 notes plus an afterthought on the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff interview of Fusion GPS principal Glenn Simpson. I want briefly to round up my number of notes to 20.

16. The express terms under which Simpson testified do not appear in the transcript. One must infer them from the comments interjected by Simpson’s lawyer at the interview. Certain subjects were off limits. One such subject was the identity of Simpson’s client(s) on the Trump project. Now we know that Simpson retained Christopher Steele to tap his Russian resources for human intelligence on Trump (as Simpson styles it) on behalf of the Clinton presidential campaign, through GPS Fusion. At the time of the interview last year on August 22, Simpson’s client remained deftly hidden behind the wall of the Perkins Coie law firm, the home of Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias. Reading the transcript, one must keep in mind Simpson’s ardent efforts to keep the true nature of the project hidden.

17. In his testimony, Simpson presents the authorized or heroic version of Steele’s work that appears in Howard Blum’s March 2017 Vanity Fair account. Moreover, in his New York Times op-ed column last week, Simpson says he did not inform Steele whom GPS Fusion worked for. Once Steele tapped into his Russian sources and learned what the Russians had on Trump, Steele set out as a free agent to save the republic by sharing his “information” with the FBI. This may be so, but I find it about as credible as Simpson’s assertion that Steele had the superhuman power to distinguish fact from fiction when dealing with his sources. In the heroic version of the story presented in Simpson’s testimony, Steele has messianic power undertakes his messianic mission.

18. It is almost unbelievable that at the time Simpson was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign he was also working with the BakerHostetler law firm on behalf of the Russian oligarch Denis Katsyv and Prevezon Holdings in support of their defense in the asset forfeiture/money laundering case brought by the United States. Simpson’s work required him to dog Bill Browder, the well-known proponent of the Magnitsky Act. Indeed, as I understand it, Magnitsky originally uncovered the facts underlying the government’s case against Prevezon. In the interview counsel asks Simpson the obvious question whether he understood his work on the Prevezon case principally to have benefited the Russian government (page 184). Suffice it to say that Simpson’s labored answer (pages 185-186) does not enhance his credibility as a witness.

19. Business Insider recounts the Prevezon strand of Simpson’s testimony pursued by Republican counsel during the interview and places it in its larger context here. See also Daily Beast stories here (December 2015, by Michael Weiss) and here (July 2017, by Harry Siegel) for helpful background on the government’s case against Prevezon.

20. Simpson repeatedly testified that Steele “broke off” relations with the FBI upon the publication of the October 31 story by Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI sees no clear link to Russia.” If the Times story was accurate, the FBI must have renewed its interest in the investigation in the immediate aftermath of President Trump’s surprise victory on election day the following week.

Simpson to the contrary notwithstanding, David Harsanyi’s New York Post column observes that “The Trump dossier’s credibility is collapsing.” Democrats and their media adjunct have their story and they’re sticking to it. I can’t help but wonder whether the true nature of the FBI counterintelligence investigation and the “collusion” story manifested in the Clinton campaign will be revealed before Republicans lose their congressional majorities. When that happens, their investigations will be shut down by Democrats whose interest is confined to removing President Trump from office.

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