Subpoenas Target Research Firm Tied to Trump Dossier

Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who previously led its Russia investigation, on Capitol Hill in July. Source: Wall Street Journal

 

WASHINGTON—A congressional committee has issued subpoenas targeting a research firm that compiled a dossier of unverified and unflattering information about President Donald Trump.

The subpoenas were recently issued by the House Intelligence Committee to employees at Fusion GPS, which performs research for political and corporate clients.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Fusion GPS worked with a former British spy named Christopher Steele to compile a 35-page dossier on Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow. The information contained in the dossier remains unverified and Mr. Trump has denied having any improper ties to the Russian government or Russian business interests.

The existence of the subpoenas was confirmed by an attorney for Fusion GPS and a Democratic aide familiar with the congressional investigation. The subpoenas were first reported by CNN.

“As we evaluate these subpoenas, we have serious concerns about their legitimacy,” said Joshua Levy, counsel to Fusion GPS.

Mr. Levy has previously said, in response to an earlier subpoena threat, that his clients would consider invoking their constitutional right to refuse to give testimony if compelled to appear in front of Congress.

The issuance of the subpoenas lays bare tensions within the committee, which is conducting a probe of Russian activity during the 2016 election. The subpoenas were issued by Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican who stepped aside from leadership of the probe in April amid criticism over how he was running it, Mr. Levy and the Democratic aide said. The subpoenas were issued without the consent of the Democrats on the committee, according to the Democratic aide.

A spokesman for Mr. Nunes declined to comment.

This isn’t the first time that Fusion GPS, founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, has faced a subpoena threat. The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the firm in July but withdrew it after reaching an agreement with Mr. Simpson to provide closed-door testimony. Mr. Simpson eventually gave 10 hours of voluntary testimony to the committee, according to Fusion GPS’s attorney, Mr. Levy.

Mr. Levy said that the firm wasn’t opposed to cooperating with Congress and was engaged in negotiations about testimony when the subpoenas were issued.

He said Mr. Nunes’s committee was offered the same terms as other committees to “strike a balance between Congress’s right to information with our clients’ privileges and legal obligations.” But he said Mr. Nunes “unilaterally broke our discussions with committee staff and abruptly demanded that my clients submit to a fresh inquiry.”

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Congressional subpoenas are mandatory summonses to appear before Congress, but the legislature has had difficulty enforcing them in the past. Congress typically needs either assistance from a federal court or the Justice Department to help compel a witness who defies a congressional subpoena. A procedure allowing congressional law-enforcement officials to take a witness into custody hasn’t been used in decades.

The 35-page dossier was widely shared in political and media circles during and after the 2016 election. Intelligence agencies made the existence of the dossier known to Mr. Trump in a January meeting. The dossier contains unverified information that is mostly about Mr. Trump’s purported activities and engagements with Russians.

According to a January report from the intelligence agencies, Russia interfered with the election at the highest levels of its government.

Moscow has denied meddling in the U.S. election. Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and has called the investigations into possible ties a “witch hunt.”

Source: Wall Street Journal

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