TEL AVIV — Glenn R. Simpson, the co-founder of the controversial opposition research firm Fusion GPS, espoused a conspiracy theory claiming that Vladimir Putin “essentially took over the Russian Jewish community” and that Putin uses “the Jewish Diaspora” as a route for Russian influence.
Simpson’s outlandish claim was made during testimony on November 14 before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, a transcript of which was released two weeks ago. His statements, which arguably contain anti-Semitic undertones, were almost entirely ignored by the news media.
The claims may offer a window into the conspiratorial thinking of the firm behind the infamous, largely discredited 35-page anti-Trump dossier alleging unsubstantiated collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
During testimony, Simpson stated, “I am sort of thinking back to one of the other questions that Congressman Schiff asked about, things to look at.” Simpson was referring to requests from Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who repeatedly asked the Fusion GPS co-founder during the testimony for recommendations of whom to subpoena or items to investigate as part of the Russia collusion probe.
Simpson then delved into his Putin-Jewish conspiracy. “And it’s kind of an uncomfortable — I don’t know really how to put it, but there is a lot of — Putin seems to be very interested in the Jewish Diaspora.”
“And there seems to be, especially, the sort of Orthodox or ultra-religious or conservative, and there is a definitely something interesting to all that,” Simpson stated. “Chabad, in particular, is a subject that is curious and interesting.”
“And Putin essentially took over the Russian Jewish community and the leadership of the Russian Jewish community. And appears, for reasons I can’t fully explain to be – this appears to be a very interesting route for the Russians.”
“And again, I think there are many routes for the Russians,” he added. “They use trade groups, they use ethnic association groups, and at least and they use religious groups.”
The anti-Trump dossier itself claims the Russian FSB intelligence agency was engaged in attempts to approach “U.S. citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin on business trips to Russia” to utilize as agents.
Simpson did not substantiate his allegations, and he did not explain his singling out of Chabad as a “subject that is curious and interesting.”
Far from Russia centric, Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, is a worldwide Orthodox Jewish movement that has more than 3,500 institutions in over 1,000 cities in more than 100 countries.
The organization has 1,000 centers across all 50 states and Canada; it is the largest Jewish organization not only in Russia, but in Ukraine and France also.
The main goal of Chabad, headquartered in New York, is to strengthen the ties of Jewish people to Judaism. Chabad is known to not involve itself in politics.
Chabad-Lubavitch leaders and followers were persecuted under the communist regime in the Soviet Union due to the Soviets’ opposition to organized religious life. Still, Chabad managed to function underground, working to strengthen Judaism within the country. That perseverance exacted a heavy toll, resulting in the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of scores of Lubavitchers.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Chabad was able to strengthen its communal Jewish work within Russia and has enjoyed a largely cordial relationship with the government under Vladimir Putin. Chabad, like other religious institutions, aims to maintain positive relationships with other nations where the group operates.
Last April, Politico featured an article attempting to draw associations between Chabad, Putin, and Trump, titled, “The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin.” The article singled out Chabad’s work in Russia, which is just one country where it operates. The piece attempted to connect Trump to Putin because Trump had a select few reported business and personal relationships with a handful of Jews with ties to Chabad.
After the article came out, Jonathan Zalman at Tablet magazine reported that he was told Simpson’s Fusion GPS was a source for the Politico story.
Politico’s Chabad story drew widespread criticism. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, slammed the Politico article as “offensive on many levels.” Reacting on Twitter, Greenblatt continued, “Denigrating @Chabad or implying it is driving a conspiracy evokes age-old myths about #Jews”:
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 9, 2017
Writing at the Jewish Journal, Rabbi David Eliezrie of Chabad asserted the associations in the Politico article may amount to a “new kind of anti-Semitism.”
For centuries Jews would tremble before Passover, fearing a new blood libel that they were using Christian blood to bake matzahs. This went out style after the Mendel Beilis trial in 1914 in Czarist Russia. Next the Protocols of the Elders of Zion declared the Jews run the world. This too fell out a favor after the Holocaust. Now Politico has created a new version of the old story, only this time it’s not all Jews. The new kind of anti-Semitism is only against those guys in the black hats and the beards, the ultras, or Chassidim
If Politico had done the most basic fact checking it would have discovered that Chabad is unique amongst major Jewish groups — it never gets involved in politics. While others are busy with press releases on everything from immigration to who should be the US Ambassador to Israel, Chabad never says a word.
Eliezer added sarcastically:
Politico claims it’s the Chabad connections that cement the bond between Putin and Trump. But why stop there? The article could have revealed the true depth of the Chassidic conspiracy. It didn’t mention the links between Chabad and the Democrats. Former Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew, an observant Jew, attended the same synagogue that the Kushners do. Bernie Sanders’ closest friend and college roommate is a Chabad Chassid, beard and all. And what about Hollywood? Steven Spielberg dedicated a Chabad synagogue in LA , Beis Bezalel, in memory of his stepfather. His late mother was a member there. Mark Zuckerberg was caught dancing with the Chabad Rabbi at Purim party in Harvard. It’s even the New York Times! Tom Friedman recently attended the wedding of his niece in the Chassidic bastion of Crown Heights in Brooklyn.
Writing at Tablet, author Lee Smith addressed Simpson’s remarks on Russian Jews during the House testimony:
So we are to assume that in exchange for cash, Jews were helping to spy on America. Is it surprising that Russiagate would incorporate Jews into its narrative? No. There was zero chance that a conspiracy theorist like Simpson would not find a role for the Jews in his grand Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
In October, the Washington Post reported that in April 2016, attorney Marc E. Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained Fusion GPS to conduct the firm’s anti-Trump work on behalf of both Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Clinton’s campaign and the DNC both were clients of Perkins Coie.
The BBC reported that the information in the dossier served as a “roadmap” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Last April, CNN reported that the dossier served as part of the FBI’s justification for seeking the FISA court’s reported approval to clandestinely monitor the communications of Carter Page, the American oil industry investor who was tangentially and briefly associated with Trump’s presidential campaign.
That purported FISA warrant is reportedly mentioned in a surveillance memo described as alleging FISA surveillance abuses under the Obama administration. On Monday night, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the memo, giving Trump days to weigh in with any objections before the memo can be publicly released.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Written with research by Joshua Klein.