The former British spy behind an infamous dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia apparently broke off communication with the FBI because of a October 2016 New York Times story claiming that no such ties had been found, according to newly released testimony.
Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who assembled the dossier based on research by the former spy, Christopher Steele, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Times article made Steele feel “concern about what was going on at the FBI.”
Simpson’s testimony took place in August. An interview transcript was made public Tuesday.
“There was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Simpson testified, calling the Oct. 31 article “a real Halloween special.”
The Times story reported at a critical moment in the 2016 election campign that the FBI had found no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government” during a months-long inquiry. The story has come under fire in light of subsequent reporting, much of it by the Times’ own reporters, detailing contacts between the two.
Simpson testified that the article contradicted Steele and Fusion’s own research into Trump’s connections with Russia.
“Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn’t think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn’t understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down,” Simpson said.
Simpson testified that Steele had two previous contacts with the FBI about his findings, one that he initiated in early July 2016, and another in Rome in September 2016 that Simpson said he believed was requested by the bureau.
The Fusion GPS founder said that passing information on to the FBI was not an aim of the initial project investigating Trump’s Russia connections. But Simpson said that Steele felt compelled to do so because of his “grave concern” about his findings.
The full transcript of Simpson’s interview was released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had argued against making it public and referred Steele to the FBI for allegedly lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the media. Grassley said Feinstein’s decision to release the transcript “undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work.”