5 Things to Know About Fusion GPS's Sordid Past
On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the transcript of Glenn Simpson's interview with congressional investigators last August. The investigation centered on the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and potentially used by the Obama administration to secure FISA surveillance on officials in the Donald Trump campaign.
Fusion GPS has a long sordid history of twisting the truth to attack political opponents, and Trump is merely the latest victim.
"They try and promote themselves as a sort of opposition research or strategic intelligence firm when really what Fusion GPS is, it's a company that sells itself to the highest bidder to bring together smear campaigns and to try and destroy honest, good people who are going against their clients," Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, told Tucker Carlson on Fox News last July. Fusion GPS attacked Halvorssen, a whistleblower, on behalf of criminal Venezuelans.
Without further ado, here are five incidents that show Fusion GPS's penchant for twisting the truth and smearing people.
1. The Trump-Russia dossier.
The infamous dossier compiled by Christopher Steele documented alleged connections between then candidate Donald Trump and various Russian actors. Steele reportedly went to the FBI in order to report the connections, because he feared Trump could be blackmailed by Russians.
Last October, The Washington Free Beacon admitted to hiring Fusion GPS for anti-Trump opposition research during the 2016 Republican primary, but the outlet insisted that none of its research appeared in the Steele dossier. The dossier has become particularly infamous for allegations that Trump had Russian prostitutes perform grotesque sex acts for him. The Free Beacon's research did not have such allegations.
In April 2016, the law firm Perkins Coie, in representing the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), hired Fusion GPS to continue its research. At this point, the firm hired Steele.
Some aspects of the dossier have been verified, but Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen vehemently denied the allegation that he met with Russian officials while in Prague, producing his passport as evidence. Furthermore, Clinton and the DNC had an incentive to try to find dirt connecting Trump to Russia, perhaps to distract from Clinton's own connections with Russia in the Uranium One deal.
According to an FEC complaint, the Clinton campaign and the DNC hid their hiring of Fusion GPS by listing payments to Perkins Coie as being for "legal services" when they really went to opposition research. Why did the Clinton campaign go to this extra trouble to hide its connection to Fusion GPS?
One fascinating detail begs more questions, however. The Federalist's co-founder Sean Davis noted that The New York Times reported that Fusion GPS is still being paid to research Trump. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the firm refused to release its list of clients, and why Feinstein redacted large parts of the firm's testimony when she published it.
2. Planned Parenthood sting videos.
In 2015, when the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released sting videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers agreeing to sell the body parts of aborted babies for profit, the nation's largest abortion provider called in Fusion GPS to help out. The firm compiled a misleading report suggesting the videos were false.
In the wake of the scandal, Planned Parenthood produced a "forensic report" claiming to prove the videos were manipulations. The abortion provider denied that staffers would sell body parts, suggesting the sting videos were compiled of selectively edited clips that twisted the staffers' statements out of context. Who wrote the report? Fusion GPS.
Even this report, however, admitted a key fact. After examining the videos, Fusion GPS found that there was no "widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation."
Nevertheless, the spin held up. Media outlets bought the insinuations. Politico's story: "Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated." The New York Times went with "Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds."
Planned Parenthood had not discredited the CMP videos, but Fusion GPS made it seem like they had. They did damage control for one of the largest abortion scandals of recent years.
3. Frank VanderSloot.
Frank who? Frank VanderSloot donated $1 million to a super PAC supporting 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. That would not be particularly notable, if President Barack Obama's reelection campaign website hadn't listed him as a "less than reputable" Romney donor.
Why did Obama's campaign think VanderSloot was "less than reputable"? Because he had contributed to a traditional marriage campaign. VanderSloot was the primary financial backer of United Families Idaho Action Fund, a PAC that supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman in 2006. The amendment was struck down as unconstitutional in 2014.
According to liberals in 2012, opposition to same-sex marriage is to be shunned — on the president's re-election website. (This might remind some readers of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which brands traditional family organizations as "hate groups.") The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel traced the attack back to Michael Wolf (not the Michael Wolff who wrote the Fire and Fury Trump book), who was employed by none other than Fusion GPS.
4. A Russian smear campaign.
Last July, financier Bill Browder testified about Fusion GPS before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The firm actually worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin — through a proxy — to smear the honor of a Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was tortured to death for exposing corruption in Putin's regime.
The Russian government was attempting to repeal a law passed in retaliation for abuses against Magnitsky, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. This law, signed by President Obama in 2012, froze assets and banned visas for those who killed Magnitsky, as well as for other Russians involved in human rights abuses.
Browder — founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, one of the largest investment advisers in Russia — explained that in 2000, Putin took power and reined in the oligarchs, exposing corruption. By 2005, however, Putin was attacking Browder. The financier hired Magnitsky, a lawyer, to investigate raids against his offices. Magnitsky uncovered identity theft and government corruption, but was imprisoned by Russian authorities. He was tortured and killed in captivity, away from his wife and two children.
"Sergei Magnitsky was murdered as my proxy. If Sergei had not been my lawyer, he would still be alive today," Browder declared. He pledged to "seek justice and create consequences for the people who murdered him," and so he did.
In retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, Putin banned the adoption of Russian orphans by American families. Since Russia only allowed Americans to adopt sick kids, orphans with HIV, Down syndrome, and other ailments, this new ban led to sick children remaining in Russian orphanages, without the resources to care for them.
"In practical terms, this meant that Vladimir Putin sentenced his own, most vulnerable and sick Russian orphans to death in order to protect corrupt officials in his regime," Browder declared.
Putin did not stop there. Browder explained that the Magnitsky Act hit the Russian president hard, because he keeps a great deal of money in the West, from which he rewards his cronies. So Putin launched a campaign against the Magnitsky Act, and paid Fusion GPS to run it.
When Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (more on her later) met with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort — then Donald Trump's campaign chairman — she promised them dirt on Hillary Clinton, but she used the opportunity to press them on the Magnitsky Act and the adoption of Russian children.
It was none other than Veselnitskaya, though the law firm BakerHostetler, who hired Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS "to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act," Browder testified.
Simpson "contacted a number of major newspapers and other publications to spread false information that Sergei Magnitsky was not murdered, was not a whistle-blower, and was instead a criminal."
Fusion GPS worked on Putin's behalf to destroy the reputations of Browder and Magnitsky. Even in his testimony on the Trump dossier, Simpson attacked Browder.
5. Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya's involvement with Fusion GPS on the Magnitsky issue proved particularly interesting, as it came a few years before the meeting with Trump Jr. and Manafort. Veselnitskaya had a long working relationship with Fusion GPS before the meeting, and Clinton and the DNC had already starting working with the firm to compile the Trump dossier.
The timeline matches up, and Clinton would even have an interest in trying to tie Trump's campaign to Russia. Clinton, not Trump, approved a 2010 deal giving Russian company Rosatom 20 percent of U.S. Uranium — at the very time that Russian company was under FBI investigation, an investigation the FBI kept secret, right as it busted a Russian spy ring that got too close to Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton had been paid $500,000 for a speech at a Russian bank promoting Uranium One stock.
These revelations came out in 2015, at the same time that Trump — as the Republican frontrunner — had praised Putin many times and said he would "get along well" with the Russians. It would make political sense for Clinton to emphasize Trump's Russia connections — and even to orchestrate some, if necessary.
It is plausible that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, through Fusion GPS — a firm that had been working with Veselnitskaya for two years — suggested to Veselnitskaya that she should meet with the Trump campaign.
To make matters worse, the Russian lawyer actually met with Fusion GPS's Glenn Simpson both before and after the meeting with Trump campaign staff.
All these incidents underscore that Fusion GPS is not a reliable source. As more information comes out regarding the Trump dossier, it is important to remember just who Glenn Simpson is and what his firm has done.