The Cable

Key Figure Behind ‘Trump Dossier’ Stonewalled Senate Investigators

Glenn Simpson invoked his First Amendment rights to protect sources for salacious claims of collusion.

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - NOVEMBER 23:  A mural depicts U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) blowing marijuana smoke into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the wall of a bar-b-que restaurant on November 23, 2016 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Many people in the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are concerned that Russia, because Trump has expressed both admiration for Putin and doubt over defending NATO member states, will be emboldened to intervene militarily in the Baltics.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - NOVEMBER 23: A mural depicts U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) blowing marijuana smoke into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the wall of a bar-b-que restaurant on November 23, 2016 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Many people in the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are concerned that Russia, because Trump has expressed both admiration for Putin and doubt over defending NATO member states, will be emboldened to intervene militarily in the Baltics. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Glenn Simpson, the former journalist whose company was involved in the production of the now infamous “Trump Dossier,” invoked his First Amendment rights during testimony last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee and refused to reveal the sources for the document’s explosive claims, according to recently released court documents.

In August, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson spent more than 10 hours testifying before the Senate panel about a document alleging extensive collusion between Donald Trump’s supporters and Kremlin operatives. But according to Peter Fritsch, a partner at Fusion GPS, the research firm founded by the two men, Simpson refused to answer Senate investigators on several key questions.

In a declaration filed as part of a defamation case being brought against the news outlet Buzzfeed for publishing the dossier, Fritsch said Simpson “invoked the First Amendment and attorney-client/attorney work product privileges” in response to questions seeking what he described as “privileged information.”

Simpson “did not reveal the identity of Fusion GPS’s clients or any of the sources for the Dossier or the December Memo,” Fritsch said.

In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to examine Trump’s ties to Russia. A former Russia specialist, Steele produced a series of memos detailing alleged meetings between Kremlin operatives and Trump lieutenants. According to Steele’s sources, Russian intelligence interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s electoral chances in exchange for the former real estate mogul sidelining concerns about Russian interference in Ukraine and support for separatists in the country’s east.

In the run-up to the November election, the Steele memos were distributed to several American journalists, who attempted to back-up their often salacious claims — including, for example, that the Kremlin was in possession of compromising information on Trump.

The FBI briefed Trump about the memo and the allegations.

Steele’s claims proved impossible to verify, but after CNN and Mother Jones reported on some of the claims, BuzzFeed published the memos in January ahead of the real-estate mogul’s inauguration.

Fritsch’s description of Simpson’s testimony comes as part of a defamation case brought against BuzzFeed by the Russian technology executive Aleksej Gubarev. Steele’s memos include allegations that Gubarev’s companies were implicated in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

American intelligence agencies concluded that hackers working on behalf of Russia broke into the DNC’s computer systems, stole emails, and then passed on those documents to WikiLeaks, which proceeded to publish the material.

Gubarev denies that he or his companies were involved in that effort, and his lawyers have subpoenaed Fusion GPS in an attempt to force the firm to reveal its role in the production of the Trump dossier.

The company’s lawyers are fighting that subpoena and are trying to convince a Washington D.C. judge that the firm only needs to produce its communications with BuzzFeed reporters ahead of the outlet’s decision to publish the memo.

In his declaration filed last week, Fritsch argues that the attempt by Gubarev’s lawyers to force his firm to reveal its sources could have awful consequences.

“If the identity of the confidential sources in the Trump Dossier were revealed, I believe that their lives would be put in immediate danger,” Fritsch said.

Simpson, Fritsch, and spokesmen for the Senate Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to questions from FP.

–Jana Winter contributed to this article.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll

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