Democrats don’t want you to find out - and that ought to be a scandal of its own...
It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.
Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?
Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson also was supposed to testify at the Grassley hearing, where he might have been asked in public to reveal who hired him to put together the hit job on Mr. Trump, which was based largely on anonymous Russian sources. Turns out Democrats are willing to give up just about anything—including their Manafort moment—to protect Mr. Simpson from having to answer that question.
What if, all this time, Washington and the media have had the Russia collusion story backward? What if it wasn’t the Trump campaign playing footsie with the Vladimir Putin regime, but Democrats? The more we learn about Fusion, the more this seems a possibility.
We know Fusion is a for-hire political outfit, paid to dig up dirt on targets. This column first outed Fusion in 2012, detailing its efforts to tar a Mitt Romney donor. At the time Fusion insisted that the donor was “a legitimate subject of public records research.”
Mr. Grassley’s call for testimony has uncovered more such stories. Thor Halvorssen, a prominent human-rights activist, has submitted sworn testimony outlining a Fusion attempt to undercut his investigation of Venezuelan corruption. Mr. Halvorssen claims Fusion “devised smear campaigns, prepared dossiers containing false information,” and “carefully placed slanderous news items” to malign him and his activity.
William Browder, a banker who has worked to expose Mr. Putin’s crimes, testified to the Grassley committee on Thursday that he was the target of a similar campaign, saying that Fusion “spread false information” about him and his efforts. Fusion has admitted it was hired by a law firm representing a Russian company called Prevezon.
Prevezon employed one of the Russian operators who were at Trump Tower last year. The other Russian who attended that meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, is a former Soviet counterintelligence officer. He has acknowledged in court documents that he makes his career out of opposition research, the same work Fusion does. And that he’s often hired by Kremlin-connected Russians to smear opponents.
We know that at the exact time Fusion was working with the Russians, the firm had also hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele, to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump. Mr. Steele compiled his material, according to his memos, based on allegations from unnamed Kremlin insiders and other Russians. Many of the claims sound eerily similar to the sort of “oppo” Mr. Akhmetshin peddled.
We know that Mr. Simpson is tight with Democrats. His current attorney, Joshua Levy, used to work in Congress as counsel to no less than Chuck Schumer. We know from a Grassley letter that Fusion has in the past sheltered its clients’ true identities by filtering money through law firms or shell companies (Bean LLC and Kernel LLC).
Word is Mr. Simpson has made clear he will appear for a voluntary committee interview only if he is not specifically asked who hired him to dig dirt on Mr. Trump. Democrats are going to the mat for him over that demand. Those on the Judiciary Committee pointedly did not sign letters in which Mr. Grassley demanded that Fusion reveal who hired it.
Here’s a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign? What if that money flowed from a political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources? Moreover, what if those Kremlin-tied sources already knew about this dirt-digging, tipped off by Mr. Akhmetshin? What if they specifically made up claims to dupe Mr. Steele, to trick him into writing this dossier?
Fusion GPS, in an email, said that it “did not spread false information about William Browder.” The firm said it is cooperating with Congress and that “the president and his allies are desperately trying to smear Fusion GPS because it investigated Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.”
If the Russian intention was to sow chaos in the American political system, few things could have been more effective than that dossier, which ramped up an FBI investigation and sparked congressional probes and a special counsel, deeply wounding the president. This is all to Mr. Putin’s benefit, and the question is whether Russia engineered it.
If Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats and the media really want answers about Russian meddling, this is a far deeper well than the so-far scant case against Mr. Trump.
If they refuse to dive into the story, we’ll know that the truth about Russia and the election was never what they were after.