STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
During another week in the age of the raw transcript, it's a week when President Trump's entire 55-minute talk with lawmakers about immigration was televised. It's also a week when the entire private interview before Congress with a figure in the Russia investigation has been released. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein released the full testimony of Glenn Simpson, who ran Fusion GPS, a firm that arranged for a dossier of damaging claims against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is here.
Good morning, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: So how exactly did this come to light?
LUCAS: Well, this is the transcript from an interview that Glenn Simpson had in August with the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Simpson, as you noted, is the co-founder of Fusion GPS, which was hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to conduct opposition research on Trump. So Simpson's interview was - it was a long one. It was 10 hours. And the transcript holds true to that. It's about 300 pages.
LUCAS: But it is a fascinating read. Now, what do we learn from it, right? That's the big question here. Simpson says that the former British spy who compiled the information in the dossier, a man by the name of Christopher Steele, went to the FBI in the summer of 2016 because he had concerns that Trump might be being blackmailed.
LUCAS: Steele met with an FBI agent in Rome in September to discuss what he had learned from his inquiry, and in Simpson's word, the FBI wasn't surprised, in part because it had information that supported Steele's concerns about Trump's ties with Russia.
INSKEEP: In other words, the dossier that was being produced by this firm was not the sole source of concern for the FBI - at least, as far as Simpson could tell, was not the only source of concern about Donald Trump.
LUCAS: Right. The FBI had heard elsewhere, and it turns out that from what Simpson says, it was from an informant inside the Trump campaign who had similar concerns to Steele about the potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
INSKEEP: And you realize what a spy novel this is and how much paranoia there is. There's also a point in the testimony where it is said that Christopher Steele and maybe Glenn Simpson himself was - they weren't sure of the motivations of the FBI in all of this.
LUCAS: Well, that's right. Steele, at one point - this was shortly before the election. He broke off contact with the FBI because he thought that they weren't treating what he had brought them, what he had told them, seriously enough. Now, one quick thing that I need to mention about the informant - there's been conflicting reports now, and it appears that Simpson may have mischaracterized who this informant was. There are some reports that he may instead have been referencing a tip that the U.S. had received from an Australian diplomat about George Papadopoulos, who, of course, was a Trump campaign adviser and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
INSKEEP: Didn't Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator, release this transcript in the midst of a series of Republican attacks on the man who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele?
LUCAS: There has been a consistent push by Republicans to try to discredit Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS. Just last week, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, and Senator Lindsey Graham referred Steele to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. And so, yes, this releasing the transcript in a way is kind of returned fire by the Democrats to try to push back against what they say are Republican attempts to undermine the whole Russia investigation.
INSKEEP: Is a bipartisan investigation dead, then?
LUCAS: It's hard to see how a bipartisan investigation in the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as the House intelligence committee investigating Russia, continues. This certainly seems to be unraveling.
INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks for coming by, really appreciate it.
LUCAS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas.
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