Bank turns over disputed Fusion GPS records to Congress
Posted January 4, 2018 6:56 p.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2018 6:04 p.m. EST
(CNN) — The financial records that Fusion GPS fought for months to keep out of the hands of Congress have been turned over, according to a new court filing.
TD Bank "has produced all remaining responsive documents" to the House Intelligence Committee under the terms of a confidential settlement, a lawyer for the House wrote Friday afternoon.
Fusion GPS had argued that handing over those 70 documents in response to a subpoena from the House committee's Russia investigators could reveal its clients, hinder its business and step on its First Amendment rights. Fusion GPS said that once the committee had the documents, its clients' names and financial details would be likely to leak.
Before the handover of documents Friday, a federal judge had disagreed with Fusion GPS' protests, and the company pledged to appeal.
Lawyers for Fusion GPS did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon. Judge Richard Leon denied Fusion GPS's request to stay his earlier ruling pending an appeal because the House said it already had the documents being requested.
Fusion GPS and the House Intelligence Committee had tangled over a subpoena of Fusion's bank records for months, even after three of the firm's clients -- the law firm Perkins Coie (which was connected to the Democratic National Committee), the law firm Baker & Hostetler (which worked for Russian company Prevezon) and the conservative-leaning Washington Free Beacon -- were made public.
The Perkins Coie and Free Beacon engagements ultimately produced the now-infamous Trump dossier during the presidential campaign last year.
Judge Leon had rejected the company's argument that handing over the records would hurt its business and endanger its clients.
"There is a significant risk of leaks from the investigation, and leaks have already resulted in retaliation against a senior Justice Department attorney whose wife, a Russia expert, has done work for Fusion in the past," Fusion's lawyers wrote in a court document filed Friday. The Justice Department attorney was Bruce Ohr, who was demoted amid the discovery of certain meetings with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who assembled the dossier.
"The threat of retaliatory disclosure of confidential information in the records is not just theoretical, it is part of a pattern and an underlying purpose of the subpoena," the lawyers wrote.
In court in recent months, Fusion GPS and the House Intelligence Committee couldn't agree on the subpoena of 70 records with Fusion GPS's bank, TD Bank.
In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this week, Fusion GPS's founders said they opposed the committee's record requests. "We handed over our relevant bank records -- while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case," Fusion's founders wrote.
"Fusion objected to the committee's requests, arguing that the requested records -- which contained financial transactions between Fusion and certain law firms, media companies, journalists and contractors -- were irrelevant to the Russia investigation," Leon wrote in his opinion Thursday. Turning over the records "would chill Fusion's ability to do certain kinds of political work and associate with its clients anonymously. ... Unfortunately for plaintiff, I cannot agree."
Leon wrote that the court couldn't restrict what Congress asked for in an investigation. He added that Fusion GPS's work with still-undisclosed law firms and transactions with media outlets and companies could reveal information that's relevant to the House committee's Russia investigation.
Following the ruling, Ted Boutrous, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, said the company would continue to fight the House Intelligence Committee's subpoena.
"Instead of focusing its efforts on Russian meddling in the presidential election, the committee is misusing its investigatory powers to punish and smear Fusion GPS for its role in examining ties between Mr. Trump and Russia," Boutrous said. "The committee is violating Fusion's First Amendment and due process rights and we intend to continue seeking to protect those rights."