Feinstein reunites with ex-staffer who worked with Fusion GPS on Trump-Russia investigation

Feinstein reunites with ex-staffer who worked with Fusion GPS on Trump-Russia investigation
(Image: Screen grab of video via Twitter, @JasonCalvi)

By Chuck Ross

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein reunited with a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who worked with Fusion GPS and dossier author Christopher Steele to continue investigating the now-debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theory after President Donald Trump took office.

Feinstein and two of her Senate colleagues, Angus King and Sheldon Whitehouse, appeared at the premier Tuesday for “The Report,” a movie about former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel Jones’s work on a report about CIA torture during the George W. Bush administration.

The trio of senators posed for photos with Jones, who is played by Adam Driver in the movie.

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Jones received national attention in 2016, after he began speaking publicly about the torture report, which he compiled while working as a staffer for Feinstein when she served as chairwoman of the intelligence panel. King is a member of the committee, while Whitehouse served when the torture investigation was underway.

Jones has received far less attention for the work he’s done since leaving his Senate post. He formed a non-profit group, The Democracy Integrity Project (TDIP), in January 2017 to investigate foreign interference in Western democracies.

As part of the project, TDIP hired Fusion GPS and the firm founded by Steele, the former British spy who wrote the anti-Trump dossier the FBI used to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page.

TDIP’s tax filings show the group paid Fusion GPS more than $3.3 million in 2017. Steele received more than $250,000 that same year for “research.” The group also paid $150,000 to Istok Associates, a London-based consulting firm founded by a former journalist who has pushed the disputed theory that Russians meddled in the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

Fusion GPS had hired Steele a year earlier on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump’s possible links to Russia. Democrats paid Fusion GPS more than $1 million for that project. Fusion, which is based in Washington, D.C., paid Steele $170,000.

A Washington-based attorney with links to Steele told the Daily Caller News Foundation in 2018 that Jones told him during a meeting in March 2017 that Fusion GPS functioned as a “shadow media organization” to disseminate information about Trump and Russia.

Jones also took credit for a story published by Reuters on March 17, 2017, about wealthy Russians who had invested in Trump real estate in Florida.

“Our team helped with this,” Jones wrote to the attorney, Adam Waldman, in a text message reviewed by the DCNF.

A who’s who of Washington insiders attended Tuesday’s showing, which was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Journalists at prominent news outlets like CNN, The Associated Press, and The Guardian attended the gala. Natasha Bertrand, a reporter at Politico who has pushed the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, moderated a panel discussion with Jones and Scott Z. Burns, the director of the movie.

Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, was also spotted at the event.

Jones’s work with Fusion GPS and Steele has been highlighted mostly by conservative media outlets and Republican lawmakers who have questioned the basis for the FBI’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In the Fusion GPS-funded dossier, Steele said the Trump campaign took part in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin. The special counsel’s investigation found otherwise. The report from that investigation said there was no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy.

Jones’s interaction Tuesday with Feinstein and her Senate colleagues raises the question of whether they remained in contact throughout that investigation.

Jones told the FBI in March 2017 that he hired Fusion GPS and Steele, a former MI6 officer, “to continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Jones told the FBI the consortium planned to provide information from their investigation to the media, the FBI, and to policymakers.

Feinstein’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether she had contact with Jones regarding Russia- or Trump-related matters. Jones did not respond to a request for comment submitted through his new non-profit, Advance Democracy Inc.

The New Yorker reported in 2018 that an unidentified Democratic senator reached out to Jones to look into unfounded allegations involving a covert line of communications between computer servers for a Russian bank and the Trump Organization.

A Democratic colleague of Sen. Mark Warner, who replaced Feinstein as the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, approached Jones in March 2017 and asked him to review data regarding computer server contacts between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, according to The New Yorker. Jones assembled a team of computer scientists to review the data, according to the report.

Glenn Simpson and Steele had promoted the Alfa Bank theory prior to the 2016 election. Robert Mueller told Congress in public testimony July 24 that he did not believe the allegations were accurate.

According to notes from his FBI interview, which are cited in a House Intelligence Committee report released April 28, 2018, Jones said he had secured $50 million in funding from as many as 10 progressive donors for his project with Fusion and Steele.

A spokesman for George Soros confirmed in October 2017 that the billionaire gave $1 million to TDIP.

Jones’s operation was unknown to the public until January 2018, when Sen. Chuck Grassley, who served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the FBI for documents related to Jones.

Several days later, Jones formed a separate non-profit group, Advance Democracy Inc.

There is another link between Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee. TDIP worked with a group called New Knowledge to investigate online disinformation campaigns.

SSCI hired New Knowledge to research Russian bot activity as part of its investigation into Russian social disinformation campaigns. New Knowledge was involved in its own disinformation scandal. The firm used fake personas to post material on Facebook during the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama, The New York Times reported in December 2018.

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