Spygate, Part #1: Fusion GPS

Fusion GPS is a private investigation organisation in Washington, DC, founded in 2011 by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch and Thomas Catan, all three of whom are former journalists at The Wall Street Journal.

Now, Glenn Simpson has previously worked at companies such as RollCall, The Wall Street Journal, SNS Global LLC and the International Assessment and Strategy Center. SNS Global LLC was one of his former businesses, founded with Sue Schmidt, another former Wall Street Journal journalist whom later went on to found SDS Insight.

One of SNS Global LLC’s clients was an organisation named California Strategies, and another was Sheikh Khalid bin Sadq al-Qasimi to investigate the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The Intercept’s Margot Williams worked at SNS Global LLC. Simpson also worked as a blogger for Inside Google, and was on the board for TickletheWire.

Simpson has also been married to Mary Jacoby since October 1, 1994. She is a member of the Jacoby family which is connected to Jacoby Enterprises, Inc., founded in 1986 (although no longer existent), which itself is tied to the Stephens Group in Little Rock, AR. The Stephens Group raised funds for Bill Clinton during his re-election as Governor of Arkansas and his presidential campaign, and Hillary Clinton has represented the organisation in litigation. Jacoby is also a former employee (file clerk) at the Rose Law Firm.

As Simpson is a former Wall Street Journal journalist, he has many ties to other journalists more known today. For instance, back in May 2005, Michael Isikoff was described as “friendly” with him. Jack Shafer has described Simpson as a friend. Obviously his wife is also a former Wall Street Journal journalist.

Funnily enough, both Simpson and Jacoby wrote the article “McCain Consultant Is Tied To Work for Ukraine Party” in The Wall Street Journal on May 14, 2008, which was about Davis Manafort, Inc..

While Peter Fritsch is mainly a Wall Street Journal alum, Thomas Catan has worked at other places such as The Times of London, Financial Times, Dow Jones Newswires, U.S. Mexico Business Magazine and the Mexico City Times. Catan has also worked previously with CNN’s Evan Perez.

There is another partner, Jason Felch, who is based in Los Angeles, CA, whom was previously employed at The Los Angeles Times until he was fired for having “inappropriate relations” with one of his sources, much in a similar way to Ali Watkins — except he was fired and she was protected. Felch is also a member of the Antiquities Coalition, alongside television pundit Malcolm Nance.

Another employee is Neil King, the husband of former top message strategist to President Barack Obama, Shailagh Murray, who also used to work at The Washington Post. King is another former journalist at The Wall Street Journal, who joined Fusion GPS in December 2016, waving goodbye to his former co-workers on December 13. King’s marriage to Murray allowed him to attend various State Dinners at the White House, including President Obama’s final State Dinner.

Fusion GPS has also been handed many cases paid by various sources, including Donald Trump (obviously), Prevezon Holdings, Google Shopping, a client investigation into Presidio Trust (in relation to the Lucas Museum, possibly hired by Ron Conway), Frank Vandersloot, videos of Planned Parenthood by the Center of Medical Progress, and others. They have also done work on behalf of Derwick Associates in Venezuela, which led to them being in a confrontation with Thor Halvorssen’s Human Rights Foundation, where Fusion GPS attempted to use a dossier to intimidate Halvorssen.

In the case of Prevezon Holdings, if you were to take Bill Browder’s word for it, then Fusion GPS / Glenn Simpson were hired by the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Simpson stated that Veselnitskaya retained Baker Hostetler, whom then retained Fusion GPS.

It should also be noted that Fusion GPS names their projects after cities in Maine and Texas. The investigation into Donald Trump was named “Bangor”. They also participated in a project titled “Gray” during 2016, where they investigated the activities of the Wanda Group and the Mayor at the time, John Mirisch. Another investigation initiated in mid-2015, titled “Ferris”, they researched two competitors of the start-up Theranos.

So, in June 2015, the Clinton campaign started to pay the legal fees of Perkins Coie, having already hired Marc Elias — a partner at Perkins Coie — back in January 2015 to be the lead campaign lawyer.

It was in September 2015 that Paul Singer and the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to investigate the nominees of the Republican Party in order to learn more about them. Singer would specifically endorse Senator Marco Rubio on November 1, 2015. In the same month, November, the Democratic National Committee started to pay legal and compliance fees to Perkins Coie.

As a side note, Fusion GPS focuses on open source research, and as such, they approached and brought in the wife of Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, in late 2015 to conduct some of this research, including research into the Trump family. Nellie was a former employee at Open Source Works, an open source research department at the Central Intelligence Agency now known as the Open Source Center. She has also been a ham radio operator for reasons unknown since May 23, 2016.

A few months later, in March 2016, Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie — fully aware that Perkins Coie was being substantiated by both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee — where they offered their services to research and develop opposition research on Donald Trump. An agreement between the two organisations was reached the next month in April 2016.

That same month, between April 1–3, 2016, Simpson, Fritch and Catan attended the Logan Symposium at the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. This was not the first time Simpson had attended the Logan Symposium, having attended in both April 2015 and in April 2009.

The next month, in May 2016, Paul Singer and the Washington Free Beacon informed Fusion GPS to stop doing research for them, as at this point, Donald Trump had become the presumptive nominee.

In early June 2016, Glenn Simpson sat down with Orbis Business Intelligence’s Christopher Steele at Heathrow Airport in London, England and hired him to investigate Donald Trump and his connections to Russia. Steele accepted the contract.

Now Simpson — before his meeting with Steele — was fully aware of the hack at the Democratic National Committee, but refrained from informing Steele of the same information. The hacking information would only go public on June 14, 2016, in a carefully crafted story between the Democratic National Committee and CrowdStrike Services, but we will get to that later. We will also deal with Steele and his dossier separately.

Also of note, Simpson and Steele’s relationship also goes back — they met back in 2009, introduced by a mutual friend aware of their mutual interest in Russian organised crime. This person is most likely Bruce Ohr, as Bruce knew Steele since 2006, while Bruce and Simpson had contacts with each other since 2002. Simpson also had a prior working relationship with Rinat Akhmetshin from his time at The Wall Street Journal, working on stories related to Kazakhstan, and has known Veselnitskaya since 2014.

Keep in mind that it was also June 2016 that Fusion GPS started to pay three anonymous journalists, who are still keeping their ties to Fusion GPS hidden to this day.

On June 8, 2016, Simpson and Veselnitskaya attended a client dinner in New York, NY. Two days later, on June 10, they attended another client dinner. In between this, Veselnitskaya was a participant of the Trump Tower meeting on June 9.

Now, as a reminder: Simpson said he did not converse much with Veselnitskaya due to language barriers. It should also be noted that Veselnitskaya used Anatoli Samochornov as a translator at the Trump Tower meeting. The problem is that three attendees — Veselnitskaya, Samochornov and Akhmetshin — were all part of the Prevezon Holdings case. And as noted both, Veselnitskaya retained Baker Hostetler, whom retained Fusion GPS.

It was a few days after the Trump Tower meeting that Steele would start collecting information for his first memo, which listed numerous sources. The first memo would be compiled on June 20. On June 24, the day that the United Kingdom voted to Leave — which ruined Steele’s birthday, which happened to be the same day — Simpson contacted him and requested for him to submit the memo. Steele responded by sending a courier by plane to Washington, keeping the sources redacted.

Steele convinced Simpson to allow him to reach out to Michael Gaeta at the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his memo before the end of June, as it was signed off before the end of the month by Victoria Nuland at the United States Department of State.

The next month, in July, Graham Stack was employed.

“Who?”

I don’t blame you.

Honestly, the cast of characters in this is enormous.

Stack is a journalist whom has worked in Germany, Russia and Ukraine at organisations such as bne IntelliNews and Business New Europe.

You see, there were actually two different investigative sides going on at Fusion GPS — you had the Trump-Russia side, which was being carried out by Steele through intermediaries and The Collector, and then you had the Manafort-Ukraine side, which was being carried out by Ed Baumgartner.

Shortly after the end of the Prevezon case, Simpson reached out to Edward Baumgartner to help research Paul Manafort’s ties to Ukraine. However, Baumgartner’s research and Steele’s research were kept separate from each other, although Simpson spoke with Steele about Paul Manafort’s relationship with oligarchs.

Baumgartner was a subcontractor for Fusion GPS, as he had his own organisation, Edward Austin, and was the only person who could speak Russian.

As such, you could assume that Stack assisted Baumgartner with the Ukraine investigation, which was presumably also named after a city in Maine or Texas.

Simpson would also meet with somebody in London, related to Orbis Business Intelligence.

At some point, Simpson learned that the identity of Source D was Sergei Millian, and — after realising that Brian Ross at ABC News had interviewed him in July — tipped them off about it.

Also, Simpson and Fusion GPS started to receive data which related to the connection between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization’s server. The bipartisan data scientists behind this initiated their searches after June 14, 2016, so Fusion GPS would have received the information after this time.

On July 15, 2016, Bill Browder filed a formal FARA complaint with the United States Department of Justice regarding Fusion GPS, Rinat Akhmetshin and his associates.

On July 30, 2016, Nellie attended breakfast with Bruce and Steele at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, alongside an unknown British associate, where Steele confirmed that Simpson would be open to discussing the dossier further. We will speak about the Ohrs in more detail later.

On August 22, 2016, Simpson e-mailed Bruce to request him to contact him, then met with him directly to discuss the potential connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, which included a discussion about Carter Page and a longtime associate of Trump whom assisted in real estate deals for Russian investigators.

Between September 21–23, 2016, during Steele’s time in Washington, he met with Simpson and they both attended a two-hour meeting with a number of journalists at The Washington Post’s headquarters, where they discussed Steele’s dossier off-the-record.

This was because Simpson had directed and paid Steele a total of $168,000.00 to push his research to The New York Times (twice), The Washington Post (twice), CNN, The New Yorker, and Yahoo! News (twice).

Between October 6–8, 2016, Glenn Simpson attended the Double Exposure: Investigative Film Festival and Symposium, alongside other journalists such as Slate’s Franklin Foer.

Towards the end of October 2016, Simpson authorised Steele to reach out and contact David Corn at Mother Jones, which led to the article “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump” on October 31, 2016 and the dismissal of Steele as a confidential human source by the Federal Bureau of Investigation the day after.

By the end of October 2016, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee stopped funding Fusion GPS through Perkins Coie, which led to Fusion GPS providing Steele’s reports to Marc Elias.

Between November 1–6, 2016, Simpson found himself having lunch with Paul Wood at BBC News’s Washington radio station, where Simpson then provided Wood with a redacted copy of the Steele dossier.

Roughly around November 24, 2016, Simpson and Bruce met with each other to discuss the Steele dossier, the Trump-Russia investigation and the successful election of Trump as President of the United States.

As mentioned previously, on December 13, 2016, Neil King left The Wall Street Journal to join Fusion GPS.

The next month, on January 10, 2017, the Steele dossier was released by Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs at BuzzFeed News. One day later, The Wall Street Journal revealed Steele’s identity.

Shortly after this, and the reveal of Fusion GPS’s role in it, John Podesta met with Glenn Simpson to compare notes, as Simpson was interested in using Fusion GPS to continue researching Trump and Russia.

On January 20, 2017, on the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump, Simpson sent an e-mail to Bruce and requested for him to contact him.

In February 2017, Fusion GPS stopped paying the three anonymous journalists from June 2016.

Simpson would also attend, between April 30 — May 2, 2017, the OffshoreAlert Conference in Miami, FL. Another attendee, by coincidence, was Jonathan Winer, another Steele associate and former employee at the United States Department of State.

On August 22, 2017, Simpson was interviewed for over 10 hours by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he produced over 40,000 documents, although the documents turned out to either be newspaper clippings or completely blank.

On October 18, 2017, both Catan and Fritsch attended a meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, but both refused to answer any questions, pleading the Fifth Amendment each time.

Also, and this is partially relevant, Glenn Simpson is on the board of directors at the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC with Edward “Ned” Price, who is on the board of advisors. If you remember Price, he was the former Central Intelligence Agency / National Security Council spokesperson that resigned through The Washington Post in the early days of the Trump Presidency.

That’s it, that’s the end of the article.