WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, defied her Republican colleagues Tuesday to unilaterally make public a much-discussed transcript of the committee’s interview with one of the founders of the firm that produced a salacious and unsubstantiated dossier outlining a Russian effort to aid the Trump campaign.
But both the circumstances of its release and the vivid picture it paints of Simpson’s operation and his chief Russia investigator, Christopher Steele, provided fresh ammunition to both sides of a growing fight over the dossier.
In his testimony, Simpson sought to portray himself as an astute researcher well versed in the Russian government and that country’s organized crime. And he said Steele, the former British spy he hired to investigate the campaign’s ties to Russia, had “a Sterling reputation as a person who doesn’t exaggerate, doesn’t make things up, doesn’t sell baloney.”
Steele believed that his investigation had unearthed “a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed,” Simpson told the committee.
Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the firm’s co-founders, had called for the Judiciary Committee to release the transcript in an op-ed essay in The New York Times, arguing that it would show that Republicans were unfairly smearing their work. The request inspired a tart back-and-forth with Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s Republican chairman, but appeared to be going nowhere until Tuesday, when Feinstein took the side of Fusion.
“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” she said. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
For Feinstein and Grassley, two senior senators who worked closely last summer to initiate a joint Russia investigation, the breach was striking. But it reflects the growing divide between the two parties.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.