A “walk-in” whistleblower inside the Trump campaign fed information to the FBI, according testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by Glenn Simpson, CEO of Fusion GPS, the firm that hired former British spy Christopher Steele, author of the controversial Trump dossier, to conduct oppositional research on the then presidential candidate.
Steele, allegedly concerned that his research was uncovering unsavory and illegal activities involving foreign interests, reported his findings to the FBI.
“My understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris 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 told the committee, according to a transcript of his testimony released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who defied GOP lawmakers to make the testimony public.
The dossier, containing sometimes salacious allegations about Trump, became a flashpoint for his critics who said the findings pointed to inappropriate contact between members of the campaign and Russian operatives and his supporters who have questioned the veracity of the file because it was funded as oppositional research by Hillary Clinton's campaign.
More recently Steele has come under fire for his role in creating the dossier with Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sending the Justice Department a recommendation to open a criminal investigation of Steele and any potential bias against the president.
“I want a special counsel to look not only at how Mr. Steele conducted himself, what the FBI did with the dossier,” Graham said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. He also questioned “what involvement” the Justice Department's Bruce Ohr might have had in the dossier, noting that Ohr's wife worked at Fusion GPS.
Feinstein expressed frustration with the recommendation from Graham and Grassley last Friday. “I wasn't consulted about this referral nor were any of my Democratic colleagues,” said in a statement. “I think this referral is unfortunate as it's clearly another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee's top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”
Trump proponents have contended that Steele's dossier had prompted the FBI probe into potential collusion between the Trump and Russia, implying that he had worked with the FBI to smear derail Trump's campaign.
But right before the New Year, the New York Times reported that drunken boasting to an Australian diplomat in the U.K. by George Papadopoulos, a volunteer tapped by the Trump campaign as a foreign policy advisor, likely prompted the investigation into the campaign's potential collusion with Russian operatives.
During a night at London's Kensington Wine Rooms in May 2016, Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the investigation being run by special counsel Robert S. Mueller, revealed to Australian Alexander Downer that Russia had damaging information on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
After WikiLeaks began leaking emails pilfered from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others affiliated with Clinton, Australia officials reported Papadopoulos's revelations to U.S. intelligence, prompting the FBI to open a probe into Russian meddling into the U.S. presidential election.
And Simpson said in his testimony that Steele “severed his relationship with the FBI” after becoming concerned “that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn't really understand what was going on.”