What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

What testimony on the Trump dossier adds to the Russia probe

What does Glenn Simpson's newly released testimony about the Trump-Russia dossier reveal? In a unilateral move, Sen. Dianne Feinstein publicly shared the nearly 11-hour exchange. Judy Woodruff talks with Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times to recap why the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted to talk with Simpson about the Trump dossier and Republican resistance to releasing the transcript.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to the Russia investigation.

    Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein today unilaterally released testimony from a key witness. Glenn Simpson is the head of the research firm behind a salacious dossier which outlined some ofPresident Trump’s alleged connections with Russia.

    Editor Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times is here to explain what is in the testimony and why it matters.

    Mark Mazzetti, thank you for talking with us.

    First of all, this can get confusing. Remind us why in the first place did the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to talk to Glenn Simpson?

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    It’s been exactly — pretty much exactly a year since this dossier first was made public.

    But it seems like, increasingly, its role as a political component of this story seems to increase, and the role of its creator, Christopher Steele, and the people who hired Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS, is very much the center of a political debate.

    So, last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee brought Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, to testify about the role he played and the role Christopher Steele played in putting together the dossier and getting it to the FBI.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

     And I was just going to say, and Republicans on the committee have not wanted to have this transcript made public.

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    That’s right.

    Last week in an op-ed in The New York Times, Simpson and Peter Fritsch, his co-founder, demanded that it be made public, because they say once it is made public, they will be exonerated of some of the things that they have been charged with.

    And, today, we saw a pretty extraordinary moment, with Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic leader of the committee, just sort of put it out unilaterally, which is very unusual in the Senate. And clearly Senator Feinstein wanted to get some of this information out she believed would advance some of the issues that Democrats have made about the role of Christopher Steele, how he was an integral part in helping decipher this Trump-Russia story.

    But it also caused a big backlash from Republicans, who have said that Steele, Glenn Simpson and others were basically operating on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You’re right. It has become very political.

    But let’s boil it down now. What is it in this almost 11-hour exchange that Glenn Simpson had with the Judiciary Committee that adds to our understanding of what connection there was between Russian officials and the Trump Organization?

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    There wasn’t that much released in the document that was completely new or revelatory.

    Glenn Simpson laid out his views and his firm’s views about some possible connections between the Trump Organization, Trump the candidate and Russian officials. These are things that have been explored, but a lot of these things have never been confirmed.

    One of the interesting things that came out of it was Glenn Simpson talking about Christopher Steele’s interview with the FBI in September-October of 2016. Now, during that interview, Steele came to believe that the FBI had some inside source who was giving them information about the Trump campaign and Russia.

    What we know now, though, is that the so-called inside source was actually the Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who passed information to the FBI in the summer of 2016.

    That information came during a session of drinking with a campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. We reported this last month. Boiling it down, it basically was that Downer heard from Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

    So, what we learned in this transcript today was that Christopher Steele came to believe that the FBI actually had a lot of information outside of the dossier to open this investigation into Trump and Russia.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that being important because it suggests that it wasn’t Christopher Steele through some nefarious effort to undermine the Trump campaign or Glenn Simpson, but it was an independent person in the Australian diplomat that triggered the FBI effort.

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    Right.

    What we reported last month, that two of the critical factors in opening the investigation in July 2016 were the information that Alexander Downer, the Australian, passed through other Australian officials to the FBI, at the same time as the release, the spilling out of hacked e-mails that we now know the Russians did right before the Democratic National Convention.

    These were two of the driving factors that led the FBI to question whether there was a campaign connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they opened this counterintelligence investigation, which now is still ongoing under the purview of Robert Mueller.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The other point, quickly, I want to make, Mark Mazzetti, is that what comes through here is that Christopher Steele, rather than, again, having some underhanded motive, according to Glenn Simpson, what he was seeing was, he believed, a crime in progress and he wanted the FBI to know about that.

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    Right.

    So this is — according to Simpson’s account, Steele, in gathering this information, saw in his mind an increasing number of connections between the Russian government and Russian officials and Trump operatives.

    And he was putting the pieces together, and he believed this needed to be reported to the American government for them to look at.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, meantime, we have an ongoing political dispute between the Democrats and the Republicans, which will no doubt continue after today.

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    That’s right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Mazzetti with The New York Times, helping us understand it all, thank you.

  • Mark Mazzetti:

    Thank you.

     

Listen to this Segment

The Latest