Sawyer Interview #3

Ms. SAWYER

We'll go back on the record. It's 4:30.

Ms. Sawyer

I wanted to return to our conversation about interactions that Mr. Steele had with the FBI. We had been talking about a second time he met in Rome. Besides that meeting and the first meeting in early July, are you aware of any other meetings or conversations that Mr. Steele had with the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

I think I was just recounting that he vaguely said that he had broken off with them over this concern that we didn't really know what was going on. I'm sorry to be vague, but we just didn't understand what was going on and he said he had broken off with them.

Ms. Sawyer

When you say "we" did not understand what was going on, who are you referring to as the "we"?

Mr. Simpson

Chris and I, mostly just the two of us. There was a lot of public controversy over the conduct of the FBI. I remember discussing it with many people, but this conversation was between the two of us.

Ms. Sawyer

And what was the time frame of when Steele said he had broken off with the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

I can—I don't know exactly, but it would have been between October 31st and election day.

Ms. QUINT

October 31st was when you said there was an article—

Mr. Simpson

In the New York Times. There was an article in the New York Times on October 31st that created concern about what was going on at the FBI.

Ms. QUINT

Because it wasn't consistent with your understanding of the investigation?

Mr. Simpson

Exactly.

Ms. Sawyer

And I think, just to be clear, this was an article you had talked about that both revealed that Director Comey had alerted Congress to something about the Clinton e-mail investigation?

Mr. Simpson

No. That happened a few days previous. I don't know the exact date that he sent the letter to Congress, but this was an article specifically about—it was disclosing the existence of an FBI investigation of Trump's ties to Russia, which, to my recollection, was the first time that anyone reported that the FBI was looking at whether the Trump campaign had ties to the Kremlin but at the same time saying that they had investigated this and not found anything, which threw cold water on the whole question through the election.

Ms. Sawyer

And was that—just to tie it together when you were talking previously, was that in connection with your conversation with journalists where you directed them to ask the FBI as to whether there was an investigation going on?

Mr. Simpson

I'm not going to get into specific news organizations or reporters or stories, but I would restate that this was during the period when we were encouraging the media to ask questions about whether the FBI was, in fact, investigating these matters.

I'll add that, you know, a lot of what we were talking to the media about were things in the public record, specifically Carter Page, Paul Manafort had resigned over allegations of illicit relationships with Russian oligarchs and Ukrainian oligarchs. So there was, you know, a lot of open source public information pointing towards the possibility that the Russians had infiltrated the Trump campaign. So we spoke broadly to reporters and encouraged them to look into this.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you ever come to find out who the journalists had spoken with at the FBI about the existence of an investigation into Russian interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

So you had indicated that Mr. Steele said he had—I think your phrase was "broken off" with the FBI. What did you understand that to mean?

Mr. Simpson

That Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn't think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn't understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down.

Ms. Sawyer

And had he been reaching out affirmatively to the FBI and providing them with information or were they reaching out to him and he was simply responding to their requests?

Mr. Simpson

The first contact was initiated by Chris to someone that he said he knew.

Ms. Sawyer

And now you're just going back to the July contact?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. The September briefing or debriefing in Rome I believe I understood—to this day I understand that to have been initiated by the FBI. Subsequent contacts during this period I just don't know.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you know if there were any contacts after that second meeting in Rome between then and the point in time which occurred sometime between October 31st and the election day when he stopped communicating with the FBI, do you know if there actually were any conversations or meetings between Mr. Steele and the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

He didn't literally tell me about specific contacts. I just recall that there was—that he broke off, which implies that he told him he didn't want to have anything more to do with them. I believe he also mentioned that they didn't like media coverage, that there was media coverage of, you know, FBI interest in Donald Trump. I don't know what it was that they didn't like.

Ms. Sawyer

And I think you've already answered this question, but to the best of your knowledge, did Mr. Steele ever obtain payment from the FBI for actual research that he was doing on Russian interference or on possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia?

Mr. Simpson

He told me he did not, and I have no independent information other than what he told me. I don't believe he ever received compensation for working on anything related to Trump and Russia.

Ms. Sawyer

I'm going to direct your attention back to what we marked as Exhibit 3, which is the series of memos that you had received from Mr. Steele in the course of his work. We talked about the first memo and we also talked about the second memo to some degree. You were explaining to me why you believed the second memo, which starts at page 41394, came about, why he had generated that report or done that research, and you had indicated that there was much more public reporting on the hacking. I think you had mentioned—that's when you mentioned Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

So with regard to that memo, were there any particular things that you independently verified?

Mr. Simpson

I just need to review it here for a second.

Ms. Sawyer

Sure.


Mr. Simpson

Most of this I did not seek to independently verify and was relatively new information. I was aware at the time of connections between Russian intelligence and cyber criminals, and I was aware at the time that the Russian mafia and Russian cyber crime was a subcontractor to the Russian intelligence services. So this comported with my general knowledge of these matters, but a lot of the specifics was new information to me.

The only things in here that I specifically recognize from other work or from other research was that the—the allegation that the telegram encrypted messaging system, which is an app, had been compromised by Russian intelligence and that someone else in the business of cyber security had told me that too who was in a position to know. I don't remember who that was, but I was told that by an American. And issues of Russian criminal operations with names like Booktrap and Maddel (phonetic) rings a bell to me or did ring a bell to me at the time. There's been a great deal—there had been a great deal at this time even of U.S. law enforcement activity against organized Russian cyber crime operations.

Ms. Sawyer

And this memo which is dated 26 July—it actually bears the date 2015.

Mr. Simpson

I noticed that.

Ms. Sawyer

Is that just, as far as you understand it, a typo or mistake? Was it actually 2016?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Then similarly with what I have—and I'm just doing it in the order that it was Bates- stamped and appeared on BuzzFeed—there's a two-page report and it bears the Bates Nos. 41397 and 41398 and it has a company report number 2016/095. This one has the title "Russia/U.S. Presidential Election, Further Indications of Extensive Conspiracy Between Trump's Campaign Team and the Kremlin."

Did you do any independent verification of these facts?

Mr. Simpson

I did some work on aspects of this. We were separately—you know, my team and myself were separately investigating various things in here. So I can't talk about this as a verification, but I was analyzing this.

Mr. Foster

Speak up, please.

Mr. Simpson

I analyzed this information in the same manner I analyzed the other stuff.

Ms. Sawyer

So based on the work that you were doing, did any of that independent work that you did alter the content of this?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

So it was in addition to whatever was provided in this memo, this two-page memo?

Mr. Simpson

Yes, that's right.

Ms. Sawyer

And to the best that you can recall, can you tell us what you were learning at the same time about the topics covered in this memo?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. Could I just clarify something? I assume this is exactly how it was published and someone mixed up the sequence of the memos. So the next memo's numbered 94 and is dated July 19th and this one is 95 and is not dated, I don't believe. Maybe that's why they got mixed up.

But in any event, what I would loosely call the Carter Page memo came before this conspiracy memo. So with that caveat I can say we were investigating just based on open sources and, you know, other methods, more public information Carter Page's trip to Russia. We watched tapes of it, we did background work on Carter Page, I did research on his business dealings, and in the course of trying to analyze—you know, this is some new detail here about how the operation is working in the Kremlin and how they are trying to use influence and it comports with my knowledge and Chris's knowledge of how the Kremlin does this, which is they offer people business deals as a way to compromise them. And, in fact, you know, to my knowledge, this is a much bigger issue than personal indiscretions when it comes to the way the Kremlin operates and is something I know a fair bit about.

So we looked into Carter Page and we also looked into Igor Sechin and whether Sergei Ivanov was in a position to be managing the election operation, which is what 94 talks about, and we determined that he was. I, you know, independently verified he does have a deputy who's very obscure named Igor Divyekin. It's spelled two different ways here. I believe the correct spelling is D-I-V-Y-E-K-I-N.

Mr. Muse

Can you give the Bates number of the document you're looking at.

Mr. Simpson

This one is 41399.

Ms. Sawyer

And just for the record, it's a two-page document, 41399 to 41400, and it has the date, I think you indicated before, 19 July 2016. Is this the memo that you said you referred to as the Carter Page memo?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And you were explaining that in the sequencing this one came before the document that actually in terms of Bates numbers—

Mr. Simpson

Right.

Ms. Sawyer

-- comes before it which we had talked about which had the company report No. 095. So 94 came to you before 095—report No. 095; is that correct?

Mr. Simpson

That's my recollection.

Ms. Sawyer

So with regard to the research you were also doing, is it also just true that whatever independent research you were doing did not then get incorporated into document company report 2016/94, the Carter Page memo?

Mr. Simpson

That's correct. We essentially segregated this reporting from other things we were doing for reasons we discussed earlier. A lot of this is human intelligence, it's not the kind of thing that you would share with almost anyone basically. A lot of the work that we do is public record research. Generally speaking, most of this information is useful for making decisions and trying to understand what's going on, but it's not—doesn't have much use beyond that unless you can independently verify it. So our reports are full of footnotes and appendices and court records and that sort of thing.

Ms. Sawyer

So is it fair to characterize the research that you were doing as kind of a separate track of research on the same topic sometimes?

Mr. Simpson

I think so. I wouldn't say it was completely separate because, for instance, on some subjects I knew more than Chris. So when it comes to Paul Manafort, he's a long-time U.S. political figure about whom I know a lot. But his reporting—you know, so there may have been some bleed between things I told him about someone like Manafort, but most of these characters neither of us know much about and it's really just he's faithfully reporting information to him that's being reported to him by his network.

In British intelligence the methodology's a little different from American intelligence. There's a practice of being faithful to what people are saying. So these are relatively straightforward recitations of things that people have said. Obviously as we talked about before, you know, disinformation is an issue that Chris wrestles with, has wrestled with his entire life. So if he believed any of this was disinformation, he would have told us.

Ms. Sawyer

And did he ever tell you that information in any of these memos, that he had concerns that any of it was disinformation?

Mr. Simpson

No. What he said was disinformation is an issue in my profession, that is a central concern and that we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this was disinformation or I had concerns about that I would tell you that and I'm not telling you that. I'm telling you that I don't believe this is disinformation.

Ms. Sawyer

And then on the memo, the Carter Page memo, which is company report 2016/94, you said that you had done—you, Fusion—you, Glenn Simpson had done some research into Carter Page, including Mr. Page's business dealings?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

Is that information that you still have?

Mr. Simpson

I don't know. I haven't looked for it. I don't know.

Ms. Sawyer

You also specifically mentioned Igor Sechin and maybe work that you had done research into Sechin. Is that work that you would also still have?

Mr. Simpson

I don't know if I have anything specific on Sechin. Sechin is a well-known character. I collect, you know, research on various people who are oligarchs or mafia figures. I don't think I have any specific reports on Sechin, but I know a lot about him. He's, you know, sort of Putin's No. 1 compadre in the kleptocracy.

Ms. Sawyer

And with regard to Carter Page, did you reach any findings, conclusions about his business dealings, about him, about his connections in particular to, you know, Russia?

Mr. Simpson

Yes.

Ms. Sawyer

And can you share what those were?

Mr. Simpson

Carter Page seemed to us to be a typical person who the Russians would attempt to co-opt or compromise or manipulate. He was on the younger side, a little bit—considered to be a striver who was ambitious and not terribly savvy, and those are the kind of people that the Russians tend to compromise. That was the general sense we had. He was also, you know, from early on described as somewhat eccentric.

There was a—I remember quite clearly there was a bit of a—when we were talking to reporters about him because he was all over the news for this trip to Russia and we had done—there was a fair amount of open source on his consulting firm, his complaint that he'd lost money on Russian investments and he owned stock in Gazprom and he was really mad about the sanctions and he went over there in this hastily-arranged trip to speak to this school and that was all pretty unusual, but there's a lot of skepticism in the press about whether he could be linked between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign because he seemed like a zero, a lightweight.

I remember sort of not being able to kind of explain to people that's exactly why he would end up as someone who they would try to co-opt. Of course, you know, when we talk about things in the dossier that are confirmed, this is one of the things that I think really stands out as notable, which is that Chris identified Carter Page as someone who had—seemed to be in the middle of the campaign, between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and he later turned out to be an espionage suspect who was, in fact, someone that the FBI had been investigating for years.

Ms. Sawyer

So beyond what is in the dossier, did you kind of find any evidence that he had actually been compromised? Now I'm speaking of Carter Page.

Mr. Simpson

Well, the definition of compromised is someone who has been influenced sometimes without even their knowledge. We had reason to believe that he had, in fact, been offered business deals that were—that would tend to influence him, business arrangements.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you have the records of those business deals that you had collected?

Mr. Simpson

Yeah. I don't think so. Most of that was, in fact, reporting that we did with other people who knew him from the business world.

Ms. Sawyer

And then just the next memo that we had touched on, 2016/95, it has Bates numbers 41397 to 398, it does not bear a date on it. Do you recall roughly when you received this particular report?

Mr. Simpson

Sometime in midsummer.

Ms. Sawyer

The next report, which is 2016/097 which is two pages, has the date of 30 July 2016. Just by the numbers it would appear to maybe have come between those two. Does it seem logical that it came sometime between July 19th and July 30th?

Mr. Simpson

That seems logical.

Ms. Sawyer

And then just in general, with regard to this particular memo did you do any research to verify this information that was in this memo?

Mr. Levy

Beyond what he said as a general matter?

Mr. Muse

I'm sorry. You were going back and forth. Which one in particular?

Ms. SAWYER

This is memo No.—it has Company Intelligence Report 2016/095, it's Bates numbers 41397 and 41398.

Mr. Muse

Thank you.

Ms. Sawyer

Was there particular information in this memo that you did verify?

Mr. Simpson

One of the things I did, which is pretty typical of how I would sort of analyze things, was I looked at the Russian pension system to determine if, in fact, the Russian government was distributing lots of pension payments to Russian immigrants in the United States, and I found some reports from the Social Security Administration and other places describing this system.

Basically because everyone in Russia, you know, more or less works for the government, there's a lot of—there's a large number of Russian emigres in the United States who receive pension payments that are paid through the embassies and various people, Russian lawyers and others who we became interested in in the course of this investigation seem to be involved in that process. I'm not saying they did anything illegal. I'm just saying, you know, we looked at this system, and as someone who does a lot of money laundering work this was an interesting thing that I hadn't heard about.

There's all this money flowing in the United States from Russia, it probably flows in under some sort of diplomatic status. So if there's sanctions on Russia and the Russians can't move money in the United States for most things, this would, in fact, be an ideal mechanism for moving money into the United States for whatever purpose, for some kind of illicit purpose. I think that's a pretty good example of the kind of general work I would do to determine whether there's some base level of credibility to the things we're getting.

Ms. Sawyer

And in answering that you said that some of the officials that you had identified as involved in this effort seemed to come up with regard to the pension disbursements. Who specifically are you referring to?

Mr. Simpson

We identified a lawyer in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida who said she previously worked for Gazprom and just had on her professional Website or someplace that she was—she had some kind of relationship with the Russian embassy in dealing with these pension issues.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you recall that lawyer's name?

Mr. Simpson

I don't.

Ms. Sawyer

Anyone else besides that individual?

Mr. Simpson

If I could look at this for a second.

Ms. Sawyer

Sure.


Mr. Simpson

I don't have a clear recollection of this. I'm sorry. I thought there was another name in here that we had looked at, but I don't see it in this memo.

Ms. Sawyer

To the extent you have records about this and the individual in Sunny Isles, would you at least look for them and let us know whether you would be willing to provide them to the committee?

Mr. Levy

Counsel has the request.

Ms. Sawyer

Just moving on to the next memo, which is Company Intelligence Report 2016/097, it bears the Bates Nos. 401 and 41402, it's a two-page memo dated 30 July 2016. Again, when you take a look at that, was there anything that you independently verified that comes out of this memo?


Mr. Simpson

I don't think so.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. Then Company Intelligence Report 2016/100, was there any information there that you either independently verified or had independent research on any of the individuals mentioned in there? It mentions Sergei Ivanov, Dmitry Peskov.

Mr. Muse

If I may, some clarification. When you say is there anything that you independently verified that comes out of the memo, are you talking—it's a little confusing because the memo comes in, he already knows some information, but I think he's generally said that he's not doing a draft of the memo beforehand and yet your question seems to permit that possibility.

Ms. SAWYER

No. I appreciate the clarification.

Ms. Sawyer

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to—what we're trying to determine is is there information that either you had in your possession that corroborated and verified this or even went beyond what was in this and amplified information on any of these individuals relevant to Russia's interference or possible ties with the Trump campaign?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. I'm trying to be as helpful as I can. The thing that we worked on with regard to Sergei Ivanov, who was the head of what's called the head of administration which we confirmed from open sources is kind of an internal Kremlin intelligence operation, and that Ivanov according to experts on Russia, the Russian military, Russian intelligence, does, in fact, run this internal Kremlin intelligence operation that sort of sits atop the FSB and the SVR, the GRU, which are the other agencies specifically tasked with areas of intelligence, military for the GRU, foreign for the SVR, domestic for the FSB.

Before I got this memo I didn't know about this internal Kremlin structure. It was either this one or the previous one. So in the course of saying who is this Ivanov guy, you know, we looked at Ivanov and found journal articles and other public information about his long history of intelligence. He's a veteran of the FSB, his long history with Vladimir Putin, and his role atop this internal operation.

In particular I remember reading a paper by a superb academic expert whose name is Mark Galeotti, G-A-L-E-O-T-T-I, who's done a lot of work on the Kremlin's black operations and written quite widely on the subject and is very learned. So that would have given me comfort that whoever Chris is talking to they know what they're talking about.

Ms. Sawyer

With regard to that just in general, I did want to ask you not to identify based on the particular sources, but did Mr. Steele ever share with you who his sources were?

Mr. Levy

That conversation, if it occurred, would implicate obligations and he's going to decline to answer that question.

Ms. SAWYER

And is that based just on the—can you just articulate the obligations so we can understand them.

Mr. Levy

It's a very sensitive security issue and I just don't—in a transcript where there's no assurance of confidentiality it's not a discussion we want to have here.

Ms. Sawyer

And do you know whether he shared his sources with the FBI?

Mr. Simpson

I don't. I don't know.

Mr. Foster

What was the answer?

Mr. Simpson

Sorry. I don't know whether he shared his sourcing with the FBI.

Ms. SAWYER

Can we just take a minute. We can go off the record for a minute.


Ms. SAWYER

Just with sensitivity toward the lateness of the day and in the interest of time it would just be helpful—and I'll give you as much time as you need to take a few minutes and, if you could, look through the remaining memos and let us know if anything kind of stood out to you, if there were things that either did not ring true at the time and that you were concerned about or things in particular that in addition to what's in here you had independent research about that you could share with the committee in the context of our investigation. Is that a clear request?

Mr. Muse

Heather, may I make a suggestion?

Ms. SAWYER

Sure.

Mr. Muse

Why don't we break for a few minutes so he can look at it, but here's a bigger problem and I don't mean this as criticism particularly with regard to the sensitivity as to time. The difficulty is in summary questions there's sometimes the problem that is created when you try to sort of do a wholesale commentary, particularly after it's been sort of more focused—

Ms. SAWYER

I understand where you're going. So yeah. I don't want to put us in a position where—

Mr. Levy

Let's just take some time for the witness to review the document.

Ms. SAWYER

Why don't you take a little bit of time.

Mr. Muse

In that spirit maybe you could look in case you have a more focused inquiry too.

Ms. SAWYER

We can certainly do that. Why don't we take a five-minute break and I'll ask whatever remaining questions we have on the dossier.

Mr. Foster

We'll go off the record at 5:11.


Ms. SAWYER

We're back on the record at 5:20.

Ms. Sawyer

We appreciate you are walking through some of these and we understand your general practice and I want to make sure I'm characterizing this accurately. When you would get the memos you would—from Mr. Steele you would review them, you would see if they resonated with information that you already knew and other research you may already have done. I think you already told me that you don't recall at the time anything jumping out at you as patently inaccurate; is that fair to say?

Mr. Simpson

Yes, that's fair to say.

Ms. Sawyer

And I had just asked you to review and I appreciate you taking the time to review the additional memos which would just run from Bates No. 41405 to 41425 to just try to determine for the committee if research that you had been doing on the separate track on some of these topics in particular amplified the work in the dossier.

Mr. Levy

When you say "amplified the work in the dossier," what do you mean?

Ms. SAWYER

Both kind of verified and maybe gave you some additional information and insights on either the factual allegations in them or whether or not the key players identified had also engaged in either similar or related behavior on Russian—you know, related to Russian interference.

Mr. Simpson

I'd say that's generally right. I read a lot of books and studies on Russia and organized crime. So over the years I just have a lot of residual knowledge of some of the people and subjects that are covered in the memos.

Ms. Sawyer

Okay. So nothing certainly jumped out at you and then as—

Mr. Simpson

Nothing jumped out at me—

Ms. Sawyer

-- as inconsistent with information that you had gained from other sources?

Mr. Simpson

That's correct.

Ms. Sawyer

And did you have any reason to believe either then or now that Mr. Steele would have kind of fabricated any of the information that he included in any of these memos?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

I do want to return to a few of the topics and a few of the specifics, but I think I'll hold that until the next round because I have a few other just follow-up questions for you.

It had come up in the last round that there was a meeting and some information was provided to Mr. Kramer. Were you still—at the time that occurred were you, Fusion GPS, still working on behalf of a client who had engaged you to do research as part of the presidential election campaign or did that occur after that engagement ended?

Mr. Simpson

It occurred after the engagement had ended.

Ms. Sawyer

And besides Mr. Steele, did you discuss sharing information with Mr. Kramer with anyone else?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall.

Ms. Sawyer

My colleagues had also asked you about meetings and particularly that occurred between June 8th and June 10th of 2016 and some of the individuals involved in those meetings. As a general matter, did you discuss the work you were doing related to the presidential election campaign with—did you ever discuss that with Natalia Veselnitskaya?

Mr. Simpson

I don't believe I ever discussed it with her. I'd just add that she doesn't speak much English. So the possibilities are almost none. I didn't discuss it with her.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you have any reason to believe that she knew that you were doing work—opposition research work on then Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you have any reason to believe that she knew that Christopher Steele was doing work for you as part of that project, the opposition research on Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

What about Rinat Akhmetshin, did you ever talk with Rinat Akhmetshin about the fact that you were doing opposition research on Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall, no.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you have any reason to believe that Christopher Steele ever spoke with Rinat Akhmetshin about the fact that Christopher Steele had been engaged by you to do work—related to the opposition work on then Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

Do I have any reason to believe that he spoke? No, I have no reason to believe he did.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you know if he did or not?

Mr. Simpson

It's never—we've never discussed it, but I have no reason to think he would have.

Ms. Sawyer

And if he had discussed it, would that have been consistent with the nondisclosure agreement that you indicated you would have had with Mr. Steele?

Mr. Simpson

That would—if he discussed it with someone like that without my knowledge, it would not have been consistent with our agreement.

Ms. Sawyer

And then given that, would it surprise you if Mr. Steele had talked with Rinat Akhmetshin about the work he was doing related to then Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

Yes, that would surprise me.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you discuss the fact that you were doing opposition research on Candidate Trump with anyone at Prevezon Holdings?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall, no.

Ms. Sawyer

And if you had done so, would that have been consistent with your confidentiality obligations to that client?

Mr. Simpson

No, it wouldn't have been consistent.

Ms. Sawyer

Did you speak with anyone at Baker Hostetler about the work that you had been engaged to do on then Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

Not that I recall.

Ms. Sawyer

So the point in time at which you were in meetings that included—the meetings that you had related to the Court hearing at Prevezon that you've already discussed, the dinner, the Court hearing, and then a subsequent dinner, they occur right around the same time that Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin and the individual you described as a translator, Anatoli Samochornov, met—or it has been reported met with individuals in the Trump campaign. Did that topic just never come up during those three days?

Mr. Simpson

It never came up. I don't know what else to say. It never came up.

Ms. Sawyer

So you at the time had no idea that they were meeting with or met—and actually, in fact, met with members of the Trump campaign?

Mr. Simpson

I didn't have any idea about that meeting until quite recently.

Ms. Sawyer

So in an August 1, 2017 news briefing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "The Democrat linked firm Fusion GPS actually took money from the Russian government while it created the phoney dossier that's been the basis for all of the Russia scandal fake news." What is your response to that statement?

Mr. Simpson

It's not true?

Ms. Sawyer

And what in particular is not true about it?

Mr. Simpson

Well, it's a false allegation leveled by William Browder before this committee and in other places for the purpose of his advantage. She's repeating an allegation that was aired before this committee and in other places that we were working for the Russian government and it's not true.

Most importantly the allegation that we were working for the Russian government then or ever is simply not true. I don't know what to say. It's political rhetoric to call the dossier phoney. The memos are field reports of real interviews that Chris's network conducted and there's nothing phoney about it. We can argue about what's prudent and what's not, but it's not a fabrication.

Ms. Sawyer

And I think you've already answered you contend that you were not taking money from the Russian government and that was in relation to the litigation work you had done with Baker Hostetler, correct?

Mr. Simpson

Yes. They are a well-regarded law firm that has obligations to determine the sources of funds when they take a client and, to my knowledge, they did so and the money was not coming from the Russian government.

Ms. Sawyer

So that was for the Prevezon work for Baker Hostetler. Did you take money in any way, shape, or form that could be attributed to the Russian government for the work that you were doing—the opposition research work that you were doing on then Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Did, to the best of your knowledge, Mr. Steele take money in any way, shape, or form that could be attributed to the Russian government for the work that he did on the memos as part of the opposition research on Candidate Trump?

Mr. Simpson

No.

I'll add one more thing to the response to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which is her assertion that we are a Democrat linked opposition research firm. I think I addressed this earlier, but to be clear, we don't have a business of—we're not an appendage to the Democratic party. We run a commercial business, we're all ex-journalists. We take clients from both sides of the aisle. We have a long history of that, I'm proud of that. I'm happy to say I have lots of Republican clients and friends.

Ms. Sawyer

To the extent there have been allegations or indications that the work that Mr. Steele did, his research into Russian interference in the 2016 election, or your work could have been influenced by Rinat Akhmetshin, do you believe that is true and if—do you believe it's true?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. Sawyer

Do you believe that the work that Mr. Steele did on Russian interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign or your work could have been influenced by Natalia Veselnitskaya?

Mr. Simpson

No.

Ms. SAWYER

I think my time is up for this round. So I appreciate your patience and we'll take a break.

Mr. Foster

It's 5:34.