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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Researcher behind salacious Trump dossier questioned by US lawmakers

Glenn Simpson was responsible for hiring the former MI6 agent who reported that Russian intelligence officials had compromising material on the president

The committee headed by Sen Chuck Grassley, left, quizzed Glenn Simpson whose firm produced the salacious dossier on President Trump (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The committee headed by Sen Chuck Grassley, left, quizzed Glenn Simpson whose firm produced the salacious dossier on President Trump (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The co-founder of a Washington political research firm that compiled a dossier of salacious allegations about Donald Trump appeared before congressional investigators on Tuesday, according to sources in the US Senate.

Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS, appeared in a closed session of the Senate Judicial Committee which is investigating ties between Mr Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

A source said his appearance had been publicised in advance but declined to comment on what questions he faced.

Fusion GPS last year hired Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent, to investigate Mr Trump.

His dossier included allegations that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to damage Hillary Clinton, the billionaire businessman’s election opponent. It also included boasts by Russian intelligence agents that they had compromising material – or “kompromat” - on the Republican candidate collected during a visit to Russia.

So far none of its key claims have been verified and several points have been refuted. But ABC News on Tuesday reported that Mr Steele had met FBI agents to reveal details of his sources.

The judicial committee hearing is believed to have focused on questions about sourcing and funding as senators try to piece together how the dossier was compiled.

Mr Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, was initially paid a million dollars by Republicans keen to thwart Mr Trump’s upstart bid for the party nomination. Once the nomination was secured, Mr Simpson worked for Democrats.

Details of the dossier emerged in January, when Mr Trump was warned by intelligence officials that he was in danger of blackmail attempts.

For his part, the president has denied colluding with Russia and dismissed the dossier as the work of “sick people”.

“It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen,” he said at the time. “And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people.

However, with the Russia scandal casting a long shadow over his White House, and the special counsel Robert Mueller intensifying his investigation, political opponents on all sides wonder whether Mr Steele may be able to shed some light on the controversy.

Congressional researchers have travelled to the UK to ask Mr Steele to testify but so far without success.

That leaves Mr Simpson, the man who hired him, in the crosshairs.

During a hearing in July, Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “We will also pursue details about Mr. Simpson’s role in this event and the creation and circulation of the dossier that started this whole controversy.”

Meanwhile, Mr Steele could yet be compelled to testify about his dossier.

A Russian technology executive named in the 35-page document has launched a libel suit against BuzzFeed, which published the unredacted memos, and Mr Steele.