Senate Panel To Hear Testimony From Businessman Targeted By Trump Dossier Firm
A London-based businessman who was investigated last year by the opposition research firm behind the so-called Trump dossier will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, The Daily Caller has learned.
Bill Browder says that he will “definitely” be testifying about a complaint he filed with the Justice Department last year in which he accused Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, and a former Soviet intelligence officer named Rinat Akhmetshin of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring agents of foreign governments to disclose their lobbying and consulting work.
Founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS investigated Browder last year as part of an influence campaign aimed at neutering the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law which allows for sanctions against Russians accused of human rights abuses.
At around the same time, Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to research Trump’s activities in Russia. Fusion was working for an unidentified political ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
Browder is not linked to or identified in the dossier, but he has said that Fusion GPS’s involvement on the anti-Magnitsky effort raises questions about the veracity of the anti-Trump research.
“Glenn Simpson knowingly spread false information on behalf of people connected to the Russian government to try to protect Russian torturers and murderers from consequences,” Browder told TheDC in January, just after BuzzFeed news published Steele’s dossier. (RELATED: Opposition Research Firm Behind Trump Dossier Worked On Pro-Kremlin Lobbying Effort)
Browder was the leading force behind the campaign to pass the Magnitsky Act, a move which angered Russian president Vladimir Putin. Putin retaliated by barring U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.
Fusion’s work on the two projects — one favorable to the Kremlin (Magnitsky) and the other unfavorable (the dossier) — has drawn attention from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Grassley has inquired with the firm and with the FBI about the salacious dossier, which Steele began compiling last June.
The Republican has questioned why the FBI reportedly used an uncorroborated document financed by a Clinton ally as part of the basis for its investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. (RELATED: Trump Dossier Firm Refuses To Identify Its Political Clients)
Grassley has also asked the FBI about reports that the bureau informally agreed to pay Steele $50,000 to continue his research on Trump. That payment was reportedly never made, though it is unclear why. Both the FBI and Fusion GPS have avoided answering Grassley’s questions about the dossier.
In his letters to the FBI, Grassley has cited a complaint that Browder filed with the Justice Department last July. In that document, Browder said that Fusion GPS was waging an opposition research campaign against him on behalf of a Russian businessman who was under investigation in the U.S. for money laundering.
Fusion GPS had been hired by the international law firm, BakerHostetler. The law firm was in turn was working for Denis Katsyv, the head of a Cyprus-based company called Prevezon Holdings.
Sergei Magnitsky, the namesake for the Magnitsky Act, was Browder’s lawyer during the 2000s, when the financier did business in Russia. Magnitsky died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian jail in 2009. He was imprisoned after uncovering a $230 million money laundering scheme that targeted Browder’s businesses.
Prevezon, Denis Katsyv’s company, was implicated in the money laundering scheme. Prevezon reached a $6 million settlement with the U.S. government in the case in May.
Browder tells TheDC that he will testify about Fusion GPS, Simpson, BakerHostetler lawyer Mark Cymrot, and Akhmetshin, the former Soviet agent who is now a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist and consultant.
Akhmetshin was the lobbyist of record for a group formed last year called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGIF).
The organization’s official mission was to end the Russian adoption ban implemented by Putin. But in reality, HRAGIF used adoption as a dangle to compel U.S. lawmakers to revise the Magnitsky Act. (RELATED: Russian Lawyer Secured Trump Tower Meeting By Promising Dirt On Hillary Clinton)
News outlets like Politico and The Daily Beast reported last year that Akhmetshin was seen on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress specifically against the Magnitsky Act.
The anti-Magnitsky campaign took a new twist over the weekend after it was revealed that a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya met on June 9, 2016 with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Veselnitskaya is a lawyer for Katsyv, the Russian businessman, and co-founder of HRAGIF.
It emerged over the weekend that Veselnitskaya secured the Trump Tower meeting by claiming that she had derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. But Trump Jr. said in a statement that Veselnitskaya offered little information about Clinton. Instead, she turned the 20-minute meeting into a discussion of the Magnitsky Act.
After The New York Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday, Trump’s legal team pointed to Veselnitskaya’s work on Magnitsky and that lobbying campaign’s links to Fusion GPS. A spokesman for Trump’s legal team suggested that the Russian lawyer could have sought to compromise the campaign.
It has since emerged that Trump Jr. was approached for the meeting by Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who works for Emin Agalarov, a Kazakh musician whose billionaire father is close to the Russian government.
The Trumps and Agalarovs have done business together, most notably on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
As for Akhmetshin, he has worked for years as a political operative in Washington, D.C.
In 2014, he was accused of hacking the computer systems of a company called International Mineral Resources on behalf of EuroChem Volga-Kaliy, a Swiss fertilizer company controlled by a Russian oligarch.
In a deposition the next year, Akhmetshin denied hacking the company, saying that he obtained documents about the firm through something called the London information bazaar, a secretive exchange network used by journalists and investigators.
Patrick Salisbury, a lawyer for EuroChem, said in a sworn statement that Akhmetshin had “deep contacts” to reporters at prestigious news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He also obtains research from Global Witness, a non-profit group that is heavily funded by progressive billionaire George Soros, Salisbury said.