Two big developments in Trump-Russia scandal world:
(1) In a New York Times op-ed, the CEOs of Fusion GPS (the opposition research firm that did oppo research on Trump resulting in the Steele dossier) made it clear that the FBI investigation into Trump did NOT come about as a result of the dossier, giving lie to the propaganda pushed by Fox News and many Republicans. In fact, the op-ed says, many Republicans on various committees KNOW it is false to suggest that dossier and the FBI investigation were linked, but make that claim anyway:
Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. 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.
We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.
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. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.
We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.
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.
Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.
Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.
We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.
After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.
I checked Fox News last night and today. The story is nowhere to be found.
(2) In a new book, Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, calls a meeting of Trump campaign officials with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower during the presidential campaign “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” soon to be published by Henry Holt, was written by Michael Wolff, a columnist and author who has written several books, including a biography of Rupert Murdoch. In it, Bannon rips into Donald Trump, Jr., White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort for taking a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Bannon’s comments won’t surprise anyone who’s spoken to him, but as on the record statements they are shocking sources close to the president. The White House was prepared for the Wolff book to be bad for them — and sources there have told me he spent a ton of time in the building visiting with Bannon — but they weren’t prepared for Bannon doing this.
According to The Guardian, Bannon touched the third rail of Trumpworld — going after the president’s blood family:
- Attacking Don Junior: Bannon described the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer — arranged by the president’s eldest son — as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon also predicted this of the Russia investigation: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV”.’
- Hinting there’s a “there” there: Per the Guardian: “ ‘You realise where this is going,’ [Bannon] is quoted as saying. ‘This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f—ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.’ “
- Taking his war against Jared Kushner to new depths: Per The Guardian: “Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: ‘It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.’ “
This is headline news everywhere, including Breitbart. We should remember that Bannon told the one told the New York Times that the Russia investigation is “fake news” and that “the collusion thing is a joke” and the relationship between the campaign and Russia was “irrelevant”.
Hard to overestimate the frustration and anger at Bannon from 1600 Penn today. Imagine it will manifest itself publicly soon.
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) January 3, 2018
Multiple people told me this morning Trump is infuriated beyond belief at Steve Bannon’s comments about Don Junior. Saying that Trump thinks Bannon is the traitor. They’ve never seen Trump this angry. The sound of their voices? Absolutely terrified. Expect an unhinged response.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) January 3, 2018
UPDATE: White House responds. “When he [Bannon] was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
You know, there’s a problem — it was reported as recently as a few weeks ago that Bannon was still calling Trump at the White House on a regular basis.
Sanders is asked why Trump kept talking to Bannon long after he left the White House if he thought Bannon lost his mind when he left.
Sanders says it was Bannon who wanted to talk, and it makes sense for Trump to keep talking to a person while thinking that about him.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 3, 2018
RELATED: The first chapter of the aforementioned “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is excerpted now online under this banner:
Some of it strikes me as completely untrue (Trump didn’t know who John Boehner was???). Some seems to be true (like Bannon’s “treason” comment, which he is not denying). But all in all, an amazing article.