Sawyer Interview #4

Ms. SAWYER

We'll go back on the record. It's 6:30.

Ms. Sawyer

We appreciate your time today, your patience in answering our questions.

You've been asked a number of questions just about—well, strike that.

Were any of the particular factual findings or conclusions that you reached with regard to the research that was being done related to Russian interference in the 2016 election including possible ties to the Trump campaign, were any of the factual findings or conclusions influenced in any way by the identity of the client for whom you were doing that work?

Mr. Simpson

All the questions you've asked I guess this one I've not given a lot of thought to. Offhand, not that I can think of.

Ms. Sawyer

So you weren't trying to reach a particular conclusion based on the identity had they asked you to find—well, strike that.

I think what I'm trying to get some sense of comfort around is to the extent there might be concerns that the work being done was driven in a direction designed to reach a particular conclusion for a client or because of the client's identity was that the case?

Mr. Simpson

I think it's safe to say that, you know, at some point probably early in 2016 I had reached a conclusion about Donald Trump as a businessman and his character and I was opposed to Donald Trump. I'm not going to pretend that that wouldn't have entered into my thinking. You know, again, I was a journalist my whole life. So we were, you know, trained not to take sides and practiced in not taking sides.

So most of what I do as a research person is we try to avoid getting into situations where one's etiology or political views would cloud your work because it's a known hazard, but, you know, I reached an opinion about Donald Trump and his suitability to be president of the United States and I was concerned about whether he was the best person for the job.

Ms. Sawyer

And given that you had been trained not to allow etiology to cloud your work, it sounds like you reached a conclusion and had concerns about Candidate Trump. What steps did you take to then ensure that your conclusion didn't cloud the work that was being done?

Mr. Simpson

Well, to be clear, my concerns were in the category of character and competence rather than—I didn't have any specific concerns for much of the time about his views, which I don't share, but that wasn't really the issue. Most of what we do has to do with do people have integrity and whether they've been involved in illicit activity. So those were the things I focused on.

Ms. Sawyer

So the conclusion that you reached, was it informed by the research that you were—your personal conclusion, was it informed by the research that you were conducting?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. We deal in factual information and over the course of this project we gathered lots of facts about Donald Trump.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned that earlier and I think you made clear a number of times in the course of the day that the specific work on Russian interference and possible ties to the campaign that Mr. Steele was doing was one part of that bigger picture, and I did want to ask you about some of that bigger picture of the work and get a sense from you, if I could, you know, some of the background and findings. In particular one of the things you had mentioned—well, you just mentioned right now as we were speaking the term "illicit activity." What, if any, research did you conduct that gave you any concerns about then Candidate Trump and potential illicit activity?

Mr. Simpson

I think the thing I cited to you was his relationship with organized crime figures, and that was a concern.

Ms. Sawyer

And what can you share with us about the findings, your findings?

Mr. Simpson

Well, I've tried to share as much as I could think of over the course of today.

I say, there were various allegations of fraudulent business practices or dishonest business practices or connections with organized crime figures. In fact, you know, there was numerous others that I can't remember the names of. It was a long history of associations with people accused of involvement in criminal activity.

You know, just to reiterate, the facts of these investigations are the facts and we don't try to drive an investigation to any particular conclusion, certainly not based on our political views. So I think it would be, you know, not believable for me to tell you I didn't reach, you know, views about Donald Trump's integrity, but, you know, those were—those didn't influence the research in terms of the findings. Those were the findings.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned specifically and I think with regard to organized crime particularly ties to Felix Sater is one. You indicated a connection to Yudkovich Mogilebich, I think it is.

Mr. Simpson Mogilebich. Ms. Sawyer

Mogilebich, which we can spell for you. Tell me if I have this correct. M-O-G-I-L-E-B-I-C-H.

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

The Reporter

What's the first name?

Mr. Simpson

Semyon, S-E-M-Y-O-N.

Ms. Sawyer

Yudkovich, did I get that—

Mr. Simpson

I believe I was probably talking fast and I think I might have made a reference to Yanukovych, which is the former president of the Ukraine.

Ms. Sawyer

With regard to any of that work, did you create work product based on that work?

Mr. Simpson

I don't specifically recall what we would have created.

Ms. Sawyer

And with regard to that work, did you share any of that information with law enforcement agencies?

Mr. Simpson

No. I mean, just to reiterate, the only contact that, you know, occurred during this engagement was—at least to my knowledge, was Chris's dealing with the FBI. Other than that, I don't remember having any dealings with the FBI.

Ms. Sawyer

You had also mentioned earlier in the day work—that there was an investigation about money from Kazakhstan?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And could you tell me about that and what you investigated and what you learned.

Mr. Simpson

There was some parallel litigation in New York involving attempts by the government of Kazakhstan to recover money that had been allegedly stolen from Kazakhstan, billions of dollars in a colossal bank failure. The name of the bank was BTA Bank. It's been well established in various courts that the government's allegations are basically true, which is that large amounts of money were illicitly removed from this bank, laundered across Europe and into the United States apparently. Allegedly.

So there was a civil case, at least one civil case in New York involving—filed by the city of Almaty, A-L-M-A-T-Y, against some alleged Kazakh money launderers. I don't remember exactly how, but we learned that—it wasn't from Chris. We learned that Felix Sater had some connections with these people, and it's been more recently in the media that he's helping the government of Kazakhstan to recover this money. There's been media reports that the money went into the Trump Soho or it went into the company that built the Trump Soho. I can't remember the name.

Ms. Sawyer

So the connection in that instance was to Felix Sater and through Felix Sater to—potentially to Donald Trump?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. It was a company that Felix Sater and Donald Trump were involved in together.

Ms. Sawyer

And the research you did on that project, was that public source research? Did you have any other—did you have human intelligence sources on that project?

Mr. Simpson

I think I probably did have some human sources. That's my answer.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you use subcontractors at all on that work?

Mr. Simpson

I can't say specifically whether it was—I remember commissioning some public record-type research on Felix Sater and his history in New York.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you feel in the course of that that you had uncovered evidence of any criminal activity by Donald Trump?

Mr. Simpson

In the course of that I don't think so. I think my concern was the associations with known organized crime figures.

Ms. Sawyer

And that included Felix Sater?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Anyone else in particular?

Mr. Simpson

There were others.

Mr. Levy

Beyond what we've discussed today?

Ms. SAWYER

Yes, beyond what we've already discussed.

Mr. Simpson

Another figure involved in the Trump Soho project was a central Asian person named Arif, A-R-I-F, is the last name. The first name is generally spelled Tevfik, it's T-E-V-F-I-K. If you search under a different transiteration of that name you can find open source reporting alleging that he's an organized crime figure from Central Asia and he had an arrest for involvement in child prostitution.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned as well that you had reviewed tax bills. Were these specifically Donald Trump's tax bills?

Mr. Simpson

They were Trump properties and I believe we may have reviewed some public information about estate taxes and things like that. We didn't have access to his tax returns.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you reach any conclusions based on your review of his tax bills? I think you mentioned that in connection with trying to assess either financial connections or his financial standing. Did you reach any conclusions with regard to either of those?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I concluded—we concluded that his statements about what individual properties were worth were greatly exaggerated and at odds with the information that he'd supplied, you know, in legal filings with tax authorities and other records, corporate records.

Ms. Sawyer

Did any of that indicate anything that showed a connection to Russia or the Russian government or Russian officials or Russian oligarchs?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I can recall.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned as well, you brought up Trump golf courses. What in particular were you looking into with regard to Donald Trump's golf courses?

Mr. Simpson

The original inquiry was into the value of the courses, whether he had to borrow money to buy them, whether they were encumbered with debt, how much money they brought in, what valuations he put on them, and property tax filings.

Ms. Sawyer

And in general can you share what findings and conclusions you reached?

Mr. Levy

With regard to?

Ms. SAWYER

To the work on the golf properties.

Mr. Simpson

A number of them don't make any money. His valuations of the properties are questionable. I guess those would be the main findings.

Ms. Sawyer

You just mentioned broadly but didn't describe it, you mentioned research on Scotland. I don't know if it was particular properties or something with regard to Scotland. Can you just describe what that research was.

Mr. Simpson

Sure. He has golf courses in Scotland and Ireland and one of the facets of UK or anglo company law is that private companies have to file financial statements, public financial statements. So when you're looking at a guy like Donald Trump who doesn't like to share information about his company, it's useful to find a jurisdiction where he's required to share that information with the local government.

So we went and ordered the records—the financial statements of the golf courses. There's also a long-running land use controversy—I think there's multiple long-running land use controversies over those properties. We haven't really touched on this at all, but there were also environmental issues that were part of the research.

Ms. Sawyer

With regard to the public financial statements, did you reach any conclusions based on that?

Mr. Simpson

That they were not profitable entities. I don't specifically recall. I just remember that these were not doing very well and that he'd sunk a lot of money into them and he hadn't gotten a lot of money back yet.

Ms. QUINT

You mentioned a couple of times, Mr. Simpson, that you had particular familiarity with Mr. Manafort and even that you were more familiar with him in particular than Chris Steele was. In general and it might not be easy to be general about it, but what was your focus when you had looked into Manafort? What main areas were you familiar with?

Mr. Simpson

Over the years, originally at the Wall Street Journal we learned of his relationship with Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs. So it was generally continued in that vein. He was subject of some litigation over his business dealings in New York. There was a lawsuit filed by the opposition politician from Ukraine accusing him of involvement in corruption in Ukraine. So as just a—not for any particular client, but just because these matters are something I follow I had collected those documents. I think there's probably some other litigation that I collected that was in a similar vein.

Ms. QUINT

And it was all documentary or did you have human sources for your Manafort research?

Mr. Simpson

I don't think—for the most part it was just what you call gathering string, just accumulating files on people or subjects that are of interest.

Ms. Sawyer

The committee, certain members of the committee, the Chairman and Ranking Member along with Senators Graham and Whitehouse had sent a request for documents and information on July 19. I understand your efforts to identify that information are ongoing and I know that in response to one of my questions about Mr. Page your attorney has already said that the request for information is pending and being reviewed. I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about some of the other individuals that we had identified in that letter and in particular in request No. 6?

Mr. Levy

Do you have an exhibit or should I just get my copy out?

Ms. SAWYER

I'm happy to enter it as an exhibit or I can just read the names. I don't think there's any reason we need to—

Mr. Levy

Just read the names to move it along, that's fine.

Ms. SAWYER

I don't think there's any reason—there's nothing in this letter to inform your answer otherwise.

Ms. Sawyer

So with regard to Alpha Group, sometimes I've heard Alpha Group, sometimes I've heard Alpha Bank. I don't know if they're two distinct entities. Do you know anything about Alpha Bank or Alpha Group with regard to Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Mr. Simpson

Alpha Group is not a corporate person, it's not an entity. It's just a collective name. Alpha Bank is a bank. I know a limited amount. I know, you know, journalists were working on some issues related to this and they asked us about it, but the information didn't come from us.

Ms. Sawyer

So you were asked by journalists about it, but you're saying whatever information you had was not generated by Fusion GPS?

Mr. Simpson

That's right. I know they're a big player and they have long, deep ties to Vladimir Putin. One of the founders, Pyotr Aven, P-Y-O-T-R, second word Aven, A-V-E-N, was an associate of Vladimir Putin when he was in the mayor's office in Saint Petersburg around the time same that Bill Browder was doing business with the mayor's office. They're very powerful politically and economically in Russia and they have—in the tens of billions are the assets of the founders and they have all sorts of interests. They have epic disputes with western corporations, including BP. So people in my business tend to just have a lot of institutional knowledge about them and, you know, I shared my institutional knowledge about them.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned other founders. Are those other founders Mikhail Fridman and German Khan?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you have any information there have been reports about potential communications between a server at Alpha Bank and potentially servers that belong to the Trump organization or Trump—some entity associated with Donald Trump? Do you have any information about those particular reports?

Mr. Simpson

That's kind of an open-ended question. I think what I said is we were asked about that and it wasn't—that information wasn't generated by us and I'm happy to say it's beyond our competence to have generated, but in the course of being asked about it, you know, people gave us information. I don't know what else to say.

Ms. Sawyer

And what information were you given?

Mr. Simpson

A bunch of data. I mean, we were shown like do you know what this would mean, does this mean, and it's beyond—it's really—it's certainly beyond my competence.

Ms. Sawyer

So the data that you were shown, you could not draw any conclusions from it?

Mr. Simpson

I did not draw any conclusions from the data.

Ms. Sawyer

Another individual that there's been a lot of press reporting on is Sergei Millian. Other than what—what, if anything, can you tell us about did you conduct any research into Mr. Millian? And, if so, what conclusions did you reach with regard to Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Mr. Simpson

We learned from sources that he had connections to the Trump organization and we did an open source investigation of him. We found a picture of him with Donald Trump and another real estate investor in Florida. We've discovered that's not his real name or at least not the name he came to the United States with and that before he became a real estate broker he was a linguist and translator. Speaking generally, people with advanced training in linguistics are oftentimes involved in intelligence matters, but I don't know whether he is or isn't. Various reporters became interested in him because he was boasting about his connections to the Trump organization in the Trump campaign. So we got lots of inquiries about who was he, was he a spy, you know, that sort of thing.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you make a determination whether or not he had actual ties to the Trump campaign?

Mr. Simpson

Well, some of the—yes. I mean, he was—I think he's Facebook friends with Michael Cohen. I'm sorry. It was some social media connection. It was either Twitter friends or Facebook friends. It was public information. We took it from that that they did know each other. I guess we gradually learned of Michael Cohen's role in the Trump campaign as opposed to in the Trump organization.

Ms. Sawyer

And what did you learn about Mr. Cohen's role in the Trump campaign?

Mr. Simpson

We learned that his job included dealing with inquiries about Russia and he seemed to get all of the serious inquiries, investigative inquiries about Russia. He seemed to know a lot about that. We learned that he was a very intimidating person who had a history of threatening reporters with libel suits. We learned that he's married to—his father-in-law is a Ukrainian emigre, that he had some Ukrainian clients and connections to the taxi industry in New York which is heavily populated with Russian emigres, and we learned that he was involved in some of Trump's projects where there was a lot of Russian buyers. The only other thing I can think of is that he was also the person who dealt with allegations against Mr. Trump from the tabloids.

Ms. Sawyer

And with regard to Trump projects with Russian buyers, what specific projects had a number of Russian buyers?

Mr. Simpson

I don't specifically remember. Florida maybe. I think it was Florida. Sorry.

Ms. SAWYER

Just give us a minute.

I think that's really all of our questions. I don't know if there's follow-up that you all had.

Mr. Foster

Just very quickly. I can do it from right here.

So I asked you—or you were asked earlier about representations that you're not—you don't see your firm as being Democrat linked and in my previous question I asserted that there had been public reports that you had done work, opposition research during the 2012 election aimed at Mr. Romney, but I didn't ask you to confirm that. Is that correct?

Mr. Levy

Work for clients outside the scope of the interview is not within the scope of the interview.

Mr. Foster

It's relevant to his claim that he's not a Democrat linked firm.

Mr. Levy

He's answered that question. He's given you multiple answers to that question and significant information in support of his answer to that question, and that small fact which may or may not be pertinent is that he's going to decline to answer because it's outside the scope of this interview.

Mr. Simpson

I decline to answer.

Mr. Foster

In some of the questioning in the last round there was some talk of your—you didn't have a particular aim in your research, you were following the facts wherever they lead. Is it fair to say—is it a fair description to say that your job was opposition research aimed at Mr. Trump? That's been widely reported and characterized that way. Do you think that's a fair characterization of what your job was?

Mr. Levy

He's been talking for nine and a half hours, a lot of which was describing his work. To simplify it in any particular way at this point I think is unfair to the witness.

Mr. Foster

You weren't hired to find positive information about Mr. Trump, were you?

Mr. Simpson

To the contrary. I think when you're doing research on any subject you're trying to figure out what the truth is. So if Donald Trump's got a good business record and he's really worth billions of dollars, that's important information. In fact, you shouldn't be feeding reporters stories about how Donald Trump is not worth billions of dollars if he's worth billions of dollars. So, you know, I think the connotation of negativity, I get, you know, where you're coming from, but, in fact, you're just trying to figure out what's true.

It's like with the Prevezon case, we were trying to figure out who's telling the truth, is it our guys or is it Browder. I do my job well and I get rehired when I give them the right information, when I give them accurate information. So if Donald Trump turned out to be a great businessman, that's what I would have to tell people.

Mr. Foster

Nothing further from me.

Mr. Levy

Before we go off the record, will we be entitled to a copy of the transcript?

Mr. Foster

You'll be able to review the transcript and request corrections, make an errata.

Mr. Levy

Will it be kept confidential? We'd like to make a request that it be kept confidential given the sensitivity of the matters discussed today.

Mr. Foster

Your request is noted.

Mr. Levy

Noted, but no decision on it?

Mr. Foster

No decision.

Mr. Levy

And upon reviewing the transcript, when will we have that opportunity?

Mr. Foster

We can arrange that off the record.

Mr. Levy

When we do we just reserve the right obviously to correct the record or supplement it.

Mr. Foster

That's why we'd allow you to review it.

Mr. Levy

Thank you very much.

Mr. Davis

Nothing further. We're going off the record at 7:04.