In a move of partisan brinksmanship, Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of some 10 hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in closed session offered by Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who headed the research firm behind the now-infamous dossier containing unverified and salacious allegations concerning President Donald Trump’s ties to Russian officials, without approval from Sen. Charles Grassley and the Republican committee leadership.
Sen. Feinstein claimed that her intent behind unilaterally releasing Simpson’s cloistered testimony was to “set the record straight,” as Simpson’s statements concerning the genesis of the Trump dossier has become the subject of “innuendo and misinformation.”
Instead of providing the intended clarity, Sen. Feinstein’s premature dissemination only muddies the waters further.
Much of Simpson’s testimony would likely be considered hearsay. Lawyers know that hearsay is legally defined as an out-of-court statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted therein. With well-defined exceptions, hearsay is not generally accepted as admissible evidence tending to prove a material fact.
So when Simpson testified that hired British spy Christopher Steele said this-or-that to him about what he was finding about President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, or that Steele told Simpson such-and-such about what his reporting obligations to the FBI may or may not have been, or of what Simpson said Steele briefed the FBI, or that Simpson said that the FBI had independent sourcing of information contained in the dossier, such statements hold little to any evidentiary value to a fact-finder. The real value in Simpson’s hearsay is how it would inform the committee of the need to obtain sworn testimony from other targets like Steele and whomever he met with at the FBI to get to admissible and direct evidence.
Thanks to Sen. Feinstein’s gambit, the testimony offered by future witnesses may be forever tainted.
Releasing Simpson’s hearsay offers a narrative for interested parties to not either follow or refute. Steele and other relevant witnesses can be prepared to follow Simpson’s bread crumbs by corroborating his hearsay with candid testimony. But it cuts both ways — witnesses from the Trump camp can also be prepped to deny points that Simpson claims Steele told him about conclusions sourced from the dossier. In both cases, the committee’s mandate may be irreparably compromised.
Situations like this are precisely why courts conducting trials and hearings sequester witnesses — it ensures that one’s testimony does not influence another’s. In the end, all testimony on all sides can be called into question.
This is a victory for Sen. Feinstein and the Democrats, as the lingering stench of Trump-Russia collusion can never be fully fumigated from Washington, and they can “litigate” the issue through the midterm elections and beyond in the only court that seemingly matters to them — the court of public opinion.
Your guess is as good as ours as to whether this was Sen. Feinstein’s intention all along. Intended or not, Sen. Feinstein’s release of Simpson’s low-value testimony is a shot across the bow of Sen. Grassley, Senate Republicans, and President Trump himself, who have all lost a major opportunity to “set the record straight.”
Gene Berardelli is a street-smart trial attorney who, through his time as the Law Chair of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, New York, has developed a solid reputation as an election attorney successfully representing conservative candidates.
Russell Gallo is a security expert and combat veteran who attained the rank of First Sergeant in the New York Army National Guard, earning a Combat Action Badge in Iraq. Together, they host Behind Enemy Lines Radio, a national award-winning radio show and podcast broadcasting out of "The People's Republic of" New York that airs weekly on AM and FM radio stations as part of the Talk America Radio network. To read more of their reports — Click Here Now.
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