- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2018

Glenn Simpson, whose investigative firm Fusion GPS produced the unverified Democrat-financed dossier, bemoaned the fact he could not persuade The New York Times to run a Trump-Russia conspiracy story days before the Nov. 8, 2016, election.

Fusion had lobbied the Times by having dossier author and British ex-spy Christopher Steele personally brief its reporter and other selected media outlets during two sessions.

Mr. Steele argued there was an “extensive” conspiracy between the Donald Trump campaign and the Kremlin to hack Democratic Party computers whose emails were stolen by Russia and released by WikiLeaks.

But the Times ended up reporting the opposite of what Mr. Simpson wanted in an Oct. 31 story as Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton approached the last week of campaigning.

Disclosing that the FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation into any elicit Russia-Trump ties, The New York Times story summed up its findings: “Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, FBI and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

The story brought on heartburn in the house of Fusion, according to testimony from Mr. Simpson to the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee last August. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, released a redacted transcript of his testimony Jan. 9.

Mr. Simpson had worked for weeks to get anti-Trump stories published and had been urging reporters to contact the FBI with Mr. Steele’s information.

“On October 31st, The New York Times posted a story saying that the FBI is investigating Trump and found no connections to Russia and, you know, it was a real Halloween special,” Mr. Simpson testified.

The favorable Trump story spurred Mr. Simpson and Mr. Steele, who had met with FBI agents in July and September, to wonder “what was going on at the FBI,” he said.

Mr. Simpson, a Fusion co-founder and former Wall Street Journal reporter, elaborated.

The story, he said, “was disclosing the existence of an FBI investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia, which, to my recollection, was the first time that anyone reported that the FBI was looking at whether the Trump campaign had ties to the Kremlin but at the same time saying that they had investigated this and not found anything, which threw cold water on the whole question through the election. I would restate that this was during the period when we were encouraging the media to ask questions about whether the FBI was, in fact, investigating these matters.

“So it made a lot of people, including us, concerned about what the heck was going on at the FBI. So, you know, we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether they were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question,” he testified.

Asked if the Times story didn’t mesh with his view of the FBI probe, Mr. Simpson answered, “Exactly.”

It was at that point Mr. Steele severed his FBI ties, Mr. Simpson said.

The Times story seemed to send a message to a frustrated Mr. Steele that the FBI had rejected his unsubstantiated reporting of a broad Trump-Kremlin criminal partnership.

“I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them,” Mr. Simpson said.

Months later, The New York Times did a complete U-turn with a different set of reporters. It endorsed the collusion charges.

A Feb. 14 story said: “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”

It was the first of several Times stories alleging deep Trump-Russia coordination.

But in June, former FBI Director James B. Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the story was almost completely wrong. In other words, nearly a year into its counterintelligence investigation, the FBI did not have such intercepted transcripts or phone records.

Mr. Comey said he was so alarmed by the story and its possible ramifications that he first checked with the intelligence community to make sure he had not missed something. Finding he had not, he then notified top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate to wave them off the story.

Today, members of neither the Senate intelligence committee nor the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have said they confirmed such collusion.

“We have no evidence of Russia collusion between the Trump campaign,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, told Fox News.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, has been investigating how the FBI used the dossier to guide its probe and seek surveillance warrants.

Mr. Steele, a former MI-6 officer posted in Moscow from 1990 to 1993, based virtually all his allegations on Kremlin sources. His paycheck came from the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee to a D.C. law firm to Fusion GPS.

Republicans have observed the irony of the FBI using a Democratic Party scandal sheet from Moscow intelligence sources to investigate whether Trump people conspired with the Kremlin.

The Oct. 31 New York Times story also rejected a theory floating among the political left that the Trump Organization had maintained an email server directly connected to Russia’s Alfa Bank.

“The FBI ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts,” the Times said.

Internet technologists reported on Twitter that the server’s code was traced to a location outside Philadelphia. It was used to send spam marketing mail that included Trump hotels.

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