Fusion GPS, the producer of the discredited Trump-Russia dossier, has failed in a bid to keep its bank records off limits to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, signed a subpoena in October through which he revealed how Democrats funded the dossier. But he wants access to an additional 70 Fusion bank transactions involving 10 law firms, at least three journalists and media companies.
Fusion, whose co-founder Glenn Simpson likens Fusion to a news room operation, went to U.S. District Court to block Mr. Nunes. Fusion argued the transactions do not relate to the committee’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Fusion further said that the First Amendment protects the firm’s client confidentiality.
But Judge Richard J. Leon rejected all the arguments in a Friday opinion.
It marked a win-win for Mr. Nunes. On the same day, he announced a detailed agreement with the Justice Department. DoJ agreed to turn over FBI records on how it used the dossier to investigate President’s Trump’s campaign. It also promised committee access to Justice and FBI officials as Republicans probe internal law enforcement biases against the president.
Judge Leon’s opinion called “wishful thinking,” with an exclamation point, Fusion’s contention that Mr. Nunes’ probe was not authorized by a formal committee resolution. “[Fusion’s] insistence that this court require more has no basis in law,” he wrote.
He said it is already known that two Fusion-connected law firms, the Democratic National Committee’s Perkins Coie and the New York firm BakerHostetler, engaged in Russia matters.
Perkins Coie paid Fusion with money from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign. Fusion then hired ex-British spy Christopher Steele who wrote the dossier in June-December 2016. He paid his Kremlin sources, according to a former senior intelligence official. Fusion says he did not.
“This fact alone provides a reasonable basis to believe that Fusion’s transactions with other law firms during the same time frame may reveal similarly relevant information,” the judge said.
He likened the committee to a grand jury which sometimes goes up “blind alleys and into nonproductive enterprises”
On Fusion’s argument that some of the transactions are not Russia-related, the judge said he “lacks the authority to restrict the scope of the committee’s investigation in the manner [Fusion] suggests.”
On the First Amendment argument, the judge said, “Courts have uniformly held that the kind of commercial relationships Fusion seeks to shield from government inquiry here are not protected as associational rights under the First Amendment.”
The judge said the committee is permitted to investigate, “Whether the FBI relied on the dossier as grounds for its counterintelligence investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.”