- Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee want its Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, to release the transcript of the panel’s interview with Fusion GPS cofounder Glenn Simpson.
- Fusion GPS wants the transcript released, too.
- The House Democrats can’t distribute the transcript unilaterally, like the Senate Judiciary Democrats did, because the House committee’s rules require Republicans’ consent.
The House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat is calling on the panel’s Republican majority to release the transcript of the panel’s November interview with Glenn Simpson, the cofounder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
“In light of the selective leaks of Mr. Simpson’s testimony and the misleading manner in which Fusion GPS’ role has been characterised, I support releasing the transcript,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel’s ranking member, said in a statement through his office on Monday.
“The Majority has released transcripts of Dr. Page and Mr. Prince when it suited their interests, and likewise should make an exception here,” Schiff added, referring to Carter Page, an early Trump campaign aide, and Erik Prince, an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team.
A spokeswoman for Fusion GPS, the Washington, D.C.-based opposition research firm that hired the former British spy Christopher Steele to research then-candidate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, said on Monday that Fusion supports the release of the transcript. The firm had even sent a letter to the committee to that effect, she said, but it has not yet been publicly released.
“Schiff agrees with Mr. Simpson that the transcript should be released, and has made that request of the Majority,” a Democratic aide said on Monday.
But unlike Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein – who distributed the transcript of Simpson’s August interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee last week without Republicans’ consent – Schiff does not have the unilateral authority to release interview transcripts under committee and House rules.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee does not have the same rules governing the release of transcripts as HPSCI does,” the aide noted. Under HPSCI rules, the transcribed interviews may not be disclosed to the public unless authorised by the committee, which would require the Majority’s consent.
The committee’s chairman, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes has been conducting a parallel investigation into Fusion’s activities during the 2016 election. He subpoenaed the firm’s bank records last year to learn more about its clients, and a judge ruled earlier this month that the panel was entitled to those records.
Fusion plans to appeal that decision, citing First Amendment violations and arguing that Nunes’ requests are politically motivated.
It is still unclear whether committee Republicans even knew about Nunes’ subpoenas to Fusion, which included requests for documents and interviews.
Simpson and Peter Fritsch, another Fusion GPS cofounder, appeared before the committee in October in response to a subpoena, but pleaded the fifth during their interview. Simpson struck a deal with House investigators and returned for a voluntary interview in November that lasted more than seven hours.
Amid his fight for more transparency from Fusion, however, Nunes has given no indication so far that he plans to release the November transcript. Nunes’ spokesman did not return a request for comment.
There are signs that the House investigators’ line of questioning was more extensive than that of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is another reason why the panel’s Democrats and Fusion want the transcript to be made public.
Simpson and Fritsch wrote earlier this month in a New York Times op-ed that they “suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses.”
Deutsche Bank was not mentioned in Simpson’s interview with the Senate Judiciary, indicating that it was brought up during his only other congressional interview with the House panel.
Schiff said in a statement late last year that Democrats had asked Republicans to subpoena Deutsche Bank, but Republicans had refused, despite “repeated requests.”
The committee has only issued one subpoena to a financial institution in the year since it opened its investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Moscow.
The subpoena was to Fusion’s bank rather than to Deutsche Bank, which was fined last year over its involvement in a major Russian money-laundering scheme and has been the Trump family’s bank of choice for decades.
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