On December 30, 2017, the New York Times ran a story claiming that drunken remarks made by George Papdopoulos – NOT the Trump Dossier – led to the opening of the FBI Investigation into Russia-Trump.
Their story was widely criticized.
Andrew McCarthy wrote a strongly worded article that tore into the NYT’s narrative. The folks at theconservativetreehouse put together an excellent Twitter thread that was sent directly to NYT’s Maggie Haberman, exposing the many flaws inherent in the article. I wrote about flaws in the article as well.
Yesterday, the Times decided to double-down on their claims, this time running an Op-Ed, The Republican’s Fake Investigation, by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch – the founders of Fusion GPS.
If you read the Op-Ed without the benefit of the back-story you might be forgiven for thinking Simpson and Fritsch have a point:
Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.
But the two men managed to leave out a number of details in their missive.
Before we proceed any further, bear in mind that Simpson and Fritsch engaged in months of Congressional stonewalling, legal maneuvering, taking the fifth multiple times, refusing access to bank records and providing documents that were either blank or contained nothing relevant to Congressional requests.
It wasn’t until mid-November 2017, after being faced with multiple subpoenas, that Glenn Simpson reached a deal through his lawyers to testify in a closed-door sessions before the House Intelligence Committee.
Closed-door sessions do not have details/transcripts released unless the members of the relevant chamber vote to do so. Simpson specifically negotiated closed door sessions for his testimony.
As I was writing this Chairman Grassley confirmed my assertion:
NEW: Senate Panel Hits Back At Fusion GPS Over Op-Ed Claims. Spokesman for Chuck Grassley says that Fusion asked during Aug. 22 for transcript to be kept confidential. Glenn Simpson also declined invitation to open hearing. https://t.co/6NZVllK7lD @dailycaller
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) January 3, 2018
Neither Simpson nor Fritsch had called for details to be released prior to their sudden Op-Ed appearance in the Times.
Furthermore, the two men fought tooth and nail to avoid divulging who was funding their research. Indeed, this was one of their fiercest points of battle with Congress.
Fusion GPS, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign also engaged in a campaign of disinformation regarding their funding sources with several investigative reporters:
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) October 24, 2017
Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year https://t.co/vXKRV1wRJc
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 24, 2017
Three specific items to note here:
Fusion GPS had fought madly to keep details of their funding sources from going public.
Fusion’s earlier GOP funder, The Washington Beacon, had hired Fusion to engage in opposition research into Trump during the primaries, but stopped funding Fusion in March or April of 2016, when it became apparent Trump was going to secure the nomination. The Trump Dossier did not exist in any shape or form during the time Fusion was employed by the Beacon.
In April 2016, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign hired Fusion to continue the opposition research into Candidate-Trump. The DNC hiring of Fusion resulted in the hiring of Christopher Steel and the beginning of the Trump Dossier.
One other item Simpson and Fritsch left out of their testimony. Fusion had also been employed by the Russian Government. From Senate testimony:
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.
Simpson met with Natalia Veselnitskaya (the Russian lawyer at the Trump Jr. meeting) before and after the Trump Jr. meeting took place.
Simpson was also the author of the memo used by Veselnitskaya to pitch her meeting with Trump Jr. in the first place.
Thor Halvorssen, President and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation had this to say of Fusion’s tactics – under oath – during Congressional testimony:
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.
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. 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.
You can read about Fusion GPS and their links to:
- Natalia Veselnitskaya – Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016
- Prevezon – a Russian holding company accused by the U.S. of laundering stolen cash into New York City real estate
- The Magnitsky Act
- Bill Browder
- The DNC/Clinton Campaign
Some more assertions from Simpson’s Op-Ed in the New York Times:
We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.
These statements are curious and perhaps legally definitional.
Regardless their choice of wording, they leave out a few important points. Specifically, Fusion’s ties to Bruce Ohr, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, Nellie Ohr and Mary Jacoby – Simpson’s wife.
Ohr was stripped of his title [Associate Deputy Attorney General] after it was disclosed that he met with Fusion GPS founder, Glenn Simpson. The meeting between the two was facilitated by Richard Steele – the author of the Trump Dossier
Ohr met several different times with Steele – prior to the 2016 election. And reports indicate that Ohr has known Steele since 2006.
Importantly, FBI Agent Strzok served as the contact person between the FBI and Richard Steele.
Strzok personally helped to exonerate Clinton in the email investigation. Ohr has known Steele since 2006.
It turned out that Bruce Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS. The disclosure surrounding Nellie Ohr, was made in an article by James Rosen:
Investigators…confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm [Fusion GPS] last year…She was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.
The 2010 DOJ report linking Nellie Ohr to the CIA’s Open Source Group, proved to be equally interesting. On page 30, in Appendix B: List of Participants – Nellie and Bruce Ohr.
Also listed as a participant: Glenn Simpson.
One year after the DOJ report was published Glenn Simpson co-founded Fusion GPS.
Simpson’s wife, Mary Jacoby played her own role. On April 19 2016, Mary Jacoby visited the White House. A few days later, Fusion GPS is hired by the DNC. In a June 24, 2017 Facebook post, Jacoby would state the following:
It’s come to my attention that some people still don’t realize what Glenn’s role was in exposing Putin’s control of Donald Trump. Let’s be clear. Glenn conducted the investigation. Glenn hired Chris Steele. Chris Steele worked for Glenn.
Once again, a (compressed) timeline:
- February/March 2016 – Trump’s securing of GOP nomination seen as probable.
- April 19 2016 – Wife of Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS) Mary Jacoby visits White House.
- Late April 2016 – Clinton Campaign begins paying Fusion GPS.
- April/May 2016 – Fusion GPS hires Christopher Steele.
- April/May 2016 – Fusion GPS hires Nellie Ohr, wife of DOJ Assoc. Deputy AG Bruce Ohr.
- May 2016 – Trump becomes presumptive GOP Nominee.
- May 23 2016 – Nellie Ohr applies for a HAM Radio license.
- June 2016 – FBI Agent Peter Strzok – and possibly DOJ’s Bruce Ohr – meet with Christopher Steel.
- Late June 2016 – First draft of Trump Dossier shared w/Fusion & possibly FBI’s Strzok.
- June 2016 – First FISA request made. It is denied.
- July 19, 2016 – Trump officially becomes GOP Nominee.
- Late July – Second draft of Trump Dossier shared with FBI.
- Late July 2016 – FBI begins counter-intelligence investigation into Russia and Trump.
- August/September 2016 – CIA Director Brennan meets with Gang of Eight suggesting Russia is helping Trump.
- Late Summer/Fall 2016 – Trump Dossier shopped.
- Late September 2016 – Second FISA request made.
- Early October 2016 – Bruce Ohr meets with Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS).
- October 2016 – FISA request is granted. No evidence is found but surveillance continues – ostensibly for national security reasons.
- October 2016 – The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using federal intelligence services.
Back to the NYT Op-Ed:
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.
The link Simpson provides is to the Times article implicating George Papadopoulos.
This appears to be further corroborated by an article from Business Insider:
That was not a reference to a mole inside the Trump campaign who was feeding information directly to the FBI, a person with knowledge of Fusion’s testimony and the op-ed article told Business Insider on Tuesday. Rather, it was a reference to George Papadopoulos – the young Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser who drunkenly told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 about “dirt” the Russians had on Hillary Clinton
Fusion never told the committee that the source was a direct one, and it didn’t name Papadopoulos at the time, the person said.
The source “inside the Trump camp” referenced in the Fusion GPS op-ed was George Papadopoulos. https://t.co/zhLPzL7JC3
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) January 3, 2018
The Conservative Treehouse folks summed up the narrative silliness:
So the current narrative is: the FBI didn’t likely use the Steele Dossier in the FISA court application, but rather the FBI’s confirmation of a source within the Steele Dossier, as given by the author of the Dossier, was likely used in the FISA court application.
There’s another problem. A big one.
On January 2, 2018, James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, stated he had never heard of George Papadopolulos before:
CLAPPER: George Papadopoulos was not a name on my scope when I left almost a year ago.
This admission – all by itself – utterly undercuts the Times assertion that George Papadopoulos could have formed the basis of the FBI Investigation into Russia.
This is a crucial admission.
Clapper was responsible for acting as the information clearing house in the preparation of the report, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections. This report was the culmination of two previous reports.
The report was created by a joint effort between the CIA (former Director John Brennan), FBI (former Director James Comey) and the NSA (current Director Mike Rogers) – and assembled by the DNI (former Director James Clapper).
NSA Director Rogers would only express low/moderate confidence in the DNI Report and would later testify to Congress on the same matter:
I wouldn’t call it a discrepancy, I’d call it an honest difference of opinion between three different organizations and in the end I made that call.…It didn’t have the same level of sourcing and the same level of multiple sources.
The reports themselves were almost laughable in their content. You can find out more here.
Nowhere in any of the three reports was the name George Papadopoulos mentioned.
If Papadopoulos had been a significant component that led to the start of the FBI Investigation – instead of the Trump Dossier – Clapper would have known.
Period. Full stop.
This is what happens when narratives begin to fall apart.
Different parties, with suddenly differing goals and objectives, seek to set their own agendas. They tell their stories as they want the story to be told.
These stories often don’t align with each other out of motivated – and conflicting – self-interests.
The Times tried to push a specific narrative on behalf of the Intelligence Community.
They tried to recover by using Simpson and Fritsch of Fusion in an Op-Ed narrative spin.
This time the narrative fell apart.
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