Political News

House intelligence panel votes to release transcript from Fusion GPS co-founder interview

Posted January 18, 2018 10:14 a.m. EST

— The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday voted to release the transcript of its interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, with Democrats and Republicans joining together in a move likely to shed new light on the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia.

The committee voted in a closed-door meeting to release the transcript, which Simpson himself and the panel's top Democrat had pushed for over the past month. The vote was unanimous, committee member Rep. Denny Heck told CNN.

With the vote, the House panel will be second committee to make the details of Simpson's interview public. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, last week released the transcript of Simpson's August Senate Judiciary Committee interview without the consent of Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Simpson's interviews have emerged as a significant element of the Russia investigation thanks to the political fight over the dossier on Trump and Russia compiled by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.

Republicans have charged the Steele dossier is a political document that wound up in the hands of the FBI after being paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, both of whom paid Fusion GPS for the research through law firm Perkins Coie.

But Simpson argued in his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony that Steele was acting on his own accord out of concern for national security when he went to the FBI with the dossier.

"Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to -- he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information," Simpson said. "He thought from his perspective there was an issue -- a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed."

One congressional source said that the House Intelligence Committee interview with Simpson has material that was not in the Senate Judiciary Committee transcript.

Simpson and his fellow Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch wrote an op-ed calling on Congress to release the transcript of Simpson's congressional interviews. In the op-ed, they accused lawmakers of failing to sufficiently investigate Trump's financial dealings and Russia, including his bank records and real estate deals.

Indeed, Fusion GPS has faced major fights with Republicans on both committees.

The House Intelligence Committee has waged a court battle with Fusion GPS over the intelligence firm's bank records, successfully obtaining records earlier this month after a judge ruled in the committee's favor.

The effort to obtain the bank records is being driven by the committee's Republicans and Chairman Devin Nunes of California. Thursday's vote is the second bipartisan decision the committee has taken this week, following their Tuesday subpoena of Steve Bannon for not answering questions about the presidential transition or his time in the White House.

In the Senate, Grassley and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina referred Steele to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution less than a week before Feinstein unilaterally released the transcript.

Democrats, meanwhile, say Republicans are trying to muddy the water of the Russia investigations by attacking the Steele dossier.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, had called for the House Intelligence Committee to release the Simpson transcript in the wake of Feinstein's release.

"I applaud what Sen. Feinstein did --- she has the latitude that we don't have in the minority in the Intelligence Committee to make that decision unilaterally," Schiff told CNN's Jake Tapper last week. "But I would also urge our committee to release those transcripts."

It's not clear how quickly the committee will release the transcript of the Simpson interview. The panel has previously released two interview transcripts as part of an agreement with the witnesses, and they were both published within three business days of the interview.

In addition to the Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, Simpson has testified before the Senate Intelligence panel. But that committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, has been wary in the past of releasing any committee documents.