The opposition research firm behind the Trump dossier says that a House Intelligence Committee subpoena seeking its bank records has a good chance of “ruining” its business, as well as of putting its clients’ safety at risk.
The firm, Fusion GPS, also argued in a late-night court filing that the subpoena, issued earlier this month for TD Bank, will have a “chilling” effect on the First Amendment and privacy rights of it and its clients.
“In short, compliance with this subpoena will not only harm Plaintiff’s business, it has a high likelihood of ruining it,” reads one of the arguments presented by Fusion GPS in court papers filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Fusion’s argument is part of a mad dash effort to prevent the House committee from finding out who hired the firm to investigate Trump. That question has remained a closely-held secret ever since the dossier, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, was published by BuzzFeed in January.
Fusion has refused to identify its clients in response to numerous lawsuits filed against the firm as well as against BuzzFeed and Steele. Fusion founder Glenn Simpson also refused to identify clients during an Aug. 22 interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to various news reports, Fusion was first hired in September 2015 by a Republican “Never Trumper” to investigate the real estate mogul. By the following June, a Hillary Clinton ally had hired Fusion to continue the Trump project. That’s when Steele, a former MI6 agent, was hired to investigate Trump’s activities in Russia.
Fusion’s fight to stave off the release of bank records began last week, after two of Fusion’s partners, Thomas Catan and Peter Fritsch, invoked their Fifth Amendment privileges during depositions with the House committee.
On Friday, lawyers for Fusion and the House committee held a phone conference with U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan in which the opposition research firm argued that TD Bank should be blocked from complying from the subpoena, which was issued on Oct. 4.
Fusion said last week that it was not aware of the subpoena until Oct. 13.
TD Bank informed Fusion that it had compiled the firm’s bank records and was ready to comply with the subpoena by the Oct. 23 deadline. But Fusion was able to convince Chutkan to delay the subpoena by two days in order to hear arguments in favor of blocking the subpoena. Chutkan, an Obama appointee, is expected to make a decision in the case by Wednesday.
In its request for an injunction, Fusion says that if the subpoena is approved, its bank records will reveal thousands of transactions as well as the identities of 25 of its clients and 30 of its contractors. Doing so will not only hurt Fusion’s business but it will put its clients not related to the dossier project at risk of hacking attempts and physical threats, the firm says.
“The breadth of the subpoena will cause harm to the businesses of Fusion’s clients and contractors and also subject those clients and contractors to harassment, fear of cyberattacks and hacking attempts, and, in some instances, danger to their physical safety,” Fusion’s argument reads.
To support its claim, Fusion included anonymous declarations from nine of its clients, none of who were involved in the dossier, asserting that they did not want their identities revealed by the release of the bank records.
“It is possible that revelation of my association with Fusion GPS could lead to my safety being placed in jeopardy,” declared one Fusion client, who also expressed concern that their company “will become the subject of media attention and politicized scrutiny.”