JERUSALEM — Testimony released last week reveals new details about alleged payments by the law firm that represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the former British spy who authored the largely discredited 35-page anti-Trump dossier.
Glenn R. Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, disclosed the information regarding the alleged financial exchanges involving the Perkins Coie law firm and ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. Fusion GPS was retained by Perkins Coie to conduct its anti-Trump work resulting in the questionable dossier.
Instead of Fusion GPS receiving lump sums from Perkins Coie, Simpson testified that he believes Fusion GPS expensed Steele’s payments directly to Perkins Coie. Simpson stated that bank records show Fusion GPS paid Steele about $160,000.
Here is a relevant portion of Simpson’s Novem ber 14 testimony, released last week, which came during the following exchange with Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.):
GOWDY : And how much did you pay Chris Steele?
SIMPSON : I think what we’ve told the committee from the bank records is that it was ultimately 160,000. That sounds right to me. I think probably the initial engagement was for 20 or 30 thousand dollars. There’s, you know, currency differences between pounds and dollars, so I don’t remember how it was denominated or exactly how it was priced.
GOWDY: Now, help me understand this. Would that payment for Steele have been expensed to the law firm, or would Fusion have paid that out of its own money that it received from the law firm?
SIMPSON: I believe, at least if things were running the way I hope they ran, it was expensed to the law firm.
GOWDY: So Perkins Coie paid Chris Steele?
SIMPSON: I think it was –I mean, I think we billed them for it.
Simpson’s statements represent the clearest insight yet about the specifics of the reported payments to Steele.
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 DNC.
Neither Elias nor two media relations representatives for Perkins Coie returned a Breitbart News request seeking comment on any billing arrangements resulting in payments to Steele, despite a Tuesday deadline for comment.
Through Perkins Coie, Clinton’s campaign and the DNC continued to fund Fusion GPS until October 2016, days before Election Day, the Post reported.
While it is not clear how much the Clinton campaign or the DNC paid Fusion GPS, the UK Independent, citing campaign finance records, reported that the Clinton campaign doled out $5.6 million to Perkins Coie from June 2015 to December 2016. Records show that since November 2015, the DNC paid the law firm $3.6 million in “legal and compliance consulting.”
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 currently at the center of controversy as House Republicans seek the release of a memo described as alleging FISA surveillance abuses under the Obama administration.
Major questions have been raised as to the veracity of the dossier, large sections of which have been discredited. The dossier contains wild and unproven claims that the Russians had information regarding Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the widely mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed.
Citing a “Kremlin insider,” the dossier, which misspelled the name of a Russian diplomat, claimed that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen held “secret meetings” with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.
That charge unraveled after Cohen revealed he had never traveled to Prague, calling the story “totally fake, totally inaccurate.” The Atlantic confirmed Cohen’s whereabouts in New York and California during the period the dossier claimed that Cohen was in Prague. Cohen reportedly produced his passport showing he had not traveled to Prague.
In testimony in May, former FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia allegedly wanted Trump in office was not because the billionaire was, as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) claimed during a hearing, “ensnared in” Russia’s “web of patronage” – just as the dossier alleged. Instead, the FBI chief provided two primary reasons for Russia’s alleged favoring of Trump over Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
One reason, according to Comey, was that Putin “hated” Clinton and would have favored any Republican opponent. The second reason, Comey explained, was that Putin made an assessment that it would be easier to make a deal with a businessman than someone from the political class.
Comey’s statements are a far cry from the conspiracies fueled by the dossier alleging Putin held blackmail information on Trump.
Citing current and former government officials, the New Yorker reported the dossier prompted skepticism among intelligence community members, with the publication quoting one member saying it was a “nutty” piece of evidence to submit to a U.S. president.
Steele’s work has been questioned by former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who currently works at the Hillary Clinton-tied Beacon Global Strategies LLC.
NBC News reported on Morell’s questions about Steele’s credibility:
Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians. He also raised questions about the dossier written by a former British intelligence officer, which alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Morell pointed out that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Meet the Press on March 5 that he had seen no evidence of a conspiracy when he left office January 20.
“That’s a pretty strong statement by General Clapper,” Morell said.
Regarding Steele’s dossier, Morell stated, “Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can’t judge the information — you just can’t.”
Morell charged that the dossier “doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think.”
“I had two questions when I first read it. One was, how did Chris talk to these sources? I have subsequently learned that he used intermediaries.”
Morell stated, “And then I asked myself, why did these guys provide this information, what was their motivation? And I subsequently learned that he paid them. That the intermediaries paid the sources and the intermediaries got the money from Chris. And that kind of worries me a little bit because if you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB [Russian intelligence] officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, ‘Hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you,’ because they want to get paid some more.” He added, “I think you’ve got to take all that into consideration when you consider the dossier.”
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.