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Fusion GPS Co-Founder Refuses to Testify, Vows to Plead the Fifth

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley questions witness.

Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the opposition research firm behind the infamous "dodgy dossier" and pro-Russia lobbying -- has declined to talk to lawmakers in response to a subpoena, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday.

Because both Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. are cooperating with the committee, Senators Grassley and Feinstein said in a statement that they would not immediately issue subpoenas requiring them to testify at a public hearing on Wednesday. But the senators said they would  "reserve the right to do so in the future."

Simpson and his attorneys said he was traveling and wouldn't be available, but made clear that if subpoenaed, he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.

Via Fox News:

Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., confirmed in a statement that they subpoenaed Simpson to appear before the committee Wednesday as part of a hearing about the influence of foreign lobbying in last year's presidential election.

"Simpson’s attorney has asserted that his client will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to the subpoena," Grassley and Feinstein said.

During the campaign, Fusion GPS contracted former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele to look into rumors about Trump's financial and social connections in Russia. The resulting "dossier," which was leaked to the media following Trump's victory in November included a number of sordid allegations about the president's sexual proclivities.

Last week, Fox News reported that Fusion GPS had ties to Russian efforts to undermine U.S. sanctions that were led by attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Investment manager Bill Browder claims Simpson was hired by one of Veselnitskaya's clients, Prevezon Holdings, as part of an effort to repeal the Magnitsky Act, named for Sergei Magnitsky — an attorney for Browder who was beaten to death in a Moscow prison after accusing Russian authorities of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through tax refunds and then laundering the money through New York banks.

Veselnitskaya became the center of a political storm earlier this month after Donald Trump Jr. made public emails indicating that he had taken a meeting with her on the promise of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Grassley and Feinstein also noted that both Trump Jr., who met with Veselnitskaya in June of last year, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who sat in on the meeting, are negotiating their appearances and the possibility of turning over documents, but left open the possibility that the pair would be subpoenaed.

Fusion GPS claims that "it had nothing to do with the Trump Jr.-Veselnitskaya meeting."

“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is absolutely false,” the company said in a statement.

The committee has been looking into a previously undisclosed guest at the meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who allegedly has ties to Fusion GPS.

According to Circa News back in April:

An admitted former Russian spy who now works as a lobbyist in Washington and has been tied to the creators of the  unverified Trump dossier may have lobbied against Russian sanctions, according to a letter by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Grassley requested all immigration information available on Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian citizen who became an American citizen in 2009, in a letter written Tuesday. He cited a July 2016 complaint alleging Akhmetshin had not registered as a foreign agent as required by law.

Akhmetshin was described by Radio Free Europe as a "Russian gun-for-hire [lurking] in the shadows of Washington's lobbying world."  In one interview, he admitted to having worked as a Soviet counterintelligence officer. In another interview, he denied it. He would have had to mention his intelligence work when applying for U.S. citizenship.

He allegedly worked with Fusion GPS, the company behind the unverified dossier that claimed ties between President Trump and Russia.

Akhmetshin's campaign allegedly targeted the Global Magnitsky Act. Passed by Congress in December, the bill applies sanctions to human rights abusers and corrupt leaders. It was originally named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management who was killed by Russian authorities after exposing a tax fraud scheme.

Akhmetshin confirmed to the Associated Press last week that he had attended the meeting but denied that he had ever worked as a Russian intelligence officer.

“I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” Akhmetshin said.