At least one Steele dossier source has been killed, Fusion GPS lawyer tells Congress

The revelation came during a nine-hour hearing before the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier on Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/via Getty Images
Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier on Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/via Getty Images

Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) office on Tuesday released a transcript from an August 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing containing testimony that a source of information for the Steele Dossier has already been killed as a result of its publication.

The purpose of the meeting was to ascertain Fusion GPS’s role in the compilation and publication of the infamous Steele Dossier, a lengthy report authored by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele detailing allegations that the Trump campaign worked in tandem with Russian officials in an effort to influence the outcome of the presidential election. Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, a Democratic Party-aligned research firm that worked with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, was on hand to answer questions from the committee.

The dossier, an unverified rough draft of which was initially published by Buzzfeed shortly before Trump’s inauguration last year, has been a source of intense scrutiny by the U.S. intelligence community, even as the Trump administration insists the document is a work of pure fiction. Several crucial details from the report have since been independently corroborated.

Top investigative staff of the committee’s Republican and Democratic senators questioned Simpson and his legal counselors for more than nine hours on August 22. Towards the end of the day, Jason Foster, who serves as Chief Investigative Counsel for committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), asked Simpson to detail the steps  Fusion GPS took to assess the credibility of Steele’s information, much of which came from a network of sensitive, unnamed sources within Russia.

Simpson, who appeared before the committee voluntarily in response to a March 24 letter from Sen. Grassley, declined to answer, citing a need to protect Steele’s confidential sources. After Foster pushed for an answer, Simpson’s lead counsel Joshua Levy stepped in to again decline.

“It’s a voluntary interview, and in addition to that he wants to be very careful to protect his sources,” said Levy. “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”

Perhaps owed to the limited scope of the hearing or the lateness in the day, the hearing quickly moved on to another line of questioning. But Levy’s assertion — that a source of information for Steele dossier has already been killed as a result of its publication — is nevertheless significant.

Maybe the only government officials more vocal than the White House in their insistence that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are those within the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied any role in orchestrating the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, or the spread of disinformation on social media to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Donald Trump has happily parroted Putin’s denials as evidence of his own innocence.

But Russia has been linked to similar cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns in multiple elections spanning the entire globe since November 2016. Presidential elections in Germany, France, Mexico, and Bulgaria were all likely subjected to Russian interference, as were the Brexit and Catalonia separatist votes. In the United States, the intelligence community is unanimous in their assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

And in the year since the Steele Dossier first surfaced, there have been a string of suspicious deaths among Russian officials who have been critical of Putin. One of the victims was former KGB general Oleg Erovinkin, who was found dead in the back seat of his car in December. Many have speculated Erovinkin was one of Steele’s key sources, though it’s unclear if he is the individual Levy was referring to when he remarked about a killing related to the publication of the dossier.

But there’s reason to believe that Levy’s client does know the identity of at least some of Steele’s sources. Though the dossier wasn’t disclosed to the public until January 2017, Simpson and Fusion GPS were receiving memos authored by Steele throughout the term of his contract, which ran from June to December of 2016. And while he didn’t disclose details, Simpson did make it clear he and his firm made efforts to confirm Steele’s memos with his unnamed sources.