Yesterday, Senate Democrats decided to use a parliamentary maneuver in order to block a high-profile hearing, where key witness Bill Browder was set to testify on Russia’s misdeeds and also raise fresh allegations behind Fusion GPS, the firmbehind the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
Browder, who is known for being the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, was set to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that the co-founder of Fusion GPS was hired to operate a “smear campaign” against him.
In addition, Browder planned to testify the campaign was orchestrated by the controversial Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who sought the Trump Tower meeting with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort back in June 2016.
Browder released a written testimony ahead of the hearing. Nevertheless, his public remarks were delayed when Democrats decided to invoke “two-hour rule” in order to protest Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
Regarding this action, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement that he doesn’t know if the Democrats are intentionally trying to block Browder’s testimony because of the damage it would make to the firm behind the unverified anti-Trump dossier.
Additionally, Grassley said that the Democrat leadership is just playing politics and that if it were Manafort or Trump Jr. the people who will appear at the hearing, they wouldn’t have been prematurely shot down.
While Browder is expected to testify today, his statement makes clear that he will provide substantial information about Fusion GPS, which is known for being a shadowy intel company ruled by former journalists of the Wall Street Journal, including Glenn Simpson.
In his prepared testimony, Browder revealed that the Russian attorney hired Simpson through Baker Hostetler, in order to conduct a smear campaign against him and Sergei Magnistsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act. Additionally, Browder wrote in his prepared testimony that Fusion GPS helped to prepare a Washington D.C.-based premiere of a “fake documentary” about him and Magnitsky.
According to his prepared testimony, while they were conducting these operations in D.C., they didn’t indicate they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests, nor did they file any kind of disclosure under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. He added this was one of the best examples of Vladimir Putin’s propaganda.
To uncover details and information of massive financial fraud in Russia involving corrupt government officials, Browder decided to hire the late Sergei Magnitsky, who was eventually imprisoned and beaten to death by Russian officers in Moscow. In the wake of this incident, the U.S. passed a law named for him that brought sanctions against Russian oligarchs involved in money laundering.
Grassley pointed out that he had been asking about the Russians working with the firm since four months ago. He cited the unverified dossier compiled about President Trump that circulated among Democratic operatives and the media during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In his opening statement, Grassley said that Fusion GPS is the same firm that oversaw the creation of the controversial dossier, and that it is extremely important for the Committee to understand the firm’s failure to register under FARA and its role in the creating and spreading of the dossier.
Additionally, Grassley assured that around the same time the firm helped to execute a propaganda campaign to repeal the Magnistsky Act, it appears to have been involved in the development of the “dirty” anti-Trump dossier.
Before the hearing was cut short, Grassley asked if the FBI knew that the firm pitched Russian propaganda for another client as it pushed the Trump dossier, since he assured there are public reports that the Bureau used it to kickstart the Russia investigation.
Along with Grassley, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein called Glenn Simpson, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. to testify in the committee’s oversight hearing on FARA. All three witnesses have since reached arrangements to interview with the committee in private.
Regarding Fusion GPS, Browder explained he didn’t know what else Simpson was involved with, but it was sure that the group did not register under FARA. He told that the Russian attorney engaged Simpson and his firm to run an anti-Magnitsky Act smear campaign in D.C., which was funded by sources connected to the Kremlin.
Although the truth in this delicate case remains unknown, Browder seems to be a figure that could reveal the modus operandi of Fusion GPS, a company that appears to be the cornerstone of the Russian controversy in the 2016 presidential election.