Senate Democrats used a parliamentary
maneuver Wednesday to cut short a high-profile hearing, where a key
witness was set to testify on Russia's misdeeds and also raise fresh
allegations against the company behind the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
Bill Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, was set to
tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that the co-founder of the firm
Fusion GPS was hired to conduct a "smear campaign" against him. Further,
he planned to testify the campaign was orchestrated by Natalia
Veselnitskaya -- the Russian attorney who sought the highly scrutinized
Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and
then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016.
Browder released written testimony ahead of the hearing but his public
remarks were delayed when Democrats invoked the "two-hour rule" to
protest Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare. The seldom-used rule
bars committees from meeting more than two hours after the full Senate
begins a session.
I don’t know if the minority is
intentionally trying to block testimony that may be critical of a firm
behind the unverified Trump dossier, but I’ll bet two bits that had Paul
Manafort or Donald Trump, Jr. appeared at today’s hearing, it would not
have been prematurely shut down," Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley,
R-Iowa, said in a statement. "The Democrat leadership is playing
politics, plain and simple."
Browder now is expected to testify Thursday, but his statement makes
clear that he will have plenty to say about Fusion GPS, the shadowy
intel company founded by a pair of former Wall Street Journal reporters,
including Glenn Simpson.
“Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm
Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky
in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsy Act,”
Browder wrote in his prepared testimony, adding that the firm helped to
organize a Washington D.C.-based premiere of a “fake documentary” about
Magnitsky and himself.
“While they were conducting these operations in Washington D.C., at no
time did they indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian
government interests, nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign
Agent Registration Act,” Browder’s prepared testimony said.
browderpicExpand / Collapse
Browder's testimony was cut off Wednesday, but he is expected back
Browder added: “This was one of the best examples of Putin’s
Browder hired the late Sergei Magnitsky to uncover details of massive
financial fraud in Russia involving corrupt Russian government
officials. Magnitsky was imprisoned and ultimately beaten to death by
Russian officers in Moscow. In the wake of his death, the U.S. passed a
law named for him that brought sanctions against Russian oligarchs
suspected of money laundering.
Grassley noted that he had been asking about the Russians working with
Fusion GPS since March 2017. He cited the widely discredited dossier
compiled about Trump that circulated among Democratic operatives and the
media during the latter stages of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Mr. Simpson’s company, Fusion GPS, is the same firm that oversaw the
creation of the unverified Trump Dossier,” Grassley said in his opening
statement. “It is vital for the Committee to fully understand Fusion’s
failure to register under FARA and its role in the creating and
spreading of the dossier.”
This is a Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 file photo showing a portrait of lawyer
Sergei Magnitsky who died in jail, as it is held by his mother Nataliya
Magnitskaya, as she speaks during an exclusive interview with the AP in
Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 30, 2009.Expand / Collapse
Portrait of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in jail, as it is held by
his mother Nataliya Magnitskaya (AP)
Grassley acknowledged that around the same time Fusion helped to
“orchestrate a propaganda campaign” to repeal the Magnitsky Act, Fusion
“appears to have been involved in the creation of the dirty Trump
“There are public reports that the FBI used the dossier to kickstart its
Russia investigation—Did the FBI know that Fusion pitched Russian
propaganda for another client as it pushed the Trump dossier?” Grassley
asked in his opening statement, delivered before the hearing was cut
Grassley questioned Veselnitskaya’s meeting at Trump Tower.
“Was it just a clumsy bait-and-switch effort in their unregistered
propaganda and influence campaign? They offered dirt on the opponent to
get the meeting and then made their pitch against the Magnitsky Act?”
Grassley asked. “Or was it an offer of collusion? Or maybe both?”
Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for the
president’s eldest son to testify, along with Manafort, and Glenn
Simpson of Fusion GPS in the committee’s oversight hearing on FARA. All
three witnesses have since reached arrangements to interview with the
committee, for now, in private.
“There was no mystery of who Natalia Veselnitskaya was. A simple Google
search would have shown that she was the main in house lawyer for a high
level Russian government official whose son was accused by the US DOJ of
money laundering from the Magnitsky case in the US,” Browder told Fox
News before his appearance before the committee. “Either the people in
that meeting didn't do any due diligence in advance or someone made an
error in judgement agreeing to meet with her in the first place.”
But with regard to Fusion GPS, Browder told Fox News that he didn’t know
what else Simpson was involved with, but that the group did not register
“Natalia engaged Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS in order to run an anti-Magnitsky
Act smear campaign in Washington D.C. which was funded by sources
connected to the Russian government,” Browder told Fox News.
Though he did not testify before the committee Wednesday, Thor
Halvorssen, a human rights advocate with the Human Rights Foundation,
submitted statements for the record to the committee in regards to his
experience with Fusion GPS.
“It’s the sort of thing they specialize in—mainstreaming false smears,
allegations that are so salacious and over the top that people assume
they must be true,” Halvorssen told Fox News, noting the crude dossier
about the president. “They did this with Browder, they did this with two
other whistleblowers and they did this with me –they are outrageous
accusations where innocence just isn’t enough.”
Halvorssen said public exposure is key to combatting Fusion GPS, which
he said has been active in international smear campaigns.
in his written statement, Halvorssen told the committee that Fusion GPS
targeted him and several others because of their criticism of Derwick
Associates, a Venezuelan energy company that was reportedly being
investigated for an alleged multi-billion dollar bribe.
“I think it’s clear that this is not the case of a company that forgot
to register, or didn’t know that they had to register,” Halvorssen told
Fox News. “Fusion GPS purposely, and quite deliberately, chose not to
register so that their activity would fly under the radar, leading
people to see the result of their work as organic and real, pushing a
noble vision of truth, instead of what it actually is –smear campaigns
in return for large enough retainers.”'
But in its statement given to Fox News earlier this month, Fusion said
it had nothing to do with the Trump Jr. meeting.
“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no
prior knowledge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated
this meeting in any way is absolutely false,” the statement read.
Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.
Browder's testimony was cut off Wednesday,
but he is expected back Thursday