The firm behind the salacious "Trump-Russia" dossier believed to be the genesis of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into President Trump has hit back against detractors in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday.
Fusion GPS co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch spent a little over 900 words denying what they call "conspiracy theories" surrounding their "motives and backers," while calling on Congress to release the full transcripts of their November testimony (after having bailed on their first appearance).
Fusion GPS co-founders Glenn Simpson (right) and Peter Fritsch
The op-ed reads like a crack team of D.C. attorneys performing damage control; addressing criticisms with broad brush strokes, minimizing the role of the Steele dossier, and ignoring uncomfortable truths - all while maintaining that President Trump has serious ties to Russia.
Fusion's self-defense comes after several months of reports suggesting they had a far more nefarious role in attempts to take down then-candidate Trump.
Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.
We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.
The Fusion co-founders admit or confirm the following:
- Hillary Clinton paid for Fusion GPS services
- Fusion assisted an intermediary who delivered the dossier to John McCain
- The dossier relied on sources in Russia (who were not paid, Fusion claims)
Also peppered throughout the op-ed are several claims meant to "correct the record," including:
- The Steele dossier did not spark the FBI investigation into Russian meddling
We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.
- Fusion didn't tell former MI6 spy Christopher Steele what he would be working on
Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
- Fusion had no knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016
...we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year.
While Fusion shouldn't be in a position to know whether the FBI launched their Russia probe using the dossier - and we'll have to trust them that Christopher Steele had no idea who he was ultimately working for, their claim not to know about the Trump Tower meeting until they learned of it from 'news reports' is questionable at best.
For starters, Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya before and after the Trump Tower meeting, according to a Fox News report from November.
...hours before the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, Fusion co-founder and ex-Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson was with Veselnitskaya in a Manhattan federal courtroom, a confidential source told Fox News.
Court records reviewed by Fox News, email correspondence and published reports corroborate the pair’s presence together. The source told Fox News they also were together after the Trump Tower meeting.
Moreover, a Trump legal team spokesman, Mark Corallo, said; "Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS." Said Fusion GPS associate was Rob Goldstone - publicist for the son of Russian Oligarch Aras Agalarov, who claimed to have had damaging information about Hillary Clinton which could help the Trump campaign.
Moving on to yet-unanswered controversies, Fusion failed to address any of the following:
- Their hire of Nellie Ohr, the CIA-linked wife of demoted DOJ official, Bruce Ohr
- Glenn Simpson's clandestine meeting with "formerly senior" DOJ official Bruce Ohr - who demoted for meeting with Simpson and Christopher Steele.
House investigators have determined that Ohr met shortly after the election with Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm that hired Steele to compile the dossier with funds supplied by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
...evidence collected by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., indicates that Ohr met during the 2016 campaign with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the “dossier.” -Fox News
- Fusion's failed effort to link the President to billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein:
Since you asked, yes, they helped me with that, Mr. Silverstein said. But as you can see, I could not make a strong case for Trump being super close to Epstein, so they could hardly have been thrilled with that story. [In my humble opinion], that was the best story written about Trumps ties to Epstein, but I failed to nail him. Trumps ties were mild compared to Bill Clintons.
- A fabricated story that a secret email server existed between Trump Tower and Moscow's Alpha Bank - which was debunked by internet sleuths who traced the IP address to a marketing server located outside Philadelphia.
Fusion is currently being sued for libel in two separate cases by three Russian businessmen-bankers in US District Court for their inclusion in the Dossier, along with the 'secret server' story pushed by Glenn Simpson. Alfa bank executives Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan filed suit in early October, claiming their reputations were harmed by the largely unsubstantiated document.
"Even though the Dossier contained unverified allegations, Defendants recklessly placed it beyond their control and allowed it to fall into the hands of media devoted to breaking news on the hottest subject of the day: the Trump candidacy," the suit alleges.
While Fusion may have addressed a few outstanding questions with broad brush-strokes, they left many more unanswered. Perhaps they can issue a second op-ed to follow up on all of the other questions left unanswered.