Trump Campaign Source Backed Up Russian Dossier Claims, Said Fusion GPS Co-Founder

Former British agent Christopher Steele told the FBI that he believed the Russians would use information to “blackmail” then-candidate Donald Trump—and later learned that the FBI had heard similar claims from a Trump campaign member, the head of the research firm Fusion GPS told Congress in testimony made public on Tuesday.

Fusion GPS hired Steele, a former British spy, in June 2016 to look into Trump on behalf of clients, co-founder Glenn Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, according to a transcript released Tuesday by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Steele produced his first memo in the same month he was hired, and later alerted the FBI about the blackmail possibility, Simpson said.

Steele apparently made contact with the bureau between June 20 and July 26, 2016.

Related: Trump’s Social Media Director Now Part of Russia Probe

In mid-to-late September 2016, Steele told Simpson that the FBI had asked him to provide more information, Simpson testified.

“My understanding was that they believed Chris at this point—that they believed Chris’s information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,” Simpson testified.

Republicans in Congress have claimed that Steele’s unverified dossier led the FBI to open its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. But Simpson’s comments appear to confirm that the FBI did not launch its Trump-Russia investigation just because of the dossier.

In December, The New York Times reported that the FBI’s launched the probe after learning of a May 2016 conversation that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat, whose government then alerted the FBI about Papadopoulos’s comments “two months” after the conversation. The would be in July, according to the report.

01_09_Simpson_Fusion_GPS_Steele Fusion GPS Co-founder Glenn Simpson spoke with the Senate Judiciary Committee about the dossier Christopher Steele compiled regarding President Donald Trump and Russia. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

Because the Times report did not include a specific date that the Australian government contacted the FBI, and Simpson’s testimony gave a timeframe of only about a month for when Steele alerted the bureau, it is unclear which event occurred first. Former FBI Director James Comey has testified before Congress that the bureau launched its investigation in July 2016.

Simpson declined to name the apparent campaign source. It was unclear if that source was Papadopoulos. Simpson said only that the person had not been a source of Steele’s, and that Simpson believed the person “was a voluntary source, someone who was concerned about the same concerns we had.... It was someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something.”

In his testimony, Simpson addressed the point that the information Steele reported might not be factually correct. Steele “deals in a very different kind of information, which is human intelligence, human information,” he told the panel. “The question of whether something is accurate isn’t really asked. The question that is asked generally is whether it’s credible.”

Tuesday’s transcript release by Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, comes after senior Democrats on the panel had urged its chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to release it. On January 4, Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray recommending they pursue charges against Steele for allegedly making false statements. The House Intelligence Committee is also looking into the dossier.

A representative for Fusion GPS did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A lawyer for the firm also did not respond to a request for comment. Simpson had called for the release of the transcript, citing repeated “attacks” against his company by Republicans and Trump.

“In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign—the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research—separately came to hire us in the first place,” Simpson and co-founder Peter Fritsch wrote in the Times last week.

The pair wanted the testimony released to end a “cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.”

“The dossier,” they added, “was taken so seriously [by the FBI] because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.”