A spokesperson for Chuck Grassley responded strongly on Tuesday after the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman’s Democratic colleague Dianne Feinstein released the 300-page transcript of an interview with the co-founder of Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the so-called “Trump dossier” on the president’s campaign’s ties to Russia. (Read the transcript here.)
Calling Feinstein’s decision “confounding,” Grassley spokesperson Taylor Foy said in a statement that her “action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses.”
The interview, whose allegations include that someone was killed after BuzzFeed News published the Trump dossier, was conducted by the Judiciary Committee last November with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russian officials during the 2016 election. Grassley had opposed the public release of the transcript; last week, in response to an op-ed in the New York Times by Simpson and the group’s other co-founder, Peter Fritsch, that encouraged the transcript’s release, Grassley instead invited them to testify again in public.
“Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right,” Simpson and Fritsch wrote, an argument that’s also been used by two other top Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. The op-ed accused Republicans of smearing Fusion GPS as being “the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.” Foy countered that Grassley “has always been and remains for transparency” but that “investigative factors” made it important not to publicly disclose the transcript — namely, to prevent potential witnesses from being discouraged to testify.
Last Friday, before the transcript’s release, Grassley attempted to refocus the conversation on the author of the Trump dossier, former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, requesting that the office of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions open a criminal investigation into his activities. Democrats have claimed that Grassley has been running interference for Trump, attempting repeatedly to derail the Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia by focusing on others like Steele and Hillary Clinton.
The Trump dossier, which contains numerous potentially damaging allegations about Trump — most notoriously that Russian spies allegedly possess a video of the president watching prostitutes urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel room that Barack and Michelle Obama once slept in — was leaked to media outlets last year and controversially published by BuzzFeed News. (On Tuesday, the news website’s editor in chief, Ben Smith, wrote in the Times that he was “proud” BuzzFeed published the dossier; Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, on Tuesday filed a likely frivolous defamation suit against BuzzFeed for doing so.)
In addition to the interview transcript’s claim that someone was killed after the dossier’s publication, Simpson also told the Judiciary Committee that the FBI believed Steele’s information to be credible because the bureau had already corroborated some of it, in part via a source connected to Trump. Progressive activists in Iowa pointed to this revelation as further evidence that Grassley has been attempting to aid Trump by undermining the committee’s investigation.
— Indivisible Rural NW Iowa (@indivisrural_ia) January 9, 2018