On Tuesday, January 16, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made public the testimony before that committee of Glenn Simpson, a co-founder of opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
This is an important development in the unfolding politics of responses to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. In the words of a tweet by Kyle Griffin, “This is big.”
Last week two committee Republicans, Senators Grassley and Graham, wrote law enforcement agencies asking for an investigation into the actions of Christopher Steele, the one-time British spy who compiled the “Trump dossier.” That dossier concerns the alleged plans in the Russian government to use compromising material on Donald Trump to turn a Trump presidency to their country’s geopolitical advantage. The Grassley-Graham referral sought to paint Steele as participating in a frame-up of the innocent Trump campaign
The Democrats are responding with this release of the Fusion GPS transcript. Why? Because Fusion GPS was a go-between, bringing Steele into the picture on behalf of Trump’s various domestic political foes, both Republican and Democratic. As Sen. Feinstein says, “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.”
Feinstein also made available a list of errata, that is, corrections made after the transcript was in its final shape.
Left Wing View
Scott Dworkin, an MSNBC contributor generally left of center, tweeted that on the basis of the nearly 400 pages of transcript, “Christopher Steele is proven to be one of the most credible intelligence officers in the world when it comes to Russia.”
Similarly, Norm Eisen writes, “There is an enormous amount to talk about here and I will do something longer. But my main take away: Fusion GPS & Steele were careful & responsible, if anything too much so, and Grassley-Graham referral is not merited.”
At 3:51 PM Tuesday, the Washington Post’s blog posted an opinion piece by Jennifer Rubin. In her view, the key disclosures in the transcript include a showing that “Steele was engaged because of his expertise and contacts,” not because he agreed to reach any particular desired anti-Trump conclusions.
Further, Rubin thinks the transcript devastating to the Trumpist view that the FBI interfered in the election campaign to benefit Clinton. Rather (as Rubin summarizes), “the FBI did not publicly disclose during the campaign the wealth of information it was learning about Trump and Russia.”
That last point is also Brian Krassenstein’s take away.
Right Wing View
President Trump’s supporters look at the same transcript and draw different conclusions. Jacob Wohl, host of a podcast called “Offended America,” says that it shows that “Hillary Clinton has more blood on her hand,” because the dossier “got someone killed.”
A twitter denizen called Korey Edwards makes an anti-deep-state point regarding the transcript when he says, “Thank God we have the crooked FBI and DOJ exposed and can move on with honest investigation and finally get justice.”
Both Wohl and Edwards are making reference to a Russian intelligence purge 13 months ago and the death of a former head of the KGB, Oleg Erovinkin. That isn’t news from the transcript – HuffPo was reporting on it months ago – but it is in the transcript, and so it allows for Wohl’s preferred slant.
Another right-wing response to the release of the transcript is to complain that not enough information was released after all. Thus, the liberals (as the conservatives see this) are patting themselves on the back for the transparency here while still managing to be opaque. Nick Short, for example, tweets, “Fusion GPS will claim ‘transparency’ as Simpson refused to answer key questions while key info is redacted.”
The redacted information the Short cites as an example is a list of the firm’s partners, on p. 19 of the transcript.