Today, California Senator Dianne Feinstein dropped a bomb on her Republican colleagues by releasing the transcript of the Judiciary Committee’s interview with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, whose company funded the dossier that blew the Trump-Russia investigation wide open shortly before President Trump’s inaugural last January.
Simpson and Fusion began funding the dossier in the fall of 2015, working on behalf of the conservative Washington Free Beacon, who then left the project during the 2016 Republican primaries. The DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign took over from there, and in June 2016, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele was brought on to compile it. Around the same time, Steele worked with the FBI, who had been conducting their own investigation into Trump-Russia, and found that his conclusions matched their own. By the time Buzfeed leaked the dossier to the press, its existence was already well-known in journalistic and intel circles.
During the election, Feinstein raised concerns about Russian activity. In September 2016, she and Democratic House member Adam Schiff released a statement saying they had learned of Russia’s attempts to undermine our democratic process. Her concerns were lost amidst the flurry of news that followed, including the three debates, the DNC email dump, and the release of the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape. Now of course, they have all come back to haunt us, as we have spent a year of this illegitimate presidency investigating exactly how it came to be.
And as the investigation has unfolded, the Steele Dossier has come under attack from right wing politicos and the right wing media machine, with Donald Trump himself referring to it as “fake” whenever he can. Last weekend, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (also the chairman of the Judiciary Committee) and Lindsey Graham issued a referral order against Steele, who they claimed had lied to investigators. Feinstein held her own against them, saying, “I’ll continue to stand strong against any efforts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, as well as the ongoing congressional investigations. Getting to the bottom of what happened remains a top priority for me, as I hope it does for everyone on the Judiciary Committee.”
The move was widely denounced, especially since Graham, once one of Trump’s most outspoken critics in the election, now not only wants to go after Steele, but expressed a desire to investigate the Department of Justice for “bias” against the President. It also came a few days after a New York Times op-ed written by Simpson and Fusion co-founder Peter Fritsch, in which they asked for the committee to leak Simpson’s testimony from last August, writing:
“The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation…
“Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.”
“After speaking with majority and minority committee staff for 10 hours, Glenn Simpson requested the transcript of his interview be released publicly. The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves. The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
Senator Grassley’s office has denounced Mrs. Feinstein, but not the conclusions in Simpson’s testimony, which reveal that Steele initially went to the FBI out of fear that Trump was being blackmailed, and that an internal Trump campaign source had come to them with similar information (who turned out to be the Australian Ambassador who learned of Russian connections from the now-indicted George Papadapoulos.) Simpson’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, also mentions that one person has been killed since the dossier was released, although we have yet to know more about that particular situation.
Mrs. Feinstein has been written off by some this last year as too old to run for re-election this fall, or too much of a “neoliberal” in today’s progressive era. But today, she took a courageous stand against her Republican colleagues by putting country over party. She has reaffirmed her status as a lion of the Senate, and, along with junior California Senator Kamala Harris (who just got added to the committee today), one of our greatest liberal champions.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m not always proud to be an American, but I’m always proud to be a Californian.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.