The founder of an opposition research firm that assembled a now-infamous dossier on Donald Trump during his presidential campaign told congressional investigators in November that Trump, as a real estate developer, had ties to Russian mafia figures who appeared to be laundering money through Trump-owned and Trump-licensed properties.
“It gradually reached a point where it seemed like most of the people around Trump had a connection to Russian organized crime or Russia in one way or another,” Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson said, according to a transcript of the interview released Thursday.
Simpson and his firm, which does investigative and consulting work for political campaigns and other groups, have been central figures in the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Kremlin and members of Trump’s team. His testimony to the House intelligence committee offered some of the most explicit allegations yet concerning Trump.
Simpson said Trump, in his real estate deals earlier in his career, apparently built relationships with Italian Mafia figures who controlled broad swaths of the construction industry in New York City, including cement suppliers and labor unions.
President Donald Trump listens as Republican lawmakers speak at a press conference Jan. 6, 2018, at Camp David in Thurmont, Md.
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“We also had sort of more broadly learned that Mr. Trump had long time associations with Italian organized crime figures. And as we pieced together the early years of his biography, it seemed as if during the early part of his career he had connections to a lot of Italian mafia figures, and then gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures,” Simpson testified.
By the 2000s, he continued, “various criminals were buying the properties.”
Asked by the House intelligence committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, whether these transactions would be known by or on behalf of the Russian government, Simpson offered a one-word answer: “Yes.”
He later added: “If people who seem to be associated with the Russian mafia are buying Trump properties or arranging for other people to buy Trump properties, it does raise a question about whether they’re doing it on behalf of the government.”
Simpson acknowledged that much of the material Fusion GPS gathered was based on interviews, rather than documents, and that his work necessarily relied on corroboration and judging someone’s credibility, rather than obtaining iron-clad proof. He repeatedly stopped short of referring to what the firm had gathered as “evidence.”
“I think that the evidence that has developed over the last year, since President Trump took office, is that there is a well-established pattern of surreptitious contacts that occurred last year that supports the broad allegation of some sort of an undisclosed political or financial relationship between The Trump Organization and people in Russia.
He added: “I’m certainly not prepared to say and never wanted to be the person who had to determine whether that’s a criminal conspiracy.”