Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, July 26, 2019
Robert Mueller said in congressional testimony that he was unaware of the Democratic opposition research firm that was the driving force in creating the anti-Trump dossier and spreading it around Washington.
At the House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 24, Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, asked Mueller: “When you talk about the firm that produced the Steele reporting, the name of the firm that produced that was Fusion GPS. Is that correct?”
“I’m not familiar with that,” Mueller answered.
Mueller “may not be aware of Fusion, but Senate and House Republicans conducted a number of interviews and hearings after the election to create a historical record of what Fusion did to try to bring down Trump,” Rowan Scarborough noted in a July 25 report for The Washington Times.
The Mueller report mentions dossier author Christopher Steele 13 times. It refers to “Steele reporting” in an uncritical way and how candidate and President Donald Trump reacted to it.
The report does not mention Fusion GPS, Steele’s employer, by name or its co-founder, Glenn R. Simpson.
Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, “orchestrated the dossier’s circulation deep into Washington power centers, including the FBI, the White House, the State Department and journalists working for the nation’s most influential news sites,” Scarborough noted.
Fusion GPS, with money from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, hired Steele to write the dossier. The former British spy “tapped Kremlin intelligence officials to weave a dossier filled with allegations against Donald Trump, including that he led an ‘extensive conspiracy’ to have Russia intervene in the election,” Scarborough wrote.
Mueller’s 22-month investigation found no such conspiracy.
Scaborough detailed four major initiatives Fusion GPS undertook to insert the dossier and its conspiracy allegations into the hands of people who might stop Trump:
First, Steele organized a meeting in England with a senior FBI agent in early July 2016. For the first time, the bureau learned that Steele was alleging a major conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin for election meddling. The agent said he would report back to headquarters.
Second, Fusion capitalized on its hiring of a Russia researcher, Nellie Ohr, to hook up the firm with her husband, Bruce Ohr. In 2016, Bruce Ohr served as an associate deputy attorney general, one of the Justice Department’s most senior lawyers.
Ohr then took on the unofficial job of Fusion messenger to reach the FBI’s hierarchy. He met with Steele that summer and took his dossier material to Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and his counsel, Lisa Page, in August.
Page was having an affair with FBI agent Peter Strzok, who had opened the investigation into the Trump campaign. Both expressed in texts a deep dislike for Trump and vowed to “stop” his ascent.
Bruce Ohr also briefed Andrew Weissmann, who headed the Justice Department’s fraud division. Weissmann would later be recruited by Mueller, his old boss at the FBI, as a senior prosecutor for the special counsel.
Working with Fusion, Bruce Ohr continued to brief the FBI for months after the election. He even had his own special FBI handler.
In other words, Steele’s tale of a vast conspiracy and criminal wrongdoing by Trump had permeated FBI headquarters as the agency made critical decisions to go after the president.
Former FBI Director James B. Comey said he used the dossier as a guide to try to confirm Steele’s allegations, which the bureau never did.
Third, Fusion organized meetings between Steele and reporters in Washington.
And fourth, Fusion arranged for Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to receive a dossier copy through his associate, David J. Kramer. Kramer in December 2016 spread the completed dossier to the White House and to reporters.
BuzzFeed posted the dossier’s entire 17 memos in January 2017 and forever changed history. McCain, who died last August, hand-delivered a copy to Comey.
“In all, the dossier became a constant source of suspicion that Trump and his associates were felons,” Scarborough wrote.
Republicans at the July 24 hearing wondered why Mueller didn’t investigate the dossier as Russian interference in the election, just as he did Russian computer hacking and social media ranting. Mueller declined to answer.
In testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Republicans knew Mueller could not or would not talk about Fusion GPS.
“There is collusion in plain sight,” said Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s ranking Republican.
“Collusion between Russia and the Democratic Party. The Democrats colluded with Russian sources to develop the Steele dossier.”
Then there was the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“The Mueller report narrated the 20-minute meeting but didn’t explore at all Veselnitskaya’s relationship with Simpson, a paid Clinton operative. She got the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials by promising dirt on Clinton but actually wanted to talk about removing U.S. sanctions on Russian businesses,” Scarborough noted.
Veselnitskaya hired Simpson to work for a wealthy Russian and met with him at least three times during her U.S. visit.
“Natalia Veselnitskaya colluded with the dossier’s key architect, Fusion GPS head Glenn Simpson,” Nunes said. “The Democrats have already admitted both in interviews. Would it surprise you that the Clinton campaign dirty ops arm met with Natalia Veselnitskaya more times than the Trump campaign did?”
Mueller’s standard answer was, “Outside my purview.”
Intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, was a big fan of Steele’s dossier and quoted from it at public events.
But to Schiff, the Russia story is all Trump.
“Disloyalty to country those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?” Schiff said at the July 24 hearing.
Republicans said this is exactly what the Clinton campaign did: pay for Russian dirt on Trump from a foreign national, Steele, and spread it around Washington.