House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is pressing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for answers about his interactions with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the opposition research firm behind the Democrat-funded Steele dossier.
In a statement released on Friday, McCarthy questioned whether Schiff, a California Democrat, should recuse himself from the Intelligence panel’s Russia investigation because of a meeting he had with Simpson at the Aspen Security Forum in July 2018.
“Given Chairman Schiff’s previous underlying rationale when calling for others to recuse themselves from Russia-related investigations, in order to avoid charges of hypocrisy or perceived bias, should Chairman Schiff recuse himself from his intended investigations after meeting with a witness of an ongoing investigation?” McCarthy asked.
The Schiff-Simpson meeting has come under scrutiny because of Simpson’s role in pushing the unverified Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory. Simpson has also been accused by some Republican lawmakers of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his interactions with government officials while working on the dossier. (Related: Fusion GPS – The Connections)
During testimony to the House panel on Nov. 14, 2017, Simpson withheld that he met with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr prior to the November 2016 election. Simpson said that he met Ohr only after the election. But Ohr told Congress on Aug. 28, 2018 that he and Simpson met on Aug. 22, 2016 at Simpson’s request. They met again on Dec. 10, 2016.
Ohr’s wife worked as a contractor for Fusion during the 2016 campaign. And after the election, Ohr served as the back channel between the FBI and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who worked for Fusion GPS on the dossier project.
During the same testimony in which Simpson has been accused of lying, Schiff sought investigative leads from the Fusion GPS founder.
McCarthy asserted that it is “virtually unprecedented … that a now Chairman of an investigative committee would seek direction from a fatally biased witness who was actually paid by political opponents to uncover dirt on the President.”
Schiff recently announced that he plans to expand the committee’s investigation into whether President Trump conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election and whether foreign agents have leverage over Trump.
The Steele dossier is the main source document for that conspiracy theory. In the 35-page document, Steele alleges a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin to release emails stolen from Democrats. Steele also claimed that the Kremlin is blackmailing Trump with a video tape of him with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.
None of the core allegations about Trump have been verified in the more than two years since the dossier was published.
McCarthy is also accusing Schiff of running cover for Fusion GPS and the FBI, which relied heavily on the dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Schiff served as a roadblock to House Intel Republican efforts to obtain Fusion’s bank records. Those documents, which were released after a legal fight in October 2017, revealed that the Clinton campaign and DNC paid Fusion GPS $1 million to investigate Trump.
Schiff’s office and Fusion GPS have downplayed the Aspen meeting.
“The chairman did not have any pre-planned meeting with Glenn Simpson, and any conversation with him at the Aspen conference would have been brief and social in nature,” a spokesman for Schiff told The Hill, which reported the meeting on Feb. 7.
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