Reading Glenn Simpson

It was only last week that Senator Feinstein released the transcript of Glenn Simpson’s interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. There is so much we don’t yet know about the Trump/Russia collusion illusion, this was a notable moment. John took a timeout to read the transcript and post his notes on it here. I also took a timeout with the transcript and posted my notes on it here and here.

I subsequently invited readers to contrast our notes with John Cassidy’s account for New Yorker readers in “The Digger Who Commissioned the Trump-Russia Dossier Speaks.” While making a very un-New Yorker like (and still uncorrected) error of fact, Cassidy’s account is both superficial and credulous. The error strongly suggests to me that Cassidy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. All in all, a pitiful performance that can serve as a benchmark of sorts.

As I say, however, the release of the Simpson transcript was a notable moment. Simpson himself had prepared the battle space for the moment in his New York Times op-ed column (with Peter Fritsch) “The Republicans’ fake investigations.” I want to invite readers to take a look back through the lens of the best commentary on it. I hope I haven’t overlooked too much in the notes below.

Mollie Hemingway got there first with “10 takeaways from Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS Senate testimony.” It is, as advertised, a useful guide.

If you don’t read anything else, read Lee Smith’s long Tablet column “Did Glenn Simpson lie to Congress?” The headline does not begin to capture the richness of Smith’s column.

Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel commented on the transcript in “The dossier rehab campaign” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall). Kim characterizes the transcript as “300 pages of self-serving material” and notes:

Mr. Simpson extols his journalistic chops, praises the integrity of dossier author Christopher Steele (a “Boy Scout”), professes his love of country and his distaste for Russians (other than those paying him), and ladles on more disinformation about Mr. Trump. Democrats and the media have spun this into a new contention: What mattered were the motives and credentials of the dossier’s creators, which were sufficient to give the FBI good cause to run with the document.

Which you have to admit sounds a lot better than “Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Conjured Up an Opposition-Research Document That Was Fed to the Obama FBI, Which Then Used It to Spy on the Trump Campaign.” Even if that’s a more accurate headline.

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The risk for anti-Trumpers—especially those doubling down on the dossier—is that the black-and-white documents will blow their latest narrative to oblivion. It isn’t as if there is much in the record to date to support it. If Mr. Steele was such a professional, why was he out spreading national-security “intelligence” through the media? If Mr. Simpson was so worried for his country, why did he spend months dodging congressional requests for testimony, and refuse to name his client? If Mr. Steele was confident enough in his document to spool it to the FBI, why has he ducked every congressional request that he explain his work? And that’s before Mr. Grassley’s claim to have credible evidence that Mr. Steele lied to the government.

On Saturday Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins took up a theme that has preoccupied me. Jenkins wrote in “Dossiers and disinformation” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall):

Democrats hired Mr. Simpson to look into Donald Trump’s background. He hired Christopher Steele, the former British agent, to look into Trump-Russia connections. Mr. Steele, from his base in London, reached out to contacts in Russia. A few new things, though, become apparent through Mr. Simpson’s testimony.

He has no real idea whether the info was trustworthy.

He won’t say whether he knows who Mr. Steele’s sources were.

He’s completely at sea on the question of whether he and his firm, Fusion GPS, were victims of Russian disinformation.

On Saturday NR’s Andrew McCarthy devoted his weekly column to Simpson’s testimony in “Anatomy of a farce.”

On Sunday, Los Angeles Times columnist Virginia Heffernan filled in the spaces that John Cassidy left blank while otherwise disparaging those of us who look at Simpson with a gimlet eye. Heffernan’s column does not give us “A close reading of Glenn Simpson’s testimony,” but that’s the headline.

And that’s not all! David Ignatius has now given us the authorized Washington Post version in “The truth about the FBI’s Russia probe.” Paul Mirengoff notes the truth that Ignatius — what’s the word? — omits, in “How the liberal media portray the Fusion GPS scandal.” What we have here is a case study.

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