Jan 03

The Russian Connection: GOP’s Fake Investigation

Ever since the public was made aware of the Russian dossier that was released by Buzzfeed in January 2017, the Republicans have done everything possible to discredit it and undermine the investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia currently in progress under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In its attempts to derail the investigation, the founders of Fusion GPS testified behind closed doors before three congressional committees regarding the dossier last year. There have been promises by Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to release the transcripts after they were reviewed by committee and the witnesses. That was completed months ago but still no transcripts. In an editorial in the New York Times, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, founders of Fusion GPS, have called the allegations that the dossier was the trigger for the investigation; fake news.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. 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.

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.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

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 intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We now have further evidence that the dossier was not what started the investigation. In May of 2016, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos under the influence of a few too many in a London Pub with a couple of Aussie diplomats, let it slip that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired. [..]

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies. Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

Mark Mazzetti, Washington investigations editor for The New York Times, talks with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about his reporting that the Trump Russia investigation was triggered by a tip from U.S. allies, not the Christopher Steele dossier.

 

Over at Crooks and Liars, contributor Tengrain has put together an excellent timeline of Papadopoulos’ great adventure into conspiracy with a foreign government to take over the US 2016 election.

No matter how much Donald Trump and the GOP protest that this is a “witch hunt,” it is fairly obvious there is still a lot more to be learned about Trump’s connection with the Russians. It is also very clear the dossier only confirmed what was already known about the Trump campaign’s Russian connection.