Bruce Ohr notes contradict Glenn Simpson on Donald Trump, Russia collusion theory
Fusion GPS founder Glenn R. Simpson pushed a conspiracy theory to the Justice Department that posited Donald Trump maintained a computer server in 2016 directly linked to the Kremlin-connected Alfa Bank in Moscow, according to government notes obtained by The Washington Times.
The handwritten entries by then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr conflict with Mr. Simpson’s subsequent testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Simpson, an opposition research agent paid by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, told senators he didn’t know whether there was any dedicated Trump-Alfa server and drew no conclusions, according to a transcript of his August 2017 closed-door testimony.
The debunked server conspiracy theory sprung up in leftist social media during the presidential campaign to suggest that Mr. Trump and his Trump Organization had illegal ties with Russia. To liberals, the supposed Trump server meant that the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign had a secret communication channel to a powerful group of oligarch bankers tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Backed by public data and independent online sleuths, Trump people showed that, according to the internet protocol address cited by liberal journalists, the server was a third-party marketing device outside Philadelphia.
Michael Cohen, who was Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, told The Washington Times that hotels, including Mr. Trump’s, collected information on guests. The personal data found their way to the spam server that sent out marketing pitches. Mr. Cohen said Alfa employees must have stayed in Trump hotels and were added to the list.
On Oct. 31, 2016, The New York Times ran a story saying the FBI had come to basically the same conclusion.
But Mr. Ohr’s notes show that Mr. Simpson continued to promote the Alfa conspiracy theory.
Mr. Ohr has emerged as a pivotal player in the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation, beginning in July 31, 2016, into the Trump campaign on suspicion of collusion with Russia.
Mr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, a Russia scholar, worked on anti-Trump information as a Simpson employee at Fusion, an opposition research firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters.
Mr. Ohr became a conduit for his wife’s work and other Fusion research to the FBI. He personally passed information to now-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, who opened the Trump investigation and vowed to his FBI lover, Lisa Page, that “we’ll stop” Mr. Trump, according to his text messages and congressional testimony.
Mr. Ohr also met with former British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by Fusion with Democratic Party money to investigate Mr. Trump. Mr. Steele subsequently produced a 17-memo dossier that claimed an “extensive” Kremlin-Trump conspiracy that has yet to be proved publicly.
In December 2016, Mr. Ohr met with Mr. Simpson. He made note of Mr. Simpson, saying: “The New York Times story on Oct. 31 downplaying the connection between Alfa servers and the Trump campaign was incorrect. There was communication and it wasn’t spam.”
If Mr. Ohr’s note-taking is accurate, then Mr. Simpson was clearly pushing the Alfa narrative.
But Mr. Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, a different story eight months later.
He was questioned on Alfa by Heather Sawyer, chief oversight counsel for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. Ms. Feinstein later released the transcript without committee approval.
Ms. Sawyer asked: “Do you have any information there have been reports about potential communications between a server at [Alfa] Bank and potentially servers that belong to the Trump organization or Trump some entity associated with Donald Trump? Do you have any information about those particular reports?”
Mr. Simpson responded: “That’s kind of an open-ended question. I think what I said is we were asked about that and it wasn’t that information wasn’t generated by us and I’m happy to say it’s beyond our competence to have generated, but in the course of being asked about it, you know, people gave us information. I don’t know what else to say.”
‘Evidence of misleading testimony’
Mr. Simpson went on to say that he didn’t draw any conclusions: “I mean, we were shown like do you know what this would mean, does this mean, and it’s beyond it’s really it’s certainly beyond my competence.”
Ms. Sawyer: “So the data that you were shown, you could not draw any conclusions from it?”
Mr. Simpson: “I did not draw any conclusions from the data.”
He said he was asked by journalists about the server story, “but the information didn’t come from us.” He made no mention of the December meeting with Mr. Ohr and discussing Alfa. At that meeting, he told Mr. Ohr that he knew there was a Trump server used to communicate with Alfa.
Mr. Ohr’s notes also show that Mr. Simpson provided the name of a lawyer he believed was an intermediary between Alfa and the Trump campaign.
Mr. Ohr’s notes also show he discussed Alfa, one of Russia’s largest commercial banks, with Mr. Steele. In one session, Mr. Steele told the associate deputy attorney general that he was “desperate” to sink the Trump campaign.
“Alfa server in US as link to campaign,” Mr. Ohr quoted Mr. Steele as saying.
Mr. Steele didn’t include the server conspiracy in his dossier. He did accuse Alfa’s partners of being in a conspiracy with Mr. Putin to influence the election.
Alfa has denied it had a dedicated server to the Trump Organization or that it interfered in the election.
Mr. Simpson was unhappy with The New York Times’ Oct. 31, 2016, story for reasons other than the Alfa Bank exoneration. At the time, he was desperately trying to get Mr. Steele’s collusion charges into the newspaper. But the story came to an opposite conclusion, saying the FBI had not discovered a Trump-Kremlin conspiracy.
Hours after The New York Times debunked the server story, the conspiracy theory was revived in an article in the liberal news website Slate.
Mr. Simpson’s attorney didn’t return messages from The Washington Times.
Mr. Ohr testified in secret on Aug. 28 before two House committees investigating how the FBI conducted its probe into Trump associates.
“In the first hour of testimony, and it’s either Bruce Ohr is lying or Glenn Simpson is lying,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, told reporters.
Mr. Grassley disclosed in a letter to the Justice Department that the FBI debriefed Mr. Ohr 12 times from Nov. 22, 2016, to May 2017 as he conveyed Fusion anti-Trump material. Mr. Grassley wants Justice to declassify the interview reports, known as 302s.
Mr. Ohr has since been demoted. He was the fourth-ranked Justice official, with an office a few doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Mr. Rosenstein took office in April 2017 after Mr. Ohr completed most of his FBI debriefings on his wife’s and Fusion’s work.
Mr. Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller the month after President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey.
On another issue, Mr. Grassley suggested that Mr. Simpson wasn’t truthful with the committee.
Mr. Simpson testified that, postelection, he had no anti-Trump clients.
But Daniel Jones, a former senior Feinstein staffer, told the FBI in March 2017 that he had raised $50 million from seven to 10 wealthy donors to investigate Mr. Trump. He said he hired Mr. Steele as well as Fusion.
If the FBI’s 302 report is accurate, it would mean Mr. Simpson did have a client postelection.
Mr. Grassley summed up his case in a letter to a Democratic senator : “Where we do have actual evidence of misleading testimony in Committee interviews, we should treat it seriously,” he wrote. “For example, when the Committee staff interviewed Glenn Simpson in August of 2017, Majority staff asked him: ‘So you didn’t do any work on the Trump matter after the election date, that was the end of your work?’ Mr. Simpson answered: ‘I had no client after the election.’ As we now know, that was extremely misleading, if not an outright lie.”
The Washington Times first reported in December that Mr. Simpson pushed the Trump-Alfa server conspiracy theory.