Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who Fusion GPS hired to work on the Trump dossier, went to the FBI after a source told him the story that led to the document’s infamous designation as the “pee dossier.”
That is according to the August testimony of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson (pictured), released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
The ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee released the transcript purportedly to show that although the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had paid for it, it was Steele that wanted to go to the FBI.
After she released the transcript, Trump opponents argued that Steele had gone to the FBI because he was so alarmed by what he found out — out of a sense of duty, and not out of political motivation.
However, they did not mention that Simpson had said it was the “Golden Showers” incident that had so alarmed Steele, which alleged that Trump during a trip to Moscow in 2013 allegedly hired prostitutes to urinate on a bed he knew then-President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had slept in, and that the Russians likely had a video tape of it. Steele’s notes said:
“According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.”
That allegation has been disputed by the president, his bodyguard who was present during that trip, and has not been verified by U.S. intelligence agencies, and believed by Russia experts to be typical Russian disinformation.
Specifically, Simpson was asked during the interview what Steele had gathered that had made him concerned about the possibility Trump would be blackmailed. Simpson answered:
“Well, the facts are — beyond what’s here I don’t have any additional facts. The alleged incident that’s described here is the one that he was referring to. As I say, I don’t have really any additional information beyond this except that — I mean, its probably in here somewhere actually, but it’s well known in intelligence circles that the Russians have cameras in all the luxury hotel rooms and there are memoirs written about this by former Russian intelligence agents I could quote you. So the problem of kompromat and kompromating is just endemic to east-west intelligence work. So that’s what I’m referring to. That’s what he’s referring to.”
Simpson said after Steele produced that first report on June 20, 2016, he was concerned that what he found represented a national security threat and felt obligated to tell someone in government. Steele thought there was a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed or had been compromised.
At the same time, Simpson said he was concerned there was a “law enforcement issue” about whether there was an illegal conspiracy to violate campaign laws.
Simpson said as they deliberated what to do, Steele proposed going to the FBI. Simpson said he put the question off, but Steele later raised it again. Simpson said he told Steele that he did not know anyone at the FBI who might believe him, nor did he think it was appropriate to go to the FBI. But Simpson said Steele said he knew someone in the FBI that would listen to him.
“In any event, he said, ‘Don’t worry about that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact there, they’ll listen to me, they know who I am, I’ll take care of it.’ I said OK. You know, I agreed, it’s potentially a crime in progress. So, you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate way, I said it was okay for him to do that,” Simpson said.
Simpson said Steele went to the FBI in late June or “at the latest” early July — weeks before the FBI reportedly launched its investigation into the Trump campaign.
When investigators asked Simpson if he shared their decision to go to the FBI with anyone, neither he or his lawyer denied doing so. Simpson responded, “I think we’re not able to answer that.” Simpson’s lawyer Josh Levy jumped in: “He’s going to decline to answer that question.”
Simpson said the FBI got in touch with Steele in mid- to late- September, when the “controversy was really front and center now in the election,” and wanted him to go meet with them in Rome.
The FBI paid for Steele to fly to Rome in October, according to Simpson. There, they questioned him about the dossier, such as who his sources were and how he knew certain things, Simpson said.
While Simpson claimed that Steele acted out of alarm and not out of political motivation, that argument was undermined by other parts of Simpson’s own testimony that showed that Steele was “concerned” about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation, and a news story that said there was no connection between Trump and Russia.
Simpson said that when then-FBI Director James Comey announced on October 28, 2016, that he was reopening the email investigation into Clinton’s private server, Steele had “some sort of interaction” — “probably telephonic” — with the FBI.
“That episode, you know, obviously created some concern that the FBI was intervening in a political campaign in contravention of long-standing Justice Department regulation. So it made a lot of people, including us, concerned about what the heck was going on at the FBI,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he and Steele also began referring press questions to the FBI over whether Trump was under investigation, too.
“So, you know, we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether they were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question. You know, I think — I’m not sure we’ve covered this fully, but, you know, we just encouraged them to ask the FBI that question,” he said.
However, the last straw for Steele with the FBI came after the publish of an October 31, 2016, story in the New York Times that said the FBI was investigating Trump and had “found no connections” to Russia.
“Sometime thereafter the FBI — I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them,” Simpson said.
In September, Simpson said he had briefed a group of news media outlets, but none had chosen to publish the allegations contained in the dossier. However, Fusion GPS did not stop its mission to get the dossier out.
After the election, a co-worker of Steele’s — Andrew Wood, a former British diplomat in Moscow — discussed the dossier with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at a national security conference in Canada in November, and arranged for one of McCain’s long-time associates, David Kramer, to come to London and get briefed on the dossier by Steele. Both parties arranged for McCain to receive a hard copy of the dossier, which was then delivered directly to Comey in December. Comey then briefed then-President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump on the existence of the dossier in January.
After that briefing, CNN reported that the briefing had occurred, and BuzzFeed published the dossier in full — prompting public awareness of the dossier, which has become a political scourge hanging over Trump’s presidency.