It's about 10:55.
Mr. Simpson, again, I'm Heather Sawyer, I work as counsel for Senator Feinstein, and I have with me two of my colleagues. I will primarily be asking the questions. They may have some follow-up.
We want to make sure we're clear. So certainly if I ask you a question, anything that's unclear, let me know and I will clarify it. Again, we appreciate you being here today to answer our questions.
You had talked with my colleagues a bit about the work that Fusion GPS does in general and I wanted to ask you some follow-up on that. What would you describe as kind of the key expertise of your firm, Fusion GPS?
Public information is our specialty. We generally are all ex-journalists and specific type of journalists, investigative reporters, and, you know, being a journalist is all about finding public information. At least, you know, the kind of journalism I practiced was based on documents. I'm a document hound and so are my colleagues.
So essentially we gather up large quantities of public information and we process that. We've sort of more recently branched into data science and, you know, digital data, obtaining databases through FOIA. We do a lot of Freedom of Information Act work. We work with court records a lot, corporate records a lot. Some of my employees do a lot of financial crime and money laundering and fraud investigations, tax evasion, that sort of thing. Those are my specialties.
I was also a political reporter and covered campaigns and elections. I know a lot about how campaigns work and how, you know, Washington works generally. So we do things like policy disputes, one industry versus another, one company versus another. We don't do a lot of campaign consulting, but every four years for the last couple of cycles we've done some presidential work.
Generally speaking, the way our business is structured most campaigns don't have the budget for the kind of services that we provide. So we only would do things where people have the resources to pay for a serious piece of research. So we do things like a California initiative or presidential.
And how would you describe like how would you pitch and why would a client need your services?
Generally speaking, people tend to get referred to us when they have a sort of undefined need, like they feel like they don't know what happened or they don't know what happened, they don't know what's going on. So I think that's what I referred to earlier as the decision support part of our work.
You know, a client will come to us and they'll say I'm being sued and they're accusing me of X and, you know, not only did I not do it, but I don't even understand why they're suing me. I mean, that's a kind of typical thing. Also another example would be I think I've been defrauded, but I can't figure out how or why. Or I keep—you know, I run the best company in my industry and, you know, we make the best widgets and we keep losing out on the Pentagon contract to this other guy and we think something fishy's going on and we want you to help us figure it out.
So in some ways it's fact gathering and due diligence for clients?
Well, it is certainly fact gathering and I certainly am around the due diligence industry and I am essentially part of it, but we don't really do a lot of classic due diligence, which has become a commoditized product in the business intelligence field that is conducted, you know, at a fairly sort of low level. it's become sort of a mass product like a McDonald's cheeseburger.
I think when you were speaking with my colleagues you described your work as open ended and not results directed. Can you explain a little more what you mean by that?
Sure. Another thing we say about our work is it's custom information, it's a customized product. You tell us what your problem is and we customize a research solution. In general when people come to us and they tell us what their challenge is, we stipulate that they retain us for 30 days, they agree to pay our fee, they don't tell us what to do, they don't tell us, you know, what result to get. I like to call it a holistic methodology.
The reason we do it that way, you know, A, we are professionals and we feel like it's not helpful to have someone dictating how you do things, but, B, if you predetermine the result that you're looking for you tend to miss things. So it's better—you know, it's pure versus applied science, right? You're looking to understand how things work before you understand what you might need to address a particular problem.
What happens after you've done open-ended research is then, of course, you try to apply it to the specific issues at hand. So if you're not able to get a government contract and you think the other guy is up to something and we find out, you know, indeed he's been making, you know, payments to somebody, you know, then we would, you know, advise them on how to address that.
So the way it's structured you are certainly free to follow the facts wherever they may lead you in the course of research?
That's right. You know, it's a little different in litigation where you're working for an attorney and he's got specific things he needs, like serving a witness or something like that, but on the research side of it it's—I have the professional—basically I reserve for myself the professional freedom to find out the answers.
A January 11, 2017 New York Times article described your firm, Fusion GPS, as a firm that "Most often works for business clients, but in presidential elections the firm is sometimes hired by candidates, party organizations, or donors to do political oppo work, short for opposition research on the side."
Is that an accurate description of the firm?
In a shorthand way, yeah. I mean, it's consistent with the description I think I gave you. We don't do a lot of campaign work, but, you know, every few years we do. And most of our clients are not trying to win an election. They're trying to win a lawsuit or, you know, find out who ripped them off.
With regard to the political or campaign work that you do, the same principles you've talked about in terms of how the relationship is structured, how the research is done, do those same principles apply to that political or campaign research as well?
Yes. There's a limited number of examples because we don't do a lot of it, but, again, my specialty is really sort of financial investigations and business practices. In the last—you know, in a current example we have a businessman who had a far-flung business empire all around the world. So, you know, that was a natural subject for me. So we do, we investigate multinational enterprises on a frequent basis.
Just to be clear, when you say "in the current example," what are you referring to?
2016 presidential election.
And then, by extension, when you're talking about an international businessman, I presume you're talking about then candidate now President Trump?
I do want to ask you more about that, but before we get to that, in general, when you do the political or campaign work you're equally free to follow the facts wherever they lead you and the firm Fusion GPS?
Yes, that's right.
Now, certainly it sounds like you handle business for multiple clients, not just one client at one time. How do you handle the fact that you have work for more than one client in terms of protecting confidentiality in general and ensuring—well, first of all, I presume that you take steps so that work for one client is not shared with another client?
What's the question?
Do you take steps to ensure that work that you're doing for one client is not shared with another client?
Yes. My partners and I don't talk about—it's like a lawyer wouldn't talk about one client to another client. You know, there's some exceptions when things become public. If we're working on a public matter and someone else asks us about it, I mean, obviously if it's public it's not—it doesn't need to be protected. But we have systems to segregate our cases and clients and, you know, we deal with them individually and we operate in that sense, you know, like a lawyer would.
the business has grown, you know, we've taken on more and more matters. So I don't—you know, I generally do about a half a dozen cases at a time on all range of subjects in all parts of the world, and the same is true of my partners and we divide them up. So sometimes we work together, but frequently each of them will be doing three, four, five cases at a time.
With regard to subcontractors who work with the firm, do you have a policy that is shared with them about how they are to treat the information that they're doing on behalf of one of your clients vis-a-vis some of your other clients?
Well, our subcontractors are governed by NDA's to start with. In most cases that I can think of we don't have one subcontractor working on more than one matter, but to the extent that would happen, we don't really—when you're dealing with subcontractors you're giving them generally very specific assignments, find out what you can about this company or this businessman or this court case, whatever, and a lot of that you never get into who the client is. It's irrelevant.
I'd say more often than not the subcontractors don't know who the client is. We would not volunteer that information to them unless they were what we would call a super sub, which is someone who, you know, has worked with us for a long time and has enough trust and confidence to be involved. Again, it would also be on a kind of need-to-know basis. There's no need for a subcontractor to know who a client is unless it's for, you know, KYC, know your customer kind of due diligence purposes. Sometimes we identify clients to prevent conflicts. So unless there's a reason like that or because they need to meet with the client, you know, we generally wouldn't tell them who the client is.
So you had mentioned a few minutes ago that you had done some political or campaign research in the course of the 2016 presidential election and you clarified that that was work related to then Candidate and now President Trump. What can you tell us about that work? Can you just describe it first generally and then I'll ask you some follow-up.
It was, broadly speaking, a kind of holistic examination of Donald Trump's business record and his associations, his bankruptcies, his suppliers, you know, offshore or third-world suppliers of products that he was selling. You know, it evolved somewhat quickly into issues of his relationships to organized crime figures but, you know, really the gamut of Donald Trump.
What we generally do at the beginning of a case if it's possible is to order all the books about the subject from Amazon so we're not reinventing the wheel and we know what's been written and said before. So this was typical. We ordered every Donald Trump book and, to my surprise, that's a lot of books. I was never very interested in Donald Trump. He was not a serious political figure that I'd ever had any exposure to. He's a New York figure really.
So anyway, we read everything we could read about Donald Trump. Those books cover his divorces, his casinos, his early years dealings with labor unions and mafia figures. I'm trying to think what else. His taxes certainly have always been a big issue. Again, it was sort of an unlimited look at his—you know, his business and finances and that sort of thing.
And when did this work begin?
It was either September or October of 2015. I recall being in London on other business and hearing somebody wanted for us to take a look at it.
And what can you tell us about who engaged you initially to do that work?
The answer to that question might implicate privilege.
So it has been publicly reported that the initial engagement of September to October 2015 was by someone with ties—with Republican ties. Can you confirm whether that is accurate or not?
We're not going to talk about the identity of clients.
So with regard to this engagement in September—that began initially in September or October 2015, what were you asked specifically to do by the client?
I don't have specific recollection of there being a specific tasking. I believe it was why don't you take a look at Donald Trump, it looks like he may, you know, be more successful than people think, something—there was some level of insight that he had a better shot than people were giving him at the time, but it was on open-ended request like most of the things that we get.
And, again, on that one was the work directed at all by the client? Did they ask you to look at any particular aspects of Candidate Trump's background?
I don't—I know there was—
We're not going to get into client communications. It's privileged.
Were you in any way limited in the research that you did or the facts that you wanted to pursue?
Can I talk generally about my practices and the history?
I mean, in general it's very rare for someone to tell me look here, don't look there. For the most part we are looking at—you know, we're trying to understand something big. So it's really counterproductive for somebody to tell you look here, don't look there, I'm interested in X but not Y. So we generally sort of push back when that happens, but I have to say we sort of set the rules at the beginning and people, you know, accepted those terms. So generally that's what we explain to people in the beginning of our engagements, you know, let us do our jobs and that's the way it works best.
And did that—can you tell us whether that general practice and rule applied to the engagement that you took on in September or October 2015 with regard to Candidate Trump?
You can answer that without getting into client communications.
I mean, we were—it was regular order. As, you know, various people will tell you, I'm—you know, it would be like herding a cat, right? We're going to do what we do. So it was regular order.
And then when you spoke with my colleagues earlier you had indicated that sometimes when facts are gathered you present options to a client and you articulated kind of four options, a potential lawsuit, take it to a government agency, give it to Congress, give it to the press. Did you—were those the general options on the table with regard to this engagement as well?
If you can discuss it without talking about client communications. If you can't, you can't.
I'm just trying to—because it evolved it's a little bit hard to—I mean, in the beginning of this case like pretty much every case there was no—there was no range of options—there weren't—it was a request to see what we could find out about Donald Trump and the, you know, goal or sort of reason, there wasn't really one. It was tell me what we need to know about this guy. So later on, you know, we started getting press inquiries and at that point, you know, the sort of press element enters the equation, but I can't really get into what they told me or didn't tell me to do.
And are you free today to talk to us about any of the actual findings from that research and that engagement?
Okay. So with regard to that initial engagement because you had talked a bit about some of the research you had done—I think you said it was holistic, financials, potential ties to organized crime. With regard to this initial engagement that started in October, September, can you just explain for us what your findings were.
I guess I'll just give you the caveat that, you know, it's a group effort. So I can tell you, you know, as the person that was, you know, running the project, you know, I had my fingers in various things, but there were also the things that I was directly focused on.
In the early—the very first weekend that I started boning up on Donald Trump, you know, I found various references to him having connections to Italian organized crime and later to a Russian organized crime figure named Felix Sater, S-A-T-E-R. It wasn't hard to find, it wasn't any great achievement, it was in the New York Times, but as someone who has done a lot of Russian organized crime investigations as a journalist originally that caught my attention and became something that, you know, I focused on while other people looked at other things.
So from the very beginning of this organized crime was—Russian organized crime was a focus of interest. I guess I should just repeat, you know, this is a subject that I covered extensively at the Wall Street Journal. I wrote a series of front- page articles about various corrupt politicians from Russia, oligarchs, and one of the things that I wrote about was the connections between western politicians and Russian business figures. So, you know, I was sort of an amateur student of the subject and I had written about some of these same Russian crime figures, you know, years earlier in the U.S. and various frauds and things they were involved in.
it happens, Felix Sater was, you know, connected to the same Russian crime family that was at issue in the Prevezon case, which is the dominant Russian crime family in Russia and has a robust U.S. presence and is involved in a lot of crime and criminal activity in the United States and for many years was the—the leader of this family was on the FBI most wanted list and lives openly in Moscow as a fugitive from U.S. law for a very elaborate stock fraud.
Who is that individual and family?
The first name is Semyon, S-E-M-Y-O-N, the last name is Mogilevich, M-O-G-I-L-E-V-I-C-H. Mogilevich is sometimes referred to as the brainy Don because he runs very sophisticated schemes including, according to the FBI, involving natural gas pipelines in Europe, and he's wanted in connection with an elaborate stock fraud called YBM Magnex that was took place in the Philadelphia area.
You know, Russian organized crime is very different from Italian organized crime. It's much more sort of a hybrid kind of thing where they're involved in politics and banking and there's even a lot of connections between the mafia and the KGB or the FSB and cyber crime, things that the Italians sort of never figured out. Stock fraud in particular was the big thing in the U.S. In any event, all of that entered into my thinking when I saw that Donald Trump was in business with Felix Sater in the Trump Soho project and a number of other controversial condo projects.
And what, if anything, did you conclude about the connection between and in the business dealings that then Candidate Trump had had with Mr. Sater?
Well, somewhat analogous to the Browder situation I found it notable this was something he didn't want to talk about and testified under oath he wouldn't know Felix if he ran into him in the street. That was not true. He knew him well and, in fact, continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix's organized crime ties. So, you know, that tells you something about somebody. So I concluded that he was okay with that and that was a troubling thing. I also, you know, began to—I keep saying I, but we as a company began to look at where his money came from and, you know, that raised a lot of questions. We saw indications that some of the money came from Kazakhstan, among other places, and that some of it you just couldn't account for.
You know, we also conducted a much broader sort of look at his entire career and his overseas investments in places like Europe and Latin America. You know, it wasn't really a Russia focused investigation for the first half of it. That was just one component of a broader look at his business career, his finances. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether he's really as rich as he says he is because that was the subject of a libel case that he filed against a journalist named Tim O'Brien for which there was quite a lot of discovery and litigation filings detailing O'Brien's allegation that he was worth, you know, maybe a fifth to a third of what he claims and Trump's angry retort that he was worth far more than that.
So we did things like we looked at the golf courses and whether they actually ever made any money and how much debt they had. We looked at the bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion dollars in personal assets. So those are the kinds of things. We looked at a lot of things like his tax bills. Tax bills are useful because you can figure out how much money someone is making or how much they're worth or how much their properties are worth based on how much they have to pay in taxes.
One of the things we found out was that, you know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump organization. So they would make filings with various state and local authorities saying that their buildings weren't worth much.
And this information that you gathered, was it shared with the client that you had for that September, October engagement?
I can't answer that.
When you said you looked at the golf courses and bankruptcies, just to clarify, everything you're talking about was for that 2015 engagement? When you say it wasn't Russia focused at first, I'm unclear of the time.
Yeah. Can you tell us when that engagement ended?
Which question is pending? Can you repeat the question?
I think they're related. I lost track when you said you looked at golf courses, bankruptcies, tax bills and it was not initially Russia centric. I'm wondering the time frame to make sure we're all on the same page.
It's difficult to specifically recall when we did exactly what. For example, the specific issue of the golf courses I think did come up later, much later, but these things run in stages. For instance, in the early stage of an investigation, you know, particularly of Donald Trump you want to get every lawsuit the guy's ever been in. So, you know, we collected lawsuits from around the country and the world. And I do remember one of the earlier things we did was we collected a lot of documents from Scotland because he'd been in a big controversy there about land use. There had been another one in Ireland. There was a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests and that sort of thing.
So in the early phases of something you're collecting lots of paper on every subject imaginable. So in the course of reading that litigation we would follow up on things that were interesting, such as a libel case against a journalist that he settled, which, in other words, he didn't prevail in his attempts to prove that he was a billionaire.
So one way to help clarify this is just to—you know, we had been talking about an engagement that began in September or October of 2015. Can you tell us when that particular engagement ended?
I can only estimate it.
And in general when do you think that ended?
Spring of 2016.
Okay. But that engagement did come to an end and it came to an end before November 8th, the election, November 8, 2016?
It did end before the election, yes.
And then did you continue doing opposition work on Candidate Trump—then Candidate Trump, now President Trump for a different client?
And can you tell us generally when that engagement began?
It was in the first half of 2016.
And what, if anything, can you tell us about that client?
Not nothing as a factual matter, but he's going to decline to answer that question.
And the basis again for declining that question?
And other obligations of confidentiality.
Just to be clear for the record, specifically what privilege?
The privileges that we previously asserted with the committee. They're in our April 7 and June 23 letters.
With regard to the engagements, both of these engagements to do opposition research on Candidate Trump, were you paid directly by each of the clients or was there an intermediary paying you?
I think I'd like to confer with my lawyer about this.
I'm going to decline to answer that question.
And, again, the grounds for declining?
It's a voluntary interview and it would implicate privileges and obligations that we've set forth with the committee potentially.
At a news briefing on August 1, 2017 White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Fusion GPS as a democratic linked firm. Is that an accurate description?
I would not agree with that description. I was a journalist for most of my adult life and a professional at not taking sides, and I'm happy and proud to say I have lots of Republican clients and friends and I have lots of Democratic clients and friends. I've lived in this city for 30 years or so and I know a lot of people on both sides and we have a long proud history of not being partisan. And the same is true for my colleagues. We intentionally don't hire people who have strong partisan affiliations. We prefer journalists who don't see things through ideological prisms and ideological prisms are not helpful for doing research.
So it has been widely reported that you engaged Christopher Steele to do part of the research, the opposition research on Candidate Trump. Is that accurate?
And he was working in that capacity as a subcontractor for you? And when I say "you" here I mean Fusion GPS.
And when did you engage Mr. Steele to conduct opposition research on Candidate Trump?
I don't specifically recall, but it would have been in the—it would have been May or June of 2016.
And why did you engage Mr. Steele in May or June of 2016?
That calls for a somewhat long answer. We had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump generally at this point in the project and we began to drill down on specific areas. He was not the only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of the world required other people. For example, we were interested in the fact that the Trump family was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in the United States that was made in sweat shops in Asia and South America—or Latin America. So we needed someone else for that. So there were other things. We were not totally focused on Russia at that time, but we were at a point where we were—you know, we'd done a lot of reading and research and we were drilling down on specific areas. Scotland was another one.
So that's the answer. What happens when you get to this point in an investigation when you've gathered all of the public record information and you've begun to exhaust your open source, you know, resources is that you tend to find specialists who can take you further into a subject and I had known Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the government and an extremely well-regarded investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we're friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy and organized crime issues. I would say that's broadly why I asked him to see what he could find out about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia.
So in May or June 2016 you hired Christopher Steele to, as you've just indicated, find out what he could about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia. Did something in particular trigger that assignment?
No, I don't think I could point to something in particular as a trigger. I mean, the basis for the request was he had made a number of trips to Russia and talked about doing a number of business deals but never did one, and that struck me as a little bit odd and calling for an explanation.
You know, in the background of all international business is questions about corruption. The Trump organization had branched out all over the world in like the four to eight years prior to 2016. So in any kind of investigation you would naturally want to know whether there was some issue with improper business relationships.
I'll just stress that we weren't looking for—at least it wasn't at the forefront of my mind there was going to be anything involving the Russian government per se, at least not that I recall.
So at the time you first hired him had it been publicly reported that there had been a cyber intrusion into the Democratic National Convention computer system?
I don't specifically remember. What I know was that there was chatter around Washington about hacking of the Democrats and Democratic think tanks and other things like that and there was a site that had sprung up called D.C. Leaks that seemed to suggest that somebody was up to something. I don't think at the time at least that we were particularly focused on—well, I don't specifically remember.
So you hired Mr. Steele. Had you worked with him before?
And can you generally describe what he had done in the capacity of working with you and your firm, what kind of projects?
Generally speaking, like me, Chris tends to work for lawyers who are attempting to assist clients in litigation or an asset recovery-type situation. And so, you know, the former Soviet Union throws off an enormous number of disputes about who owns what because of the history of state ownership of everything and the transfers of property into private hands following the collapse of the Soviet Union was a murky process. So particularly in Europe there's a lot of disputes over who really owns what.
And so we would collaborate on those kinds of investigations. Sometimes a controversy would spill over into the United States and, you know, I would be asked to see if I could find a company here or there or run director searches on individuals who might be associated with people we were interested in, that sort of thing. It's interesting work, but it's kind of plain vanilla business intelligence, litigation support stuff.
And roughly how many years—over how many years, like when do you first recall working with him?
I believe we met in 2009. We've worked together since 2009.
And how did you find the quality of his work over that period of time?
Quality is a really important issue in the business intelligence industry. There's a lot of poor quality work and a lot of people make a lot of promises about what they can do and who they know and what they can find out and then there's just a lot of people who operate in sort of improper questionable ways. Chris was, you know, a person who delivered quality work in very appropriate ways.
So—I mean, I hope you won't be insulted, but he's basically a Boy Scout. You know, he worked for the government for a very long time. He lives a very modest, quiet life, and, you know, this is his specialty. We got along very well because my speciality is public information. So he was comfortable working with me and I was comfortable working with him and, you know, we've both been around a lot of criminal investigations and national security stuff.
When I was at the Journal I spent many years investigating the financing of Al-Qaeda. So I did get introduced to sort of national security law and national security operations and wrote a lot about that and was dragged into court over that a few times for things I wrote about people suspected of funding terrorism. So we had a lot of common interests and background.
And specific to the engagement with regard to the research on Candidate Trump, why did you specifically ask Mr. Steele to do that work?
The way our firm runs we pursue things, you know, somewhat out of curiosity. So we didn't know—it was opaque what Donald Trump had been doing on these business trips to Russia. We didn't know what he was doing there. So I gave Chris—we gave Chris a sort of assignment that would be typical for us which was pretty open ended. We said see if you can find out what Donald Trump's been doing on these trips to Russia. Since Chris and I worked together over the years there's a lot that didn't need to be said. That would include who is he doing business with, which hotels does he like to stay at, you know, did anyone ever offer him anything, you know, the standard sort of things you would look at. I don't think I gave him any specific instructions beyond the general find out what he was up to.
And was anyone else—did you engage anyone else to do that particular research?
So we had other people like Ed Baumgartner who, you know, by this time—I guess Prevezon was still winding down, but who would do Russian language research which didn't involve going to Russia. It just involves reading Russian newspaper accounts and that sort of thing.
So was Mr. Baumgartner also working on opposition research for Candidate Trump?
some point, I think probably after the end of the Prevezon case we asked him to help with I think—my specific recollection is he worked on specific issues involving Paul Manafort and Ukraine.
With regard to the presidential election of 2016?
We had talked about work for multiple clients. What steps were taken, if any, to make sure that the work that Mr. Baumgartner was doing for Prevezon was not shared across to the clients you were working for with regard to the presidential election?
He didn't deal with them. He didn't deal with the clients. There wouldn't have been any reason to—he operates under the same rules that I do.
And with regard to Mr. Steele, did he ever do any work for Fusion GPS on the Prevezon litigation matter?
It's my understanding that Mr. Steele works with a company called Orbis & Associates. Did anyone else at Orbis, to the best of your knowledge, work with Mr. Steele on the engagement that you had with him related to Candidate Trump?
I mean, I don't know their names.
So do you know whether anyone else worked with him?
Yes. I mean, do you mean as subcontractors or within his company?
First within his company.
If you know.
I mean, I just don't remember their names. I remember meeting somebody in London who I think worked on it, but I just don't remember.
Somebody else associated with Orbis?
With regard to the assignment that you gave to Mr. Steele to do Russia-related research for Candidate Trump, is that an accurate way to describe it? I said Russia-related research with regard to Candidate Trump. Would that be a fair way to describe the assignment?
Did you have any input into the actual work that he did? Did you give him directions as to what to research specifically?
I don't recall giving him specific instructions. We spoke on the phone about various areas of interest. For example, when Paul Manafort was elevated to running the campaign, we talked about Paul Manafort and his long history of dealings with Russian oligarchs. So it's more of a collaboration than, you know, sort of manager- employee kind of relationship. You know, we would talk about things that were interesting to us and that seemed to be—you know, needed to be (indecipherable).
So is it fair to describe it as you would collaboratively discuss potential topics to explore?
Yes, I think that's fair.
And did you conduct any of the actual research yourself?
Well, I think it's important to understand we were doing in my company, you know, all kinds of research, including lots of Russia research, and part of what you do when you get information from someone outside the company who's specifically looking at a discrete set of questions or issues is you add it to the stuff you've already gathered. So we did all kinds of stuff on public information about Donald Trump's business trips to Russia and business dealings with Russians. I mean, Chris's role was specifically to do the thing that we couldn't do, which was to arrange to talk to people. Generally speaking, we don't do a lot of interviewing. Our research is very document focused.
So to the extent you can describe, when you say he was doing something you could not do and that was he was arranging to talk to people, can you describe who it was he was reaching out to, what you knew about that?
I don't think for security reasons, among other things, it's an area I'm not going to be able to go into in terms of sources and things like that. I think speaking broadly, you know, there's a large diaspora of Russians around the world and people in Moscow that, you know, are talking to each other all the time. The thing that people forget about what was going on in June of 2016 was that no one was really focused on sort of this question of whether Donald Trump had a relationship with the Kremlin.
So, you know, when Chris started asking around in Moscow about this the information was sitting there. It wasn't a giant secret. People were talking about it freely. It was only, you know, later that it became a subject of great controversy and people clammed up, and at that time the whole issue of the hacking was also, you know, not really focused on Russia. So these things eventually converged into, you know, a major issue, but at the time it wasn't one.
I have five or so more minutes and I know that I have a lot more questions just about some of that work, but I do want to just pin down a couple things about the engagement in particular before we end this hour.
So with regard to selecting Mr. Steele specifically to do the Russia—to do work on Candidate Trump's ties to Russia, do you believe based on his experience and background that Mr. Steele would have been aware of the potential in his discussions with these people that he could be fed this information?
When Chris—I don't believe it, I know it. When Chris briefs in a sort of more formal setting, which I've seen, you know, when he introduces himself—you know, he was the lead Russianist for MI6. So the first sort of beginning of that is he says, you know, I've worked on this issue all my life and when you're trained in Russian intelligence matters the fundamental problem of your profession is disinformation. It's the number one issue.
In any collection of field—you know, information from the field you should assume that there will be possibly some disinformation and that, you know, as a professional who has dedicated my life to this, you know, I am trained to spot possible or likely disinformation. So it's front and center when you gather information in Russia.
And when you hired him to do the work, did the client—were you still working for—at any time did you work for two clients on this opposition research? Did they overlap, the two clients?
I just don't know. I can just tell you that it was—I mean, things follow the political cycle. So there was a point at which the Republican primaries were fundamentally over and the Democrats hadn't really begun yet. So there was some transition period. That's all I can say. I don't keep the books at my place. So I would feel—I'm afraid to give you a wrong answer that. I just don't know.
Did either client know that you had hired Mr. Steele specifically?
I don't think I can answer that.
And on what basis can you not answer that?
The answer to that question would—could require the disclosure of client communications which might implicate privileges and obligations that we've previously set forth to the committee.
Okay. Maybe you can answer this question, then. Did either client ever direct Mr. Steele themselves, directly engage and have conversations with Mr. Steele?
I don't think I can answer that.
Do you want to take a break?
Let's take a break and confer.
Sure. We'll go off the record for a few minutes.
I think the question pending was just whether or not the clients specifically spoke with or directed Mr. Steele's work?
So he can't talk about client communications, directions to the client—directions to Mr. Steele as those communications might implicate privilege or obligations, but if you want to ask him whether the clients directed Mr. Steele to go to the FBI, that's a question he can answer. That's in the scope of the interview today.
All right. So we'll get to that. We'll talk about that a little bit later. Let me just follow up on a couple other things that came up and then we'll conclude for our hour and turn it back to our colleagues.
So one of the things that came up in the course of our conversation and when I had asked you specifically about work being done for one client and rules and procedures in place to ensure that that work is not shared with another, can you just specifically describe those rules. I think at one point you indicated that you and Mr. Baumgartner had operated under the same rules?
Right. We're both professionals and we both deal with multiple clients. So we don't talk about a case with one client with another client.
I think since you raised this I should be clear, Mr. Baumgartner did not know about Mr. Steele, the work I was doing with Mr. Steele or, you know, the memos he was writing.
Can you speak up a little bit.
Mr. Baumgartner did not know about the work that we were doing with Mr. Steele. One of the ways that we avoid bleeding between one case and another is compartmentalization. We don't tell people—we don't tell one subcontractor what we're doing with another subcontractor. We don't even tell them, you know, that they exist.
What about Mr. Steele, what rules was he operating under when he was doing the work on Candidate Trump?
Every subcontractor signs an NDA at the beginning of the discussion before even there's an engagement. So he was operating under an NDA.
And in general what does that NDA provide? And by NDA I assume you mean nondisclosure agreement?
Right. Again, the paperwork side of the business is not my strong suit, but it's a general strict prohibition on sharing information about the nature of the work you're doing, your findings with anyone outside of, you know—we're the client in this case. So they're not allowed to share information with anyone outside the case.
And you had talked a bit about prior work and Mr. Steele's performance in prior work and being satisfied by that work. Did you do anything to kind of test and make sure that information he was giving you was accurate?
So in the sort of—I know I'm repeating myself, but generally we do public records work. So we deal in documents and things that are very hard and that are useful in court or, you know, other kinds of proceedings.
Chris deals in a very different kind of information, which is human intelligence, human information. So by its very nature the question of whether something is accurate isn't really asked. The question that is asked generally is whether it's credible. Human intelligence isn't good for, you know, filing lawsuits. It's good for making decisions and trying to understand what's going on and that's a really valuable thing, but it's not the same thing.
So when you evaluate human intelligence, human reporting, field reporting, source reporting, you know, it's sort of like when you're a journalist and you're trying to figure out who's telling the truth, right. You don't really decide who's telling the truth. You decide whether the person is credible, right, whether they know what they're talking about, whether there's other reasons to believe what they're saying, whether anything they've said factually matches up with something in the public record.
So, you know, we would evaluate his memos based on whether he told us something we didn't know from somewhere else that we were then able to run down. So, you know, for example, he, you know, wrote a memo about a Trump campaign advisor named Carter Page and his mysterious trip to Moscow.
I'm just going to stop you for a moment because I hadn't yet gotten to the specific stuff of the Trump assignment. I was just trying to get a sense of the specific ways in which you assessed his performance in determining to hire him.
That's how we did it. We would assess it based on the content and the credibility of—we'd try to determine the credibility of what we were reading.
His reference was to give you an example. I think that's where he was going.
I understand and I appreciate that and we'll get to that. I just didn't want to—in light of the time I didn't want to get you started down that road. If I could just have a second because I want to make sure we finish our questions on this topic and we'll resume our next hour with some of the others.
So we'll go off the record. It's high noon, 12:00. So let's go off the record.