Officials at Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that has been tied to a dossier alleging Russian connections to President Donald Trump’s political campaign, invoked their right against self-incrimination that is delineated in the Fifth Amendment. Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch, and colleague Thomas Catan, both pleaded the Fifth Amendment before a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. They took the Fifth on all questions posed by members of the committee. Yet to appear is another Fusion GPS co-founder, Glenn Simpson.

Known as the “Steele dossier,” the report was prepared by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. It was reportedly prepared at first at the behest of a Republican donor opposed to Trump’s candidacy, and later extended by a Democrat who sought to favor Hillary Clinton. The 35-page uncorroborated report contained salacious accusations against Trump, asserting that the Russian government had collected compromising information on him for years. The document was circulated to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), journalists and the FBI in 2016.

Speaking for his clients was attorney Joshua Levy, who said: “No American should experience the indignity that occurred today.” Representing the Fusion GPS personnel, Levy said. “No American should be compelled to appear before a congressional committee just to invoke constitutional privileges.”

Sources are telling various media that committee staffers for Democrats on the committee sought to run interference for Fusion GPS, and interrupted Republicans on the committee. 

Attorney Levy wrote a letter to the committee on Monday that said that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) was acting “in bad faith.” In a 17-page document, Levy wrote, “Based on this Committee’s bad faith interactions with the undersigned counsel and its pattern of unprofessional conduct exhibited during different points throughout this investigation, you have left us with no choice but to advise our clients to assert their privileges in the face of these subpoenas.” he wrote, in a 17-page list of reasons why the company would not comply.

According to Fox News, a congressional official said that both Democrats and Fusion GPS have tried to “obstruct every effort to get the facts” about the Steele dossier. For his part, Levy said that Nunes is more interested in using his office to “learn about who funded opposition research on Donald Trump than whether the Russian government interfered with our election. Americans of all political stripes should find his actions chilling." 

Levy went on to say, “But that is what Chairman Nunes did today with our clients at Fusion GPS, breaking with the practice of his committee in this investigation. The committee has not imposed this requirement on any other witness, including the president’s men.” He said the the committee had subjected the Fusion partners to “disparate treatment” that constitutes an unethical “abuse of power.” He also accused the “Trump cabal” of seeking to “demonize” Fusion GPS over its ties to the dossier. “Any attempt to change either the narrative or a congressional committee’s focus will not change the facts, which we hope all serious investigators will learn,” Levy concluded.

Even though the report has been largely uncorroborated, it has become part of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race. According to recent reports,  special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into it. The dossier was published in January by BuzzFeed and provided to then-President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.
 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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