Fusion GPS is the firm who commissioned the infamous – and discredited – Steele dossier on President Trump. Fusion GPS is currently stonewalling the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Fusion GPS ties to the Democratic Party. And Fusion steadfastly refuses to say who paid for the dossier.
Now, it turns out that Fusion GPS was employed by the Russian government – at the exact same time that Fusion commissioned the Trump dossier.
Stop and think on that a moment.
The FBI was actually utilizing propaganda potentially commissioned by Russia as a reason for launching the entire Trump-Russian investigation in the first place.
If the Russians wanted Trump to win, why would they have allowed, let alone helped in, the production of the Trump dossier?
The obvious answer is the Russians didn’t want Trump to win. And why would they? Historically, all Russian ties lie with Clinton – the Uranium One travesty, the Russia Reset, Bill Clinton’s $500,000 Moscow speech – while Hillary was Secretary of State – and the Russian donations to the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile, President Trump steadfastly maintained – and followed through on – a program of national energy self-sufficiency. U.S. oil production is booming. This is a direct threat to Russia’s primary source of cash.
The story of Fusion GPS’s Russian employment is a long and complicated one. Please bear with me as I explain.
It starts with Vladimir Putin’s desire to repeal the Magnitsky Act.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act came into being through the actions of Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. Hermitage Capital was formed in 1996 for the express purpose of investing in Russia. The firm benefited from the wave of privatization that occurred, ultimately becoming one of the largest foreign investors in Russia. For more background on Bill Browder and Hermitage see here and here.
In 2005, Browder was blacklisted by the Russian government. Browder was expelled from Russia by Putin – his Visa cancelled. This apparently occurred because Hermitage was supporting minority shareholder rights and interfering with flows of cash to corrupt officials. In 2007, Russian police seized computers and documents from Hermitage offices.
Browder hired a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, to help him determine what was actually occurring. Magnitsky uncovered the misappropriation of $230 million in taxes paid by Hermitage Russian companies. For his efforts, Sergei Magnitsky was jailed by the Russian government in late 2008. Magnitsky would die in jail almost exactly one year later – of beatings suffered at the hands of prison guards.
Browder petitioned Senators John McCain and Benjamin Cardin in 2010 – his actions ultimately resulting in passage of the Magnitsky Act. In essence, the Magnitsky Act denies Visas and freezes the assets of corrupt Russian officials who are involved in human rights abuses. It has proven to be a real problem for Russian officials – including Vladimir Putin. The Russian government would dearly love to see the Magnitsky Act repealed.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton opposed passage of the Magnitsky Act – a position coinciding with Bill Clinton being paid $500,000 for a Moscow speech on June 29, 2010. While the Magnitsky bill was being formulated, her State Department was asked by lawmakers to deny visas to the Russian officials who were implicated in the Magnitsky matter. Clinton’s State Department denied the request.
The Russian officials who paid for Bill Clinton’s Moscow speech would have been barred from entering the U.S. if Clinton’s State Department had not denied the request.
On December 6, 2012, the Magnitsky Act was passed by the Senate.
On December 27, 2012, Putin signed a bill that banned U.S. parents from adopting Russian children. The adoption ban was part of a larger bill that was in direct response to the passage of the Magnitsky Act.
Meanwhile, Browder found himself under continued harassment from the Russian government. Some background from an article by Business Insider:
In 2013, Veselnitskaya hired the law firm BakerHostetler to represent Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus accused by the US government of laundering stolen cash into New York City real estate. Browder told prosecutors that the laundered money was stolen from Russia as part of the tax-fraud scheme that Magnitsky uncovered.
To rebut that claim, BakerHostetler hired Fusion to dig up dirt on Browder. [Browder] characterized Fusion’s work for BakerHostetler as a “smear campaign” against him and Magnitsky carried out “in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act.”
Browder has argued that Fusion would have broken the law if it lobbied on behalf of the Russian government without registering as a foreign agent. In December, he lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that Fusion’s work for BakerHostetler on behalf of Prevezon violated disclosure requirements.
Which leads us to the meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rinat Akhmetshin (a former Russian Intelligence officer and lobbyist) and Natalia Veselnitskaya. Donald Trump Jr. went into the meeting expecting opposition information, only to find Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya had actually come to lobby for repeal of the Magnitsky Act. A rescinding of the Adoption Ban was mentioned as well. The discussion ended quickly as Trump Jr and Kushner realized the meeting had been set up under false pretenses.
Fusion GPS set up this meeting. And, of course, Fusion GPS is also the firm behind the infamous Trump Dossier.
[Meanwhile] Browder’s complaint [about Fusion GPS] caught the eye of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He wrote a letter to then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente demanding to know whether the Justice Department was investigating Fusion for alleged violations of FARA. In the letter, Grassley cited reports that Fusion had been hired by BakerHostetler to investigate Browder, alleging that the work made Fusion “an unregistered agent of Russian interests.”
He also wanted the Justice Department to investigate Fusion’s role in overseeing “the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier of allegations of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians” — the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
This sequence of events is what led to Bill Browder testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 27, 2017. You can read Browder’s prepared remarks here.
Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson was also called to testify but declined. A subpoena was issued on July 21, 2017. His lawyer stated that Simpson would take the fifth. On July 25, 2017, it was reported that Simpson had reached an agreement to testify in private.
Browder’s testimony – under oath – proved to be of great interest. He noted Putin’s desire to overturn the Magnitsky Act. He noted Veselnitskaya worked directly for the Russians.
And he noted that Fusion GPS had been operating on behalf of the Russian government illegally, because “at no time did they indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests, nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.”
From Browder’s prepared testimony on Putin:
Based on the language of the Magnitsky Act, this would make Putin personally subject to Magnitsky sanctions. This is particularly worrying for Putin because he is one of the richest men in the world. I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains from these types of operations over his 17 years in power. He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.
The second reason why Putin reacted so badly to the passage of the Magnitsky Act is that it destroys the promise of impunity he’s given to all of his corrupt officials.
From Browder’s prepared testimony on Russia’s efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act:
The Russian government has also used its resources and assets to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act. One of the most shocking attempts took place in the spring and summer of last year when a group of Russians went on a lobbying campaign in Washington to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act by changing the narrative of what had happened to Sergei. According to them, Sergei wasn’t murdered and he wasn’t a whistle-blower, and the Magnitsky Act was based on a false set of facts.
From Browder’s prepared testimony on Veselnitskaya’s involvement:
Denis Katsyv was caught by US law enforcement using proceeds from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered to purchase high-end Manhattan real estate (the case recently settled with the Katsyv’s paying $6 million to the US government). Natalia Veselnitskaya was [his] lawyer. In addition to working on the Katsyv’s money laundering defense, Ms. Veselnitskaya also headed the aforementioned lobbying campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act.
From Browder’s prepared testimony on Veselnitskaya’s involvement with Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS:
Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act. He contacted a number of major newspapers and other publications to spread false information that Sergei Magnitsky was not murdered, was not a whistle-blower and was instead a criminal.
From Browder’s prepared testimony on Fusion GPS’s legal status:
While they were conducting these operations in Washington, DC, at no time did they [Fusion GPS] indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
A very interesting interchange occurred between Lindsey Graham and Browder. You can view the exchange below:
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: This whole story reads like some kind of novel that nobody would buy, it’s got to be fiction, but unfortunately maybe it’s true. Let’s just break down sort of why you’re here. You believe that Fusion GPS should’ve registered under FARA, because they were acting on the behalf of the Russians?
WILLIAM BROWDER: That’s correct.
SEN. GRAHAM: So, I just want to absorb that for a moment. The group that did the dossier on President Trump hired this British spy, wound up getting it to the FBI. You believe they were working for the Russians?
BROWDER: And in the Spring and Summer of 2016 they were receiving money indirectly from a senior Russian government official.
The FBI used this dossier as part of their reasoning for generating FISA surveillance warrants on the Trump campaign in June 2016.
To restate, the FBI was actually utilizing propaganda potentially commissioned by Russia – maybe directly sourced from Russia – as the reason for launching the entire Trump-Russian investigation in the first place.
There was one other interesting bit of testimony from Thor Halvorssen, President and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation. In his testimony, Halvorssen detailed how Fusion GPS was also involved in preventing scrutiny of Venezuelan oligarchs who were funneling money out of the country:
The principals of Derwick continue to operate with impunity in Venezuela and in the U.S. under the auspices of the Maduro government. The Venezuelan state provides Derwick’s security apparatus, and PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company, has since granted them significant oil and gas concessions. Derwick has stolen more than ten times the amount involved in the infamous 2015 FIFA corruption case and multiple times more than the tax theft in Russia that led to the murder of Sergey Magnitsky.
In 2014, Fusion GPS began working on behalf of Derwick to ensure that the evidence of their crimes and the narrative of their spectacular thievery would never appear in the media. Fusion GPS devised smear campaigns, prepared dossiers containing false information, carefully placed slanderous news items, and possibly even staged a break-in at the home of one of the key whistleblowers.
Corrupt government officials in dictatorships would be powerless if they didn’t have cronies in the business world, and these cronies, in turn, would be useless allies without enablers like Fusion GPS, who are eager to whitewash and profit from their crimes.
Fusion GPS isn’t an “opposition research” or a crisis communications company. Fusion GPS is a group of highly paid smear experts who function as an accessory to the crimes committed by Derwick Associates. As such, they are in part responsible for the ongoing injustice and suffering brought about by Derwick’s actions in Venezuela. I urge you to probe into Fusion GPS’s Venezuelan activities and especially into their willingness to pay journalists in exchange for the publication of baseless smears.
Beyond the conduct on behalf of their clients to vilify and discredit any whistleblowers, Fusion GPS has failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The Democrat’s Russian narrative is dead. There is zero evidence that Russia was working with the Trump Campaign. There is very real evidence that just the opposite was occurring. And it may have been happening in conjunction with the Democrats.
Lindsey Graham from a CNN interview:
“If we have to subpoena the people at Fusion GPS, we need to subpoena them. Because Mr. Browder has now accused them of working for the Russians. And at the end of the day, if that’s true, the Democratic Party is working with somebody who was working with the Russians, whether they knew it or not.”
I have always maintained this entire Russian collusion story was entirely backwards. Now we are beginning to get proof.
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