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tv   Glenn Simpson Crime in Progress  CSPAN  December 15, 2019 8:00pm-8:59pm EST

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>> it started to evolve and then i decided what i really love to do in journalism was investigate complex cases and that there was less market for that in the journalism world for ghost stories were getting shorter, emphasis on breaking news bricco so i decided to try to see if i could do that sort of work in the private
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capacity. >> what sort of stories did you do at the wall street journal quex. >> i started off with politics the early eighties and late nineties and investigating politicians for possible corruption and campaign-finance abuse, ethics in washington and government and over the years that involve two different types of investigative journalism with financial crime, fraud, corporate cases like enron, scandals, financial crisis and savings alone and after 9/11 started to branch out to international criminal such as terrorism and organized crime crime. >> what was peter's role at the journal? to make he was my editor we were stationed together in
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brussels which is the headquarters. a foreign correspondent for most of his career from mexico to brazil to singapore than ended up in brussels with me. >> what type of clients did you attract at fusion gps quex. >> involved in complicated cases trying to figure out if they were competing adequately or if there were irregularities or contracts those of the big two. >> and you did open-source research quex. >> my specialty was documents i was known as the document hound and really it's what i like to do to amass large quantities of documents to see if i can use them to unravel a mystery or figure out a puzzle.
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the united states is rich of public sources of information compared to other parts of the world. i knew had to do that from my years at the journal. the business plan was to use private clients and the greater resources they had to engage in the large scale document and acquisition projects then we would subject them to analysis to come up with results that would be useful to clients we call that decision support to enable a client to make decisions how to proceed with whatever problem they are facing whether fraud or decision of how to compete against other companies. >> not a political opposition research firm quex. >> we didn't do anything like that really. for several years.
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>> what was project to bangor quex. >> it was named for a team we named our projects using random categories or cities or types of fish and the idea is not to give up any clues what that project is about and then to be initiated september october 2015 and that was a look at donald trump's business career. and anything that would be significant. >> the associate of mine from washington politics who said
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he would be interested and ask if he would fund research on donald trump and said i just might. >> eventually to get hooked up called the free beacon which is a conservative oriented publications. >> paul singer quex. >> is among the founders of the free beacon i have never seen documentation of that. >> and he funded project bangor quex. >> it was funded by the free beacon and we did not acquire where the free beacon got their funding from. i think it was generally known at the time he was a supporter. >> why would a conservative
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publication presumably republican fund and opposition research project from donald trump quex. >> it was early primary season for the republican nomination that donald trump was not a real republican and some of his positions and the history suggested maybe he was a democrat or policy positions more akin to a democrat with free trade so there was substantive concerns and that he is not a viable nominee and if nominated the republicans would lose because of his character or policy positions the demagogue orientation to have a terrible experience with pat buchanan with the
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populist candidate who damaged george bush's reelection. >> you write in your book crime in progress from about march 2016 that now there was unanimity on the need to do it they could to keep trump out of the white house and also unanimity as to why. many strengths disqualified him from the job and up little rhetoric and the ties to the criminal underworld with russia money and the record of chicanery tops the list all prior to project bangor. >> that was from the republicans but you are right this is where we were spring 2016 when the republican primaries were starting to
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wind down with seven months of research with donald trump i had formed some very definite opinions of who this person was and if he was qualified to be president and he wasn't and that indicates a lot of our concern of the issues that are now front and center over russia but really about his associations from the figures of the underworld like the italian mafia he was doing business with a lot of characters related to the rusher or former soviet union crime world. >> was this a follow the money case quex. >> it was it started out as a litigation survey because as we talk in the book he has
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been involved in more lawsuits than anyone i have ever investigated an incredible number of cases so it was a paper chase in the beginning but as time went on you understand the empire to figure out where the money was coming from and more and more it was a question where is the money coming from for his projects because he can't get money from banks they won't do business with him because he went bankrupt six times. a lot of other developers wouldn't because the history of not following through on his agreements so where is his money coming from and mystery plots overseas. >> you indicate a lot of the trump tower condominiums were sold to russians.
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>> people from the former soviet union as our by jean not all russians that was one of his biggest sources of the sale. >> why is that region of the world seem to have so many shadowy figures quex. >> because the communist structures make it possible to survive in the post- communist era at led to plutocracy of stealing and cheating and dealing in taxes and moving money out of the country with
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the failure of our countries of the west to instill more of a rule of law culture it was not embedded in the dna. >> did you find names connected with trump that you had found in the mid- nineties when you are doing financial stories for the wall street journal quex. >>. >> the bank of new york scandal which is a case of russian money flowing into new york's biggest banks. later on peter and i put to gather stories along with my wife about russian plutocracy in eastern europe and we wrote about paul manafort and his relationship with those deep
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figures from ukraine. and to do a great deal of reporting and these foreign parties and as an unregistered foreign agent in both of the surface in 2016 that is shocking to disturbing to a great deal of concern on my part and that this was taking place we didn't fully understand. >> one of the issues you talk about with crime in progress is presales. >> that's a way to finance condo developments and
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covering a lot of businesses over the years that's new to me in this case. essentially what you do when you put together a condo project you try to get commitments from buyers and if you can presell one third of the units that income can be used to finance the project go it's a way to capitalize a development without having to get funding from a bank or another source. to promote the development so that stimulates demand for the rest of the units the sales are hyped there is a lot of puffery about how many presales you make if you inflate your presale price you
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can be accused of fraud by buyers that claim you were misled so there was a lot of hype about presales and not the commitments that they claimed. and then to transition in may may 2016. >> how did that happen quex. >> after we concluded donald trump would not be a suitable person we reached out to some folks in the democratic world and offered our services to them. there is a discussion of this in the book i was happy to set
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out the general election i thought there were controversies around hillary clinton i didn't want to get involved with because she also has a lot of international dealings that are problematic. so we were going to sit it out but then we found enough with trump equally disturbing we felt we didn't have a choice. and then to have an obligation to keep going. >> you said hillary clinton is the russia of two evils. >> i have high regard with people around her we don't with covering the clintons for many years. i felt the way they raise money particularly created potential for problems. mark is a partner at the washington law firm and originally it is seattle headquartered. and the lead law firm.
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so then to see if the democrats were interested to continue this research and he were simultaneously and for the clinton campaign. >> does that give you indemnity as the lawyer quex. >> it does not indemnify us as it is widely reported the original idea was to develop information that would be useful in context of advertising and public statements and as a legal representation of trump's history of suing people for saying things about him. that was the idea.
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so then when it went crazy in 2017 we were not indemnified so at what point did christopher steele who is he and at what point did he come into the picture? remake he was the lead russian asked mi six serving around the time the soviet union collapsed and became at the head of the desk at mi six retired 2009 almost the time i left the wall street journal. we were introduced in 2010 by mutual friends and we became friendly and did little bit of business together it is an
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episodic relationship but we did like working together and have these common interests. so when we finally concluded spring 2016 there was something unexplained with donald trump's russia it was an obvious person to go to. so then we pulled tens of thousands of pages of documents and running out of places to look that there's more to be gleaned by talking to people in russia. >> was it democratically funded when christopher steele came along quex. >> it was. the foundation for the decision to bring him on was work under the republicans but
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the democratic clients and to be supportive of the plo and anti- margaret thatcher. that should be a clue about his politics. >> that was his university days i don't think that's really his politics today but the truth is i never really ask chris about his political views. my firm is x journalist and were not very partisan people so with the national security background it doesn't feature in our daily lives or in our conversations very much.
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so i didn't ask about his political orientation so that he had contact with the member that then was ivanka tromp so he had no gray aberration. >> how did he go about his work. >> the first report was june june 2016 it was based from the region. and to travel to the region and speak discreetly. it was oral interviews with people who have knowledge of activities and russia with alleged contacts. >> how did that report get
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transmitted quex. >> the first was on paper by a courier service. we quickly concluded that was not an effective or safe way to transmit digitally was more secure. >> what about the next report? mimic the first report was shocking it broadly stated there was an operation to support donald trump and help him win election and that trump was aware of this and expected to benefit from it. by then the russians had hacked the dnc and there is some discussion of that is that document the picture was the russian attempt to subvert the democracy in the united
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states and that turned out to be correct. >>host: what did you do with that report? >> nothing initially. we tried to follow it up to see if we could get more in terms of client but we can assume those information we receive would go to clients as a matter of course course. >> but mister simpson at the same time you talk about you didn't want to necessarily just provide a real report you wanted it to be vetted. >> that's not quite right. there are two things we can talk about chris wanted to take this to the fbi he thought it was a national
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security concern and raised that with us initially we didn't know if that was appropriate if our client would be wild about that idea but we thought if he thought that was the right thing to do and there was a crime in progress then he should do that but we didn't want to do was interfere with the process by editing the document in any way to political influence the report to the fbi it was a security issue. what we did do in terms of our own understanding is we try to follow up some of the information using our open source systems for articles of russian language media to tell
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us about the people named in these reports a lot of what we try to do not try to prove or disprove things it doesn't fit that category but if they are credible and we still believe this reporting was very credible. >> and you quote mister steele to say he feels strongly 70 percent of what is in his report is correct. >> we agree with that we did evacuations for the book with three years of hindsight and it's very strong stuff and still holds up. >> there was one issue in the first report that was a salacious part you're not sure you wanted to include.
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>> there is a story of a sexual escapade and we just had mixed feelings about it chris thought it was significant the so-called p-letter tape and thought it was significant because it could suggest there was blackmail potential on donald trump. in washington we had a different reaction because we come at this from a very different perspective that this was a story that would never be proven or disproven and was here nor there we were more concerned with the overall picture of the conspiracy i will add this isn't the only thing chris found in reporting that created concerns about blackmail that the fact there
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was a secret relationship between the kremlin and then was a secret business deal and russia so basically is right with the compromise you could argue back and forth if it was personal in nature or financial but not that there was no secret relationship. >> how many reports are contained in the steel dossier quex. >> i believe around one dozen june through december 2016. >> out in june at what point did it start leaking to the media and how?
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>> what we talk about in the book over the summer 2016 as the russian hack attack and testified on dench in my - - and test of - - intensified we talk to reporters but we didn't tell anyone what was in the dossier we had this raw material and we used it for worker information and talked about the subjects it was only after the election that we really shared some of that was shared at the very beginning or at the very end of the election with this addition all sharing of the contents after the election and early 2017 we never intended for
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this to leak to the press or be presented online. >>host: january 2017 it hits the press. >> right what we did at the end we were concerned the fbi was not taking this seriously we have seen indications donald trump agents at the fbi so it was suggested we could raise this with senator john mccain and he could raise it with james call me and we could ensure this was being dealt with and we felt that would hopefully put this to rest in terms of our obligation to make sure this wasn't swept under the rug so we gave it to one of his advisers kramer he is an acquaintance of mine and
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someone that had helped us back in the 2000's with our early stories when my wife and i were at the wall street journal. she originally had met him and had been helpful to us. so we trusted him from that relationship so given at that time we might have suspected he was going to do the same thing but as it turned out he shared it with some journalists and then they eventually published it that happened on january 10th before the inauguration and
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then all hell broke loose. >>host: what do you mean? what happened? >> we became subjects of the international media frenzy and immediately became targets for the trump associates accused of peddling information and journalism for higher. and were placed at the center of this controversy if donald trump had a cover-up with the government of russia. i just remember getting calls from japan in the middle of the night and crazy stuff like that because of the nature of the controversy and the fact russia was engaged in this hybrid war against our country created some security concerns. >> your firm was described as the peak low profile in the
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various were any of those descriptions correct? >> we do something that is unique that combines the skills journalism with other fields like intelligence hence the name of fusion but not because we are deliberately secretive this is where i do think we are misrepresented some say were looking for attention we are asked journalists in public life all my adult life basically so i have done a lot of public things i speak at universities and journalism conferences. so to be called secretive is a misnomer that we were comfortable in our plans. >>host: what was christopher
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steele's reaction in england when this hit the news? >> he packed up the kids and left home immediately and went to stand with it on - - stay with friends and other places. because of his previous work on russia there was an immediate concern he would be in danger and there was some legitimate concern of retaliation and then the harassment of the media with you find yourself in the middle so that was a very uncertain time and we were concerned about all sorts of things from the russians.
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>>host: during this time there is a lots of opinion reporting and you take on your colleagues from the wall street journal specifically kim. >> take. >> taking on a guess is the right word we find it almost amusing they are so insistent on defaming us and have a long-term campaign of defamation i think it is beneath that paper that has a great tradition for journalism to constantly engage in these attacks against us so it is remarkable for a long time they would have annunciation's of us almost daily all kinds of allegations with no semblance to reality the point
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i'm trying to make is that this is by people who know us and are very familiar with our backgrounds very careful journalists who are pretty straightforward and honest it's just sad to see them stooping to these kinds of attacks. >> the office of inspector general came out with a report on operation hurricane looking into the russia trump connections in the wall street journal editorial of that report and this is what they wrote december 112019, the fbi that secret process for warrants to spy on carter page it did so by supplying the court with false information produced by christopher steele an agent of the hillary
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clinton campaign. >> is total nonsense. the material from steel was in the footnote carter page was a long time espionage suspect for many years and turns out other agents were convicted of espionage. so that is a very deliberate misconstruing of the history of all of this. we see this constantly. it is the old big lie essentially telling the untruth as often as you can as loudly as you can so people will fall for it. >>host: in the report itself the oig report on operation hurricane michael horowitz writes two witnesses simpson and former state department official weiner declined a repast on - - request for voluntary interviews and we
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were unable to compel their testimony why didn't you testify or submit testifying? >> that's a great question. my testimony was compelled three times in front of congress and i testified for over 20 hours i went through this entire story under oath subject to criminal penalties and i answered every question imaginable about the origin of this all of which when was very expensive to be represented through all of this by a team of lawyers some of the inspector general came around after we had already done this three times our position was we told her story and the only thing this would produce would be more legal bills and the outcome would be identical to the previous three. they have investigated us repeatedly and they always find the same thing so coming
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out were everyone else came out so that's where we are christopher steele did not start the fbi investigation nobody did anything wrong there was no conspiracy to rig the election but is what we said all along we feel like we made the right call call. >> senator grassley plays a role in the crime in progress? >> they were the original defenders to step forward and investigate the investigators what they did for the first years of the trump presidency was investigate us and attempt to depict us as partisan hacks and fabricators that went on for two years and it's what the wall street journal said
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it was very disingenuous they weren't interested whether the russians ran the massive operation but obviously now we know they did. >> just to go back how did the fbi get wind of the reports to fusion. >> are originally chris approached the fbi another guy that chris had worked with on a scandal and was an agent of organized crime agent and worked with chris on oligarchs and plutocracy and then shortly thereafter chris also met up and someone that i knew a little bit. >>host: and he was and is at
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doj? >> correct he has been punished to listen and pass along some of this information along with other decent people they campaign vilification against those doing their jobs unfortunately is one of the many people who suffered through this people ask me and i say it was unpleasant for us but nothing compared to those who had careers damaged and reputations hurt those things that have been done to them that behest of donald trump. >> a distinguished expert and linguist working for the cia she approached me in 2015. i knew her from conferences.
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until recently the world of russian organized crime expertise was very small like people interested in islamic terrorism. so yes i knew her from events where we met and had casual conversation so she approached me in 2015 she was between full-time jobs looking for part-time work and said if you have anything i saw your name in the newspaper they could use my russian language skills i'm available and i did at the time it had nothing to do with donald trump but it was a case of an alleged sex trafficking operation. >> from the oig report michael
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horowitz writes providing the information he received from steel and simpson to the fbi which was much but not all of the same information through direct contact with steel or did not advise any supervisors in the office of the deputy attorney general that his contacts with steel and simpson for his life's work with fusion gps or acting as a conduit of this information to the fbi until the office of the deputy attorney general confronted or about his activities late 2017 is that correct? >> i don't know i have no reason to dispute it i don't know the internal workings of the doj i would just add the ig found he had violated any rules or policies or
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transgression may be had a lapse of judgment in hindsight that's the ig's job hindsight 2020 a lot of those other considerations the country was under attack and in that way it's hard to fault him for doing his job protecting his country. >> how did david become a part of the story? >> we have traveled in the same circles as journalist generally and then i had occasional contact with him after i left the journal and started fusion. and investigative reporter who now runs the bureau and is also espionage bath and has written one or two books about
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espionage matters. he reached out to me at the very end of the campaign at a point where we were very concerned what was happening inside the government and the fbi had to reopen the investigation into hillary clinton and was pressing the fact there was a parallel investigation into donald trump. that really concerned and confused us. he asked to talk to me and i agreed to meet him so that led him speaking over skype in the story that ran in the final days how chris had information to the fbi. >> you express this disappointment that some of the stories and the information that you found out
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was not rising to the top of the media. >> it's difficult to describe because we were frustrated at the fact some of this didn't get more attention but we are cognizant a lot of this was hard to believe that the time so we don't think reporters fell down on the job so much this was difficult to raise and was frustrating at the time and in retrospect the country would have benefited if they paid attention. >> were you frustrated by the obama administration silence? >> yes we were. but we were cognizant they were in a difficult position republicans were very
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resistant to acknowledge what was happening to do something about it and that put them in a very difficult position also we didn't know what the obama administration was doing the problem in general in a case like this with parallel operation you have no visibility into what is happening to the fbi or cia so we did not know. >> from crime in progress the obama administration put out a statement trying to dominate the evening news cycle us intelligence community is confident the russian government directed to the recent compromises of e-mails including us political organizations the recent disclosures are intended to interfere with us election process october 72016 what
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else happened that day? [laughter] >> wikileaks released a new batch of e-mails that's the way the day ended the other event that the washington post published an audio recording of donald trump talking about sexually assaulting women all of these occurred in one day perhaps to drown out the announcement by the government. >> have you found efforts by the congress to investigate the 2016 election quex. >> certainly those efforts that have taken place since the house changed hands with the democratic majority
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control have been more serious and sincere for the first two years they really use their power to obscure the truth and cover things up and discredit us to raise concerns about what was going on things have gotten better from that sense in the last year schiff has been a remarkably able investigator the lost time from the presidency has left a lot of people confused creating an air in conclusiveness. >> that the body of evidence that has emerged leaves question about what happened. there is a concerted effort by
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the kremlin and he instigated and encouraged it. and if there is enough evidence you cannot argue 145 contacts between trump and the kremlin or russia during the campaign you can't argue donald trump was doing business secretly during the campaign. so to my mind the picture of what happened is pretty clear. but i get the fact that other people don't see that because there is a deliberate effort to obscure that by a donald trump and his attorney general william bar and they succeeded to some extent to what the facts are. >> can you draw a straight line or a crooked line between your august 2015 e-mail to your republican friend and the
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mueller report? >> it is my life so there are no straight lines. >> so what i have been worried about in terms of the increasing destabilization of the last by a wave of criminality coming out of the east and the fact it has seeped into politics and what i was writing about ten years ago so for me it is one long
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story and then to talk about this now how much of a threat this is two-way or lifelong - - a way of life in the democratic system and the rule of law and country. >> does fusion gps still exist? them i guess 16 person firm it's a wonderful place to work. >>host: are you doing more political work now? mimic it's a hard question to answer were not doing campaign work but certainly those that have the political cast we've done some political work on others but i still say it's a very small part of our business democracy integrity project that was set up early
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2017 to continue to investigate foreign interference in democracies what we suspected and now concluded there is a concerted effort of russia to undermine democracy and democratic elections in the west uk france germany america much bigger than donald trump that this is an assault against our system and that's really where we need to put our investigative efforts to expose what rush is really up to on a much broader scale. >> did the democracy integrity project is the results available to the general public? >> some of it.
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because my role as a contractor i do believe some of what they have done. >> but it was started by fusion gps. >> so we continued and then we worked without a client for many months we talked about the need for some sort of effort to continue to look at the issue of russia on democracy the former investigator for the senate intelligence committee and we worked as a vendor. >> how has the last three or four years changed your life quex. >> it has significantly turned
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upside down. i became a public person that did not desire or long for and this whole controversy consumes so much of my time it made me unable to work on the other aspects of our business that i enjoy and had to deal with lawsuits i haven't had to deal with in the past. >> and then you talk about by paying lawyers. >> we believe there is a deliberate attempt to bankrupt us by burying us with lawsuits and subpoenas it seemed like it was a possibility at one point that we would be buried in so many cases no matter how
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much money we could never pay our lawyers. >> which a relationship with mister steele and the co-author? >> we're all very close we talk to each other all the time we are supportive of each other we know we did nothing wrong and decisions made were in the best interest of our countries and societies we would like to see this through that everyone should understand what we are worried about so we are all friendly. >> but you went through some rough patches. >> of course. you are in a foxhole and you are arguing should we retreat? and the pressure makes for a tense time. >>host: one more name jacob
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berkowitz he is her in a lot more - - analyst diffusion and was hired as one of our earliest employees and got the assignment to work on project to bangor in the beginning normally you have one person who is the keeper of the record and does the close-up management a project leader is myself then an analyst who manages day to day. he became a walking encyclopedia of information for trump and russia. >> this is the conclusion there is ample evidence amassed over the past three years to show the trump campaign and russian government repeatedly work
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together to swing 2016 election and succeeded the trunk campaigns conspiring with russia may not be a crime provable in federal court but amounts to the most significant betrayals in american history. >> i believe that today. i also feel when we wrote that the summer of 2019 we had no inkling the president was out there engaging in conduct almost exactly the same that we said he'd been doing that the proof of that observation is obvious today with impeachment proceedings it's hard to deny he has a proclivity to do this. >>host: glenn simpson and peter fritz the cofounders of

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