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WASHINGTON – The opposition research firm that helped produce the notorious Trump dossier was looking into possible money laundering by Donald Trump and Russian nationals, according to transcripts released Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee.

In this Nov. 14, 2017, file photo, Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, arrives for a scheduled appearance before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A congressional committee has released a transcript of a private interview with Simpson, the co-founder of the political opposition research firm that commissioned a dossier of allegations involving President Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

The firm, Fusion GPS, found "patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering," Fusion's founder Glenn Simpson said under questioning by committee members.

The Intelligence Committee voted on a bipartisan basis Thursday to release the transcripts of its two November interviews with Simpson.

Simpson, whose company first did research on Trump's business dealings in Russia for the conservative Washington Free Beacon and then for a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee, told investigators there was "an amazing number of people from the former Soviet Union who had purchased properties from Mr. Trump."

One of them, Dmitry Ryboloviev, bought "a derelict estate at an extreme markup in Florida," Simpson testified.

"Generally speaking, the patterns of activity that we thought might be suggestive of money laundering were, you know, fast turnover deals and deals where there seemed to have been efforts to disguise the identity of the buyer," Simpson testified.

>Intel Committee Releases Glenn Simpson Testimony Transcripts

Russians who bought Trump property included gangsters, Simpson told the committee.

"For one thing, there was various criminals buying the properties," Simpson testified. "So there was a gangster — a Russian gangster — living in Trump Tower." 

Simpson said the man went by the name of Talwanchik and ran a "high-stakes gambling ring" out of Trump Tower in New York City.

Simpson testified that the Russian government would have known of any business dealings between Trump and Russian nationals.

At that point, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, asked Simpson if that knowledge could have given the Russian government leverage over Trump.

"Yes," Simpson replied.

Trump's legal team had no immediate comment Thursday night.

After the transcript was released, Schiff issued a statement saying it revealed "serious allegations that the Trump Organization may have engaged in money laundering with Russian nationals." 

Schiff pointed to the fact that Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was quoted in the new tell-all book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff that he believed special counsel Robert Mueller would ultimately go after Trump and his business associates on allegations of money laundering. Both Mueller and the House Intelligence Committee are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"Mr. Simpson, who, prior to his time at Fusion GPS, was an investigative journalist for the Wall Street Journal with a focus on Russia, the Russian government and mafia, and illicit financial transactions, testified that if the Trump Organization did engage in money laundering with the Russians, it would be with the knowledge or approval of the Kremlin and constitute powerful leverage over the president of the United States," Schiff said.

Schiff complained that the committee's Republican majority has "refused to look into this key area and we hope the release of this transcript will reinforce the importance of these critical questions to our investigation."

Fusion GPS has become best known for hiring former British spy Christopher Steele to gather information about Trump's ties to Russia. Steele turned his field interviews into a series of memos — some containing salacious information — which have become known as the Trump dossier.

>Trump attorneys seek special counsel to look into Justice Department links to firm behind dossier

Trump and some congressional conservatives have blasted the dossier as "discredited" and have questioned whether it was used by the FBI to launch its investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Russians and denounced investigations by Congress and Mueller as "witch hunts." He also split with Bannon after Wolff's book came out.

While much of the public focus has been on the collusion issue, Bannon's assertion in Wolff's book that "this is all about money laundering" has changed the storyline in recent days.

>GOP senators recommend criminal probe of 'Steele dossier' author

Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon to testify as part of his probe, according to a report by The New York Times earlier this week.

The transcript released Thursday shows that Simpson told the committee about Trump’s apparent “fascination” with Russia, tracking as many as five trips Trump took to Russia dating to the “late Soviet years.”

Particularly striking, Simpson said, was that Trump did not sign any splashy development deals in Russia despite his great interest in the country.

>Trump lawyer: I'm suing 'BuzzFeed' over dossier claims

“One of the things that struck me as mysterious — because it seemed like he had been there, you know, numerous times — and never comes back with a deal,” Simpson told committee investigators.

“There could be an innocent explanation for that, which is that he could never find … an honest partner," Simpson said.

Later, Simpson said he came to believe that Trump was “in fact developing different kinds of business relationships with the Russians” that aided Trump’s other ventures, from beauty pageants to condominium developments outside of Russia.

Simpson said Trump used Russian connections to help generate early interest in condo projects that he could later use as leverage for "alternative financing" when bank loans were difficult to obtain.

"One of the things that we now know about how the condo projects were financed is that you ... get credit if you can show that you’ve sold a certain number of units," Simpson told the committee. "And so the real trick is to get people who say they’ve bought those (condo) units, and that’s where the Russians are to be found."

More: Steve Bannon subpoenaed by Robert Mueller for the Russia probe: reports

More: Russia's pattern of meddling abroad exposes threat to 2018 U.S. elections: report

More: White House acknowledges telling Bannon not to answer questions in Russia probe

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Source : http://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-now/transcript-fusion-gps-looked-into-possible-money-laundering-between-trump-russians/465-c818038a-0083-4fc2-99ae-9d65d404373e

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