Senate Democrats cut short a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, delaying the widely-anticipated testimony of a witness who would have cast aspersion on the company responsible for creating the Trump dossier.
Using a parliamentary maneuver, Senate Democrats invoked a two-hour limit on the hearing before Bill Browder, CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, could testify on how he was targeted by Fusion GPS and its co-founder Glenn Simpson, on behalf of Russian interests.
Fusion GPS has come under intense Congressional scrutiny — for its role in targeting Browder and undermining the Magnitsky Act on behalf of Russia, but at the same time creating a salacious and discredited dossier on Trump paid for by his political enemies claiming he colluded with Russia.
That dossier was reportedly used by the FBI to open an investigation on Trump campaign associates. At one point, the FBI had made arrangements to pay the author of the dossier, but that arrangement reportedly later fell through.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has long called for answers on Fusion GPS’s failure to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and its creation of the Trump dossier.
“It is vital for the Committee to fully understand Fusion’s failure to register under FARA and its role in the creating and spreading of the dossier,” he said at the opening of the hearing.
Browder, according to his opening statement released in advance of his testimony, was set to say Fusion GPS ran a smear campaign against him, orchestrated by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the same Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016.
Browder’s testimony claims that Veselnitskaya hired Fusion GPS through lobbying firm Baker Hostetler to undermine the Magnitsky Act on behalf of Russian interests, and that the firm helped to organize a Washington D.C.-based premiere of a “fake documentary” about himself as well as his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
“While they were conducting these operations in Washington D.C., 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,” he said in prepared testimony.
Senate Republicans who were eager to question Browder slammed the Democrats’ decision to limit the hearing to two hours, which was reportedly in protest of GOP efforts to repeal ObamaCare. Browder is now scheduled to testify Thursday at 9:00 a.m.