Sawyer Interview #2

Ms. SAWYER

We'll go back on the record. It's 1:55.

Ms. Sawyer

I'm going to return you back to discussing the work at Fusion that Christopher Steele had done during the Presidential election of 2016. It has been widely reported and Mr. Steele has acknowledged that he created 16 memos before the election between the time period of June of 2016 and October of 2016. Is that accurate?

Mr. Simpson

To the best of my knowledge, that's accurate.

Ms. Sawyer

And then he also has acknowledged—Mr. Steele also has acknowledged and it's been reported that there was one additional memo that came after the election in December of 2016. Is that also accurate?

Mr. Simpson

I think what he has said is that—yeah, that's basically accurate. What he said was that the series of memos that were published by BuzzFeed, that's the package that you're talking about.

(Exhibit 3 was marked for identification.)

Ms. Sawyer

And so I'm going to show you what we will just mark as Exhibit 3 for identification purposes. So Exhibit 3 that I've just given you is a document that was produced to the committee by your lawyers, and they had explained to us that this was a document originally posted by BuzzFeed in January of 2017 and it has Bates numbers down in the right-hand corner. The first one is CLMS-JC-00041391 and then the last one is number 41425. If you could just take a look at that. Is that what we were just discussing as the series of memos posted by BuzzFeed and created by Mr. Steele?

Mr. Simpson

Yes, it is.

Ms. Sawyer

Can you explain for us just what—does this represent the 16 memos that would have occurred between June and October of 2016 that Mr. Steele created?

Mr. Simpson

These are the memos that he created under the engagement and then this extra one that is appended. I never actually numbered—totaled them up, but these are the ones I'm familiar with.

Ms. Sawyer

And does this represent the entire universe of memos that Mr. Steele created as part of this particular engagement for you?

Mr. Simpson

To the best of the my knowledge as part of this engagement, this is it.

Ms. Sawyer

And can you just explain to us so that we understand the document, it has a heading "Company Intelligence Report." I'm just looking at the first page. That one says "Company Intelligence Report 2016/080." What would that have signified?

Mr. Simpson

Company Intelligence Report is just a way of saying it's not a government document. In the event that, you know, someone stole it or it leaked or there was some sort of breach, you know, they're not going to have their own name on it, but they want to make sure that no one mistakes it for a government document. That's my understanding.

080 is their internal numbering system for, you know, their production of memoranda, and the reason it jumps from 80 to 86 is—I never actually asked him, but there aren't five memos in between this. So the interpretation is that it's an internal numbering system for maybe Russia stuff or maybe it's just—I'm sorry. I don't know what the internal numbering system is, but there isn't five memos in this project between these two.

Ms. Sawyer

So the company referenced in Company Intelligence Report, your understanding is that would be Orbis, not Fusion GPS?

Mr. Simpson

I can't answer that. I think it's, as I said, meant to denote that it's not a government report.

Ms. Sawyer

Were they producing—as you noted, the next apparent report 086 would be five, presumably, reports later. Were those other five reports reports that were being generated for Fusion GPS or—

Mr. Simpson

No.

Mr. Levy

I don't think he said that. Go ahead.

Mr. Simpson

I mean, there aren't five reports that he did for us between these two. This is the first and second.

Ms. Sawyer

So, again, when we look at that first one that we discussed briefly, 2016/080, it appears to be a three-page memorandum and it's dated 20 June 2016 and that shows up on the last page. Would you have received it around that time that it's dated, June 20, 2016?

Mr. Simpson

Within a couple days, yeah. Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And not every single discrete memo has a date, but a number of them do. To the extent they had dates, would you have been receiving them around the time they were dated?

Mr. Simpson

Yeah. I believe so, yes. There might be some lag, transition lag.

Ms. Sawyer

And what was—what use did you make of these memos?

Mr. Simpson

These memos—I mean, I guess I'd like to back up a little bit and explain, you know, what led to the memos, which was—as I said, I mean, you know, we started looking at—first we started looking at Trump's business affairs generally with some of the emphasis on associations with organized crime and in particular Russian organized crime.

the project progressed towards the end of 2015 and into 2016 we became interested in his overseas business dealings particularly because they were so opaque and seemed to involve, you know, to say the least, colorful characters.

So as we got into 2016 we were looking broadly at—one of the things we were looking at, broadly speaking, was Donald Trump's international business dealings and, you know, through the spring of 2016, as I mentioned, we were—you know, we looked in various places, Latin America. He has worked on projects all over the world, but in particular, you know, several in the former Soviet Union, Georgia, Azerbaijan, both former Soviet republics. So over the course of the spring I'd say—and Russia—we gradually began to exhaust the public record, the open source about these topics in various places. As you, you know, sort of run short on public record or open source information, you know, you need to get—if you still want to go deeper you need to get human source.

So the purpose of this was to see if we could learn more, generally speaking, about his business dealings in Russia. What came back was something, you know, very different and obviously more alarming, which had to do with—you know, which outlined a political conspiracy and a much broader set of issues than the ones that we basically went looking for. You know, initially we didn't know what do with this.

The main thing we did with it, the use we made of it was as intelligence, which is to understand what's happening. So when this arrived the first indicators were starting to float around that there was something bigger going on, the government of Russia or someone was doing some hacking. I don't really remember the precise details. I just remember there were rumblings at that time about whether there had been lot of hacking and there was going to be—political digital espionage was going to be a component of the campaign.

So when this arrived it was also right around the time I think—Trump had said weird things about the Russians and Putin and things that are very atypical for a Republican and that people found to be odd. So when this arrived, you know, we made no immediate use of it at all in terms of, you know, giving it to anybody. It was essentially used to inform our other researcher, but because it was—and because it was human source intelligence and some of it was of a personal nature, it was not particularly useful for the kind of things that are, you know, useful in politics, which are things that you can prove, things that you can say, things that people will believe.

So we used it as intelligence to try and understand what was going on and, you know, obviously, as we talked about earlier, we tried to analyze this to see if it was credible. You know, I did—you know, in the initial round of this that was the big question, was this credible.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. So let me stop you there for a second before we get too far because you've referred a number of times to "this" and you have a 35-page document in front of you. So I want to clarify when you said "this," in the context of answering that I assumed you were talking about the first—

Mr. Simpson

The first memo.

Ms. Sawyer

That's the report 2016/080?

Mr. Simpson

Correct.

Ms. Sawyer

And that's the one that has the date of 20 June 2016?

Mr. Simpson

Correct. To be totally clear, you know, what people call the dossier is not really a dossier. It's a collection of field memoranda, of field interviews, a collection that accumulates over a period of months. You know, they came in intermittently, there was no schedule. You know, he'd reach a point in the reporting where he had enough to send a new memo; so he'd send one. So you won't find any real rhythm or chronological sort of system to the way they came in.

Mr. Muse

Just for clarification of "this," there are bates numbers I think that could be identified here.

Ms. SAWYER

Right. So that first document, the one that we've just been talking about, has Bates Nos. 49391 to 41393. Do we need to go off the record for a moment? Let's go off the record for a moment.


Ms. Sawyer

With regard to this document, you characterized this document as representing field interviews, I think you talked about it as human source information. So was Mr. Steele's kind of role with regard to the project primarily conducting these types of interviews, gathering this type of what I think you referred to as human intelligence for Fusion?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I mean, in other cases we did other things.

Mr. Levy

Don't get into other cases.

Mr. Simpson

I can't remember specifically what I had in mind to get from him. This form of reporting was, in fact, the form that the rest of the project took, which was, you know—I've done other kinds of research in Russia, but something this sensitive I don't think I've ever been involved in. So in an ordinary case you would try to gather public records and you would conduct yourself in a much more open fashion.

You know, Russia is a dangerous place, it's a kleptocracy and a police state, but it's also a giant bureaucracy and in some ways it's a much more open society, much more open than the Soviet Union ever was. You can pull records for companies and that sort of thing.

Anyway, so this was unusual in what we were doing here and it's not what I had in mind when I asked him to begin collecting information on this. My expectation was of something a lot less interesting than this, more along the lines of a typical corruption investigation.

Ms. Sawyer

You had indicated that when you received it you found it unusual, it was sensitive information. Did you take steps to verify any of the information?

Mr. Simpson

We assessed it for credibility, whether it was credible. The question of the credibility of the information is obviously a big question here, can this be believed. There's other secondary questions that would follow on from that, can it somehow be used, does it have any use and that sort of thing, but the threshold question is is it credible information.

You know, there were two background factors to that. One was who is it coming from. It's coming from Chris Steele who's a guy that I've worked with for, you know, about eight or nine years and Chris, as I say, has a Sterling reputation as a person who doesn't exaggerate, doesn't make things up, doesn't sell baloney. In my business, I mean, there are a lot of people who make stuff up and sell baloney. So the one thing that you get good at if you do this for a while is finding reliable sources, finding reliable people who have a record of giving it to you straight and not making stuff up and not making mistakes. So from that perspective, you know, this was alarming because Chris is a credible person, he's well respected in his field, and, as I say, everyone I know who's ever dealt with him thinks he's quite good. That would include people from the U.S. government.

So the issue is where is it coming from and then the other issue is does it make sense or are there events in there that can be externally, you know, reviewed or backed up. On the question of whether it makes sense—well, let me stay on the question of some of the events that are described. We were aware of some of these trips and we were obviously aware of the hostility toward Hillary Clinton and, you know, there was a lot of general knowledge that we had that fit with this just in terms of dates and places and roles of people in the Kremlin. So on a surface level, you know, it was credible too, but the thing that, you know, most concerned me at this point was my own familiarity with foreign meddling in American elections, which is a subject that I've dealt with for a long time.

In the 1990s I was working at the Wall Street Journal and I wrote some of the very first stories about the Chinese government's interference in the 1996 presidential election which triggered a massive national security investigation, numerous prosecutions, lots of business for Bob Muse, and a lot of congressional hearings, congressional inquiries. And in that episode it was eventually dug out by congressional investigations that the fundraisers, the Asian fundraisers were Chinese intelligence assets. So there's ample recent historical precedent for a foreign government to interfere in American elections in a really big way and for it to be an intelligence operation. So I knew all of that while reading this and digesting it for the first time.

I also knew because I've done a lot of reporting on Russia about the Kremlin's interest in American politics, European politics, disrupting the politics of other countries, and, in fact, one of the last things I did when I was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal was report on several stories of government investigations, FBI investigations into American politicians who had been corrupted allegedly by the Russians.

Sort of my departure point from journalism was a series of stories and conferences I attended where a lot of American and European intelligence officials were expressing great alarm at the resurfacing of Russian intelligence operations in western capitals and the new twist on it which seemed to be that these guys seemed to be getting involved in politics in ways that they hadn't previously. So I knew all that when I read this.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. So if I can stop you there. It sounds like the components—you can tell me if there were more—that you considered in assessing the credibility of this was Mr. Steele, his background, his reputation, overall the fact that you had information and knowledge of Russia meddling in other countries' elections, and then the broader work of Russia to disrupt political systems of other countries?

Mr. Simpson

I covered that. I also would add that the China case was for me in my journalistic career a formative event that took—you know, consumed years of my reporting and was about, you know, a Chinese intelligence operation to swing the '96 election to the Democrats.

The only other thing I'd add to all that is, again, in the mid 2000s one of the stories I wrote—actually, I wrote a couple different stories about a Russian oligarch having a meeting with Senator John McCain shortly before the 2008 presidential election and another story or set of stories about Paul Manafort and his involvement with some Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who were considered to be suspicious or corrupt.

So I also knew—or I formed an opinion or impression that the Russians were interested in making friends with the Republicans and that Paul Manafort, you know, there was this previous episode involving Paul Manafort, John McCain. So all of that was in my head when this came in which, as I say, tended to support the credibility—the possibility that this information was credible.

Ms. Sawyer

You mentioned a Russian oligarch who had met with Senator McCain. Who specifically was that?

Mr. Simpson

Oleg Deripaska, O-L-E-G, D-E-R-I-P-A-S-K

He's not able to travel to the United States because he's banned for suspicion of ties to organized crime. He's extremely close to the Kremlin, or at least he was, and is—I broke the story of him being banned from the United States which caused him a lot of embarrassment and trouble with his business and led to him hiring a lobbyist and trying to get involved with getting a visa to the U.S.

Ms. Sawyer

And you had also mentioned your background knowledge of Paul Manafort and his involvement with Russian oligarchs. Can you identify who those individuals were and the basis of that knowledge?

Mr. Simpson

The issue I specifically wrote about I believe was his work for the Party of Regions and Victor Yanukovych, Y-A-N-U-K-O-V-Y-C-H, I think, and that's the Pro-Russia party or was the Pro-Russia party in Ukraine, and all that work sort of grew out of work I had done about the Kremlin working with the Russian mafia to siphon money off the gas trade between Russia and Ukraine.

Ms. Sawyer

Was that work you had done while still a reporter with the Wall Street Journal?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

So any conclusions you had reached from that, would that be material that we would be able to obtain and may already have in your public reporting?

Mr. Levy

We'd have to talk to the Wall Street Journal about that probably.

Mr. Simpson My articles about this are available on the Internet. Mr. Levy

Some of them we've produced to you already because it was responsive to your request.

Ms. SAWYER

Understood.

Ms. Sawyer

And there's potentially additional work product related to the work that you had done on Mr. Manafort?

Mr. Simpson

For the Wall Street Journal or later?

Ms. Sawyer

Let's start with the Wall Street Journal?

Mr. Simpson

I collected lots of information on Mr. Manafort during my years at the Journal.

Ms. Sawyer

And then we'll get into the work on Mr. Manafort more recently.

So this particular memo that we've been talking about, this first one doesn't specifically mention, as far as I can see, any efforts to interfere by Russia. It does talk about potential—as it's called in here, a dossier of compromising material on Hillary Clinton. Did you take any steps to verify whether that dossier of compromising material existed on Hillary Clinton?

Mr. Simpson

I will answer that, but can I just back you up a little bit. I think your observation it doesn't mention anything about interfering I wouldn't agree with.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay.

Mr. Simpson

I mean, one of the key lines here in the second paragraph says "However, he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and other political rivals."

So the issue with the Trump Tower meeting, as I understand it, is that the Trump people were eager to accept intelligence from a foreign government about their political rivals and that is, you know, I would say, a form of interference. If you're getting help from a foreign government and your help is intelligence, then the foreign government's interfering. I mean, you know, I think that also—of course, in retrospect we now know this was pretty right on target in terms on what it says. So anyway—

Ms. Sawyer

In reference to you think that particular sentence?

Mr. Simpson

I mean, it clearly refers to, you know, them being interested in and willing to—it depicts them as accepting information. What we have seen to date with the disclosures this year is they were at a minimum super interested in getting information.

Ms. Sawyer

And when you're referencing the "disclosures this year," could you just be specific about that.

Mr. Simpson

The Trump Tower meeting.

Ms. Sawyer

So with reference to the June 9th Trump Tower meeting?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay.

Mr. Simpson

I will go back to your question, but, again, it says "Source B asserted the Trump operating was both supported and directed by Putin aimed to sew discord within the U.S.," and, you know, basically—you know, there's a number of different ways that it seems they're trying to intervene in our politics in this memo.

What was your question?

Ms. Sawyer

I appreciate that clarification. You were actually clarifying a statement I made, which I appreciate.

So you had testified a little earlier that at the point in time in which you received this first memo you used it a little more as background to inform your thinking on it, but you didn't take discrete steps. Had you—were you involved in editing this memo in any way?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you give Mr. Steele any specific direction on, you know, next steps based on this memo?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I can recall, no.

Ms. Sawyer

So at this point in time was he still operating with the understanding that he was just to engage in an open-ended research project?

Mr. Simpson

Actually it wasn't really an open-ended research project—well, it was open-ended in scope, it wasn't open-ended in time. It was take a few weeks, see if there's anything there that's interesting, notable, important, and if we think there's reason to go on we'll make that decision at that time. So it was a short-term engagement in the beginning.

Ms. Sawyer

And to the best you can explain to us, did the client that you were working for know that he was engaged in this particular research or what his findings were at that point in time?

Mr. Levy

The answer to that question might implicate privilege or obligations.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you interfere in any way with Mr. Steele's research, tell him not to pursue any particular avenues?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

To the best of your knowledge, did anyone else give him that direction, either directly or through you, and tell him not to—

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

If I could just finish.

Mr. Simpson

I'm sorry.

Ms. Sawyer

-- and tell him not to pursue any particular avenues of research?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you know—if we could just move on to kind of the next memo, which begins with Bates No. 41394 and it ends with 41396. It appears to be—it's three pages and it has a date of 26 July 2015 and it has "Company Intelligence Report 2016/086." To the best of your recollection, was this the second memo you had received from Mr. Steele?

Mr. Simpson

To the best of my recollection, this is the second memo.

Ms. Sawyer

And how did you kind of use this information?

Mr. Simpson

Well, I think the context of external events is important here. I believe—it's my recollection that what prompted this memo was, in fact, the beginning of public reporting on the hack. I think—what is the date again? Yeah, it's 26 July. So by this time Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been the subject of a very aggressive hacking campaign, weaponized hack, the likes of which, you know, have never really been seen. We've seen hacking in politics before, but this kind of, you know, mass theft of e-mail and then to dump it all into, you know, the public sphere was extraordinary and it was criminal.

So the question by now of whether this was Russia and whether this might have something to do with the other information that we'd received was, you know, the immediate question, and I think this is also—by the time this memo was written Chris had already met with the FBI about the first memo. So he's—if I can interpret a little bit here. In his mind this is already a criminal matter, there's already a potential national security matter here.

I mean, this is basically about a month later and there's a lot of events that occurred in between. You know, after the first memo, you know, Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to—he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information. He thought from his perspective there was an issue—a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed. From my perspective there was a law enforcement issue about whether there was an illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws, and then somewhere in this time the whole issue of hacking has also surfaced.

So he proposed to—he said we should tell the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence of these events, but my recollection is that I questioned how we would do that because I don't know anyone there that I could report something like this to and be believed and I didn't really think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do that. In any event, he said don't worry about that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am, I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So, you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate way, I said it was okay for him to do that.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. So let me just stop you there and let's just make sure we get the sequencing accurate.

Mr. Simpson

Sure.

Ms. Sawyer

So after Mr. Steele had found out the information that he put in the very first of these memos, the one dated June 20, 2016, he approached you about taking this information to specifically the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

Mr. Simpson

That's my recollection.

Ms. Sawyer

So to the best of your recollection, that request or idea came directly from Mr. Steele, not anyone else?

Mr. Simpson

That's right.

Ms. Sawyer

And who was involved in discussions about whether it was appropriate to take either the memo or the information in the memo to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

It was Chris and me. I mean, that's the only ones I remember, the two of us. The only ones I know of.

Ms. Sawyer

You said you had asked for some time to think it over. What in particular did he articulate to you was of significant national security concern to indicate that it should be taken to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

His concern, which is something that counterintelligence people deal with a lot, is whether or not there was blackmail going on, whether a political candidate was being blackmailed or had been compromised. And the whole problem of compromise of western businessmen and politicians by the Russians is an essential part of—it's like disinformation, it's something they worry about a lot and deal with a lot and are trained to respond to. So, you know, a trained intelligence officer can spot disinformation that you or I might not recognize, certainly that was Chris's skill, and he honed in on this issue of blackmail as being a significant national security issue.

Chris is the professional and I'm not. So I didn't agree with that—it wasn't that I disagreed with it. It was that I didn't feel qualified to be the arbitrar of whether this is a national security expert. He's the pro and I'm the ex-journalist.

Ms. Sawyer

In that regard when you say he's a professional and you're not, I take that to mean that he was the intelligence expert?

Mr. Simpson

He was—yes, he was the national security guy. I know a lot about politics, I know a good bit about financial crime, but, you know, my specialty was journalism and his was security.

Ms. Sawyer

And with specific regard to the issue of blackmail, what was the—what were the facts that he had gathered that made him concerned about the possibility of blackmail and who did he think was going to be blackmailed?

Mr. Simpson

Well, the facts are—beyond what's here I don't have any additional facts. The alleged incident that's described here is the one that he was referring to

I say, I don't have really any additional information beyond this except that—I mean, it's probably in here somewhere actually, but it's well known in intelligence circles that the Russians have cameras in all the luxury hotel rooms and there are memoirs written about this by former Russian intelligence agents I could quote you. So the problem of kompromat and kompromating is just endemic to east-west intelligence work. So that's what I'm referring to. That's what he's referring to.

Ms. Sawyer

Got it. So that would be in the summary the kind of third dash point down where it mentions—

Mr. Simpson

Yes, that's right.

Ms. Sawyer

-- that FSB—what is your understanding of who or what FSB is?

Mr. Simpson

It's a successor to the KGB. I mean, nominally it's the domestic intelligence agency on the domestic side of what was the KGB. In practice it's sort of the preeminent intelligence organ of the Russian state, government.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you recall when you—when you and Mr. Steele decided kind of that he could or should take this to the FBI, approximately the time frame of that?

Mr. Simpson

I believe it was sometime around the turn of the month. It would have been in late June or at latest early July. That's my recollection.

Ms. Sawyer

And Mr. Steele was the one who was then responsible for doing the initial outreach to them and making that contact?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. Well, I mean, let's be clear, this was not considered by me to be part of the work that we were doing. This was—to me this was like, you know, you're driving to work and you see something happen and you call 911, right. It wasn't part of the—it wasn't like we were trying to figure out who should do it. He said he was professionally obligated to do it. Like if you're a lawyer and, you know, you find out about a crime, in a lot of countries you must report that. So it was like that. So I just said if that's your obligation, then you should fulfill your obligation.

Ms. Sawyer

And were you a part of those conversations with—that Mr. Steele had with whoever his contact was at the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you have any knowledge of when that first conversation actually then took place?

Mr. Simpson

Over the last several months that this has become a public controversy I've learned the general date and I believe it was if first week of July, but I don't believe he told me—if he told me the time, I don't remember when he told me.

Ms. Sawyer

And that information about that time, that first week of July, where does that come from?

Mr. Simpson

It comes from news accounts of these events and conversations between Chris and I and some of my—presumably my business partners too. Generally speaking, we have, as you know, not been eager to discuss any of this in public and there's been a lot of speculation and guessing and stories, many of which are wrong. So when an incorrect story comes out we would, you know, talk about it. So, you know, in the course of those kinds of things I generally obtained a sense of when things occurred that I might otherwise not be able to provide you.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you know who it is that Mr. Steele contacted and talked with at the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

I did not know at the time. I believe I know now, but I don't have authoritative information on that. I didn't—yeah. I didn't know who it was in July.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you now know who that was?

Mr. Simpson

I think I know, but Chris never told me. I figured it out eventually based on other sources and other information, but that was not until December or November.

Ms. Sawyer

December of—November or December 2016?

Mr. Simpson

November, December 2016. It was after the election.

Ms. Sawyer

And what is your understanding from what you've been able to put together of who that would have been?

Mr. Simpson My understanding of? Ms. Sawyer

Of who Mr. Steele would have talked to at the FBI.

Mr. Simpson

I believe it was a, an official named .

Ms. Sawyer

And we had talked about that discussion that you had with Mr. Steele about potentially going to the FBI. You had indicated that it was just the two of you having those conversations and coming to that decision. Once the decision was made, did you share that decision with anyone, that he was going to go to the FBI with this information?

Mr. Simpson

I think we're not able to answer that.

Mr. Levy

He's going to decline to answer that question.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you seek anyone else's approval for him to go to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Did anyone ever encourage you to ask him on to go to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Did anyone discourage you from having him go to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you know whether Mr. Steele when he had that first meeting, which you said occurred in the first week of July, do you know whether Mr. Steele actually gave the FBI this document that we've been talking about, the intelligence report 2016/080?

Mr. Simpson

I don't know.

Ms. Sawyer

With regard to providing—what was the goal—as you understood it, what was the purpose of the kind of goal in taking this to the FBI from Mr. Steele's perspective?

Mr. Levy

Beyond what he's said already?

Ms. SAWYER

Yes.

Mr. Simpson

I mean, for him it was professional obligations. I mean, for both of us it was citizenship. You know, people report crimes all the time.

Ms. Sawyer

So beyond reporting—certainly if I'm mischaracterizing please let me know, but beyond reporting what he believed was an issue of national security and a potential crime, I think you had said kind of a potential crime in progress, do you know whether he requested that the FBI open an investigation?

Mr. Simpson

I don't know that. I mean, all he told me in the immediate aftermath was that he filled him in. I can talk generally about the FBI and what happens when you give them information because I know that from years of experience, but generally, you know, you don't ask them to do it. There's no ask.

Ms. Sawyer

But you don't know what concrete steps they may have taken once they got the information from him?

Mr. Simpson

I do not. Of course we know now that shortly thereafter they got a vice award on one of the people who's dealt with in here. He's not dealt with in this memo, but he's dealt with in the later memos. I don't know there's any connection between these events. I do know in Director Comey's testimony he said—I'm sorry. Maybe I'm skipping ahead.

far as I know, they didn't—I don't know what they did.

Ms. Sawyer

So then with regard to Mr. Steele's ongoing work, I presume that his work then continued after you got this first memo because we have additional memos between June?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Was there a discussion about whether and when he would take information to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall. After the initial memo he told me that he had briefed him. I don't remember anything specific about the issue arising again other than to say generally that as the summer progressed the situation with the hacking of the Democrats and the efforts by the Russians to influence the election and the possibility that the Trump organization was, in fact, doing things to curry favor with the Russians became more and more serious as external developments occurred.

So, for instance, they changed the Republican platform, which is addressed in here. Carter Page shows up in Moscow and gives a speech. He's a campaign advisor and he gives a speech about dropping sanctions. Trump continues to say mysterious things about what a great guy Putin is. So I vaguely recall that these external events prompted us to say I wonder what the FBI did, whoops, haven't heard from them. So that was basically the state of things through September

Ms. Sawyer

So do you know whether or not Mr. Steele did have any subsequent conversations with the FBI after that initial conversation in the first week of July 2016?

Mr. Simpson

Yes, I do. He did.

Ms. Sawyer

So can you explain the next incident where you know that Mr. Steele met with the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I guess what I'd like to explain is what I knew at the time and what I know now. It was September and obviously the controversy was really front and center now in the election. I can't remember whether the intelligence community had come out with their statement, but, you know, there was a lot of concern in Washington and in the U.S. about whether there was a Kremlin operation to interfere with our election and there was a lot of debate throughout this period about whether they were trying to help Trump or just trying to cause trouble. But there wasn't much debate that they were up to something.

So, you know, I'm dealing with Chris on the underlying reporting and by this time my concern, you know, was—I was very concerned because Chris had delivered a lot of information and by this time we had, you know, stood up a good bit of it. Various things he had written about in his memos corresponded quite closely with other events and I began, you know, to view his reporting in this case as, you know, really serious and really credible.

So anyway, we were working on all of that and then he said, hey, I heard back from the FBI and they want me to come talk to them and they said they want everything I have, to which I said okay. He said he had to go to Rome, I said okay. He went to Rome. Then afterwards he came back and said, you know, I gave them a full briefing.

I'll add because I didn't consider this to be—you know, there was no objective here politically because you can't—in an ordinary election I know from my decades of dealing with U.S. elections that you can't expect the government or the FBI to be of any use in a campaign because the DOJ has rules against law enforcement getting involved in investigations in the middle of a campaign and this was obviously—you know, this obviously became a huge issue.

Anyway, because it wasn't really part of the project in my mind I didn't really ask a lot of questions about these meetings. I didn't ask who he met with, I didn't ask, you know, much of anything, but he did tell me that he gave—

Ms. Sawyer

Before we get to that, which I do want to hear, I just want to get a sense of the chronology.

Mr. Simpson

Sure.

Ms. Sawyer

So when did that—you had said the FBI then came back and contacted Mr. Steele?

Mr. Simpson

That's my understanding.

Ms. Sawyer

When did that, to the best of your knowledge, take place?

Mr. Simpson Mid to late September. Ms. Sawyer

So in that intervening time period Mr. Steele continues his research, he also continues to provide you with memos?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And at no point in that time between July—the first week of July when he first met with the FBI and then mid to late September did you suggest to him that he should go back to the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall. What I would—what I believe I may have said was have you heard anything from the FBI because by then it was obvious there was a crime in progress. So I just was curious whether he'd heard back.

Ms. Sawyer

And when you say it was obvious that there was a crime in progress, what specifically are you referencing?

Mr. Simpson

Espionage. They were hacking into the computers of Democrats and think tanks. That's a computer crime.

Ms. Sawyer

So the thing that was apparent was Russia or somebody had engaged in cyber intrusion and computer crimes?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

So do you know whether or not Mr. Steele was directed—you said you did not direct him or ask him to go back to the FBI—whether anyone else either directly or indirectly asked him to go to the FBI after his July 5th—

Mr. Simpson

To my knowledge, no one else told him to report this. He may have conferred with his business associates, but I don't know.

Ms. Sawyer

And you said that meeting with the FBI, you said Mr. Steele said he had to go to Rome for this meeting. Do you otherwise know who he met with?

Mr. Simpson

This gets into the chronology of what I learned when. At some point I learned that he was meeting with the lead FBI guy from Rome. I don't remember when he told me that.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you have a name associated with who that was?

Mr. Simpson

Not at that time.

Ms. Sawyer

You said that he told you of the meeting with the FBI in Rome in mid or late September, that he "gave them a full briefing"?

Mr. Simpson

A debrief I think is what he probably said, they had debriefed him. I don't remember him articulating the specifics of that. You know, my understanding was that they would have gotten into who his sources were, how he knew certain things, and, you know, other details based on their own intelligence. Essentially what he told me was they had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and that—that they—my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point—that they believed Chris's information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you have any understanding then or now as to who that human intelligence source from inside the Trump campaign might have been?

Mr. Levy

He's going to decline to answer that question.

Ms. SAWYER

On what basis?

Mr. Simpson

Security.

Mr. Levy

Security.

Mr. Simpson

We had been really careful—I was really careful throughout this process to not ask a lot of specific sourcing questions. There are some things I know that I just don't feel comfortable sharing because obviously it's been in the news a lot lately that people who get in the way of the Russians tend to get hurt.

Mr. Levy

And I would just add that there are privileges and obligations that might be implicated in the disclosure of any source related to this matter.

Ms. Sawyer

Was this individual also a person who had been a source for Mr. Steele, without identifying who that was?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

So this was someone independent of Mr. Steele's sources who potentially had information also on the same topics?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I mean, I don't think this implicates any of the issues to say I think it was a voluntary source, someone who was concerned about the same concerns we had.

Mr. Davis

I'm having a hard time hearing you. Please speak up.

Mr. Simpson

It was someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something.

Ms. Sawyer

And your understanding of this, does that come from Mr. Steele or from a different source?

Mr. Simpson

That comes from Chris, yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And when did he share that information with you?

Mr. Simpson

I don't remember exactly.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you think it was around the same time that he had met with the FBI, so mid to late September of 2016?

Mr. Simpson

I think more likely early October.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you know whether when Mr. Steele met with the FBI he provided them with the memos that he would have had at that point in time, which would have been mid to late September of 2016?

Mr. Simpson

I don't know that. He didn't tell me that. He did say they asked him for—they wanted to know everything he had, but whether that would include getting paper I don't know.

Ms. Sawyer

And did he indicate that he had cooperated fully and given them whatever information he had available?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. In the course of these, you know, discussions, you know, he indicated to me this was someone he had worked with previously who knew him and that they had a—they worked together.

Ms. Sawyer

By that person you're referring to in Rome?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Now, with regard to—just to finish up on the interactions with FBI, do you know were there any additional interactions between Mr. Steele and the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

There was some sort of interaction, I think it was probably telephonic that occurred after Director Comey sent his letter to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. That episode, you know, obviously created some concern that the FBI was intervening in a political campaign in contravention of long-standing Justice Department regulation.

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. You know, I think—I'm not sure we've covered this fully, but, you know, we just encouraged them to ask the FBI that question.

On October 31st the New York Times posed a story saying that the FBI is investigating Trump and found no connections to Russia and, you know, it was a real Halloween special.

Sometime thereafter the FBI—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.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. So I do want to get to the timing on that. I know that I'm getting close to the end of my hour. Can I just ask you a general question on the memos that we were talking about. I had asked you specifically about the first one, if you had in any way—first of all, with regard to the packet on whole, did you have any input or involvement in the drafting of these or input for the research?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you edit any of them in any way?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

So these were documents that you were just receiving from Mr. Steele?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I mean, the only qualifier I'd add is I'm sure I said things like Paul Manafort was just named campaign manager, what do you know about him, that kind of thing.

Ms. Sawyer

I do want to get into some more specifics about kind of what steps and what items you may also clarify, but I do want to make sure, if I could have your indulgence, just that we—well, we can finish up the FBI part on our next hour because it sounds like there's a little more to finishing that. So our hour is up. If you'll just give me a moment.

Okay. So we'll go ahead and go off the record. It is 2:58.