By John Helmer, Moscow
American reporters are so mesmerized by Russia-related investigations of the Trump family, Trump businesses, his election campaign and the presidential transition, they can no longer see the obvious. The recently released Senate Judiciary Committee interrogation and testimony of Glenn Simpson (lead image) proves — if it proves anything at all – that Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, authors of the Golden Showers Dossier, are liars who fabricated claims about Russians which they then promoted to reporters and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) without double-checking or independent verification.
Simpson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. His interrogation by senators and their staff lasted almost eight hours, beginning at 9:34 in the morning, and ending at 7:04 in the evening. Lunch took forty minutes. There were nine toilet breaks, one every hour, averaging just 6.9 minutes. Long enough to empty bladders; too short for golden showers.
The verbatim transcript of Simpson’s testimony runs for 311 pages; click to read in full. A week ago on January 9, it was released publicly by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, over the objections of the Republican senators on the committee. They were trying to prevent disclosure of Simpson’s negative portrayal of President Donald Trump’s business practices, company losses, tax optimization and borrowing schemes.
The Simpson hearing was closed, so there are no photographs of his appearance at the witness table. The Judiciary Committee members shown in this later photograph included Senators Lindsey Graham ( R), and (left to right) Orrin Hatch( R), Charles Grassley ( R) and Dianne Feinstein ( D). Their staff are seated against the wall. Source
In the testimony Simpson identified the New York Times as one of the newspapers which agreed to promote his fabrications. In an opinion piece published in the same newspaper early this month, the week before Feinstein released the transcript, Simpson declared himself to be a partisan foe of Trump’s. According to Simpson and a business partner, “we’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment. It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.”
Analyses, commentaries and glosses of what Simpson’s testimony means to the campaigns for and against impeachment of President Trump are legion. Allowing for the fact that so many politicians, pundits and reporters for and against Trump believe Simpson was telling the truth about Trump, here are the facts testified to by Simpson on oath — “the truth about our work” which all commentary on the Simpson transcript has so far ignored.
For analysis, unverified source by unverified source, unchecked claim by unchecked claim in the Steele dossier on Russian links to Trump, read this. The report was published a year ago, on January 18, 2017.
In subsequent London court filings Steele and his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., have been sued for defamation by Aleksej Gubarev, one of the dossier’s purported Russian targets, accused of being a hacker who had penetrated the Democratic Party’s computer files. Steele has testified in his defence that his allegations came from “unsolicited intelligence” and “raw intelligence” that “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.” In short, Steele no longer vouches for the truthfulness of his sources, claims, or conclusions.
Steele has also claimed in his London court defence that Simpson is to blame, not Steele, for promoting the claims as if they were true, and leaking them to the media. “At all material times Fusion [Fusion GPS, Simpson’s consulting firm] was subject to an obligation not to disclose to third parties confidential intelligence material provided [by Steele and Orbis].”
Steele made these claims in court in April 2017. In August, four months later, Steele went into US District Court in Miami to try to stop being subpoenaed for cross-examination of his truthfulness and his claims in the dossier; read the details here. In the Miami court Buzzfeed, first publisher of the dossier, is being sued by Gubarev who is charging the dossier references to him were false, and had been faked with the intention of planting disinformation in the press. Click to read Gubarev’s reply to Buzzfeed’s defence.
Others accused in the dossier are following Gubarev with US federal court lawsuits charging Buzzfeed, its reporters and foreign news editor Miriam Elder (right) with fabricating their allegations “without attempting to determine the veracity of these reports.” Elder, an American, began her career in veracity reporting on Russia at the Moscow Times a decade ago, followed by the London Guardian.
In his Senate Committee appearance, Simpson wasn’t questioned directly about Gubarev’s court challenge. Instead, Simpson was pursued on the question of who did the leaking – Simpson or Steele. Asked if there was a confidentiality agreement between himself and Steele, Simpson replied: “That’s hard for me to answer. There’s a mutual expectation of confidentiality, and if that’s what you read that as saying, then yes, there’s a mutual expectation of confidentiality.” When pressed to say clearly if there had been a contractual requirement preventing one of them leaking material without the other’s approval, Simpson answered: “I don’t really understand the question.” His lawyer then interrupted to say Simpson would not answer questions about contracts with Steele or Orbis on the ground of legal privilege.
Simpson was then read Steele’s statement to the London court that he and his firm “did not … provide any of the pre-election memoranda to any of the media or journalists, nor did they authorize anyone to do so”. Simpson was stupefied. “I’m not sure I can answer this in — I’m not sure I know the answer to this. It’s a little confusing.”
Greeted with disbelief by the committee staff, Simpson then tried to say Steele wasn’t telling the whole truth. Leaking Steele’s memoranda to the press they didn’t do, Simpson claimed; planting information based on the memos they did decide between themselves. “I think what I would like to say is that we had discussions about, you know, information as opposed to memos and, you know, at various times in talking to reporters about the Trump-Russia connection… Some of what we discussed was informed by Chris’s reporting. So whether that was — I don’t think there’s any sense that that was an unauthorized thing to do.”
At no point in the 311-page record was the question asked directly of Simpson — was he sure during the election campaign of 2016, or later, that the information he leaked to the press was true or false. Instead, he was asked to explain what he had done before he arranged the leaks. “Did you do any independent verification of these facts?” he was asked. “I did some work on aspects of this,” Simpson replied. “We were separately — you know, my team and myself were separately investigating various things in here. So I can’t talk about this as a verification, but I was analyzing this.”
He went on to confirm that he and Steele agreed on a plan of direct briefings for reporters as Election Day, November 8, 2016, approached. Simpson acknowledged the reporters he chose were from the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, Mother Jones, and Yahoo News. Simpson’s lawyers claimed the names of the reporters could not be revealed because they were protected by the First Amendment, the US Constitution’s protection of the press.
Simpson also testified that he and Steele had collaborated on a plan to make their allegations appear credible by putting them in the mouth of the former British Ambassador to Russia, Sir Andrew Wood, and arranging for Wood to relay them to US Senator John McCain.
Left: Christopher Steele in front of the Orbis Business Intelligence office in London. Right: Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia. Wood is currently titled Associate Fellow of the Russian and Eurasia Programme of Chatham House, a London think-tank.
Defending himself as the go-between, Wood was reported by the Guardian in January 2017 as claiming he “knew and respected Christopher Steele”. Wood also endorsed Steele’s veracity, telling the newspaper Steele is a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all… I take the report [Golden Showers Dossier] seriously. I don’t think it’s totally implausible.”
Wood claimed “I didn’t work with him [Steele] in a professional capacity.” That was misleading, Simpson’s Senate testimony implied, if not intentionally false. In the transcript, Simpson acknowledged that Wood and Steele worked together in the Orbis consulting business, and that Wood was “an associate” of Steele’s firm. In Wood’s Chatham House résumé he says he is “adviser to various enterprises on Russian affairs.”
Simpson also testified that Steele had told him Wood “was someone that he worked with in the past who was a former UK government official with experience in Russia.” Simpson admitted he and Steele arranged for their version of the anti-Trump dossier to be passed by Wood to McCain through a former State Department official working for the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.
The Wood subterfuge wasn’t the only information scheme Simpson acknowledged that he and Steele devised. Another was for Steele to brief the FBI on the dossier allegations, and then for Simpson to tell US media reporters to get the FBI to confirm they were investigating. “[Steele] proposed to — he said we should tell the FBI, it’s a national security issue. I didn’t originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it again with me.”
“[Question]. And who was involved in discussions about whether it was appropriate to take either the memo or the information in the memo to the FBI?” “[Simpson]. It was Chris and me. I mean, that’s the only ones I remember, the two of us. The only ones I know of.”
“[Question]. With regard to providing — what was the goal — as you understood it, what was the purpose of the kind of goal in taking this to the FBI from Mr. Steele’s perspective?” “[Simpson]. I mean, for him it was professional obligations. I mean, for both of us it was citizenship. You know, people report crimes all the time.”
“[Simpson]. “…you know, we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether they were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question. You know, I think — I’m not sure we’ve covered this fully, but, you know, we just encouraged them to ask the FBI that question… Sometime thereafter the FBI — I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them.”
“[Question]. Did Mr. Steele ever indicate to you whether the FBI had asked him not to speak with the media?” “[Simpson]. I remember Chris saying at some point that they were upset with media coverage of some of the issues that he had discussed with him.”
“[Question]. Sorry. I didn’t hear.” “[Simpson]. He never said they told him he couldn’t talk to them.”
Simpson also acknowledged that when Steele used Wood to pass the same allegations on to Senator McCain, the objective was that McCain would then go to the FBI at a higher level than Simpson and Steele had reached, and Simpson would again take the story of the FBI investigation to the press. “He says he wants information to give to Senator McCain so that Senator McCain can ask questions about it at the FBI, with the leadership of the FBI. That was essentially — all we sort of wanted was for the government to do its job and we were concerned about whether the information that we provided previously had ever, you know, risen to the leadership level of the FBI.”
“[Question]… in your briefings with journalists you did reference his interactions — Mr. Steele’s interactions with the FBI, correct?” “[Simpson]. At some point that occurred, but I don’t believe it occurred until very late in the process.” “[Question]. Can you estimate when in the process?” “[Simpson]. It was probably the last few days before the election or immediately thereafter.”
“[Question]. So in your meetings with journalists in September  you didn’t reference Mr. Steele’s interactions with the FBI or passing on of information to them?”
“[Simpson]. I don’t recall.”
Several well-known Russian officials, accused in the dossier of participating in Russian schemes to target the US election, were brought up in Simpson’s interrogation – Igor Sechin, Rosneft president; Sergei Ivanov, former Kremlin chief of staff; and Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. What evidence did Simpson or Steele gather in 2016, and what did Simpson believe he had in August 2017, on specific Russian business deals, intelligence operations, or disinformation schemes targeting the presidential candidates, Simpson was asked.
“Do you have the records of those [Sechin] business deals that you had collected?” “Yeah. I don’t think so.”
“[Question]. Is there information that either you had in your possession that corroborated and verified this or even went beyond what was in this and amplified information on any of these individuals relevant to Russia’s interference or possible ties with the Trump campaign?”
“[Simpson]. Yes. I’m trying to be as helpful as I can. …in the course of saying who is this Ivanov guy, you know, we looked at Ivanov and found journal articles and other public information about his long history of intelligence. He’s a veteran of the FSB, his long history with Vladimir Putin, and his role atop this internal operation…In particular I remember reading a paper by a superb academic expert whose name is Mark Galeotti, G-A-L-E-O-T-T-I, who’s done a lot of work on the Kremlin’s black operations and written quite widely on the subject and is very learned. So that would have given me comfort that whoever Chris is talking to they know what they’re talking about.”
“[Question]. Was there any information there that you either independently verified or had independent research on any of the individuals mentioned in there? It mentions Sergei Ivanov, Dmitry Peskov.” Simpson did not answer on Peskov.
“[Simpson]. You know, disinformation is an issue that Chris wrestles with, has wrestled with his entire life. So if he believed any of this was disinformation, he would have told us.”
“[Question]. And did he ever tell you that information in any of these memos, that he had concerns that any of it was disinformation?
“[Simpson]. No. What he said was disinformation is an issue in my profession, that is a central concern and that we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this was disinformation or I had concerns about that I would tell you that and I’m not telling you that. I’m telling you that I don’t believe this is disinformation.”
“[Question]. Did you take any steps to try to assess the credibility of his sources, his unnamed sources in the material that he was providing to you?’
“[Simpson]. Yes, but I’m not going to get into sourcing information.”
“[Question]. So without getting into naming the sources or anything like that, what steps did you take to try to verify their credibility?”
“[Simpson]. I’m going to decline to answer that.”
London due diligence firms say the record of Simpson’s firm Fusion GPS and Steele’s Orbis Business Intelligence operations in the US has discredited them in the due diligence market. The London experts believe the Senate Committee transcript shows Simpson and Steele were hired for the black job of discrediting the target of their research, Trump; did a poor job; failed in 2016; and now are engaged in bitter recriminations against each other to avoid multi-million dollar court penalties.
A source at a London firm which is larger and better known than Steele’s Orbis says “standard due diligence means getting to the truth. It’s confidential to the client, and not leaked. There are also black jobs, white jobs, and red jobs. Black means the client wants you to dig up dirt on the target, and make it look credible for publishing in the press. White means the client wants you to clear him of the wrongdoing which he’s being accused of in the media or the marketplace; it’s also leaked to the press. A red job is where the client pays the due diligence firm to hire a journalist to find out what he knows and what he’s likely to publish, in order to bribe or stop him. The Steele dossier on Trump is an obvious black job. Too obvious.”
Another leading figure in London due diligence adds about Simpson, with whom he’s worked in the past: “If one considers Glenn to be, on a good day with a following wind, an unreliable witness, the material is at best only about his memories and impressions. I am just going to wait for the movie.”