House panel drops effort to force testimony on Trump 'dossier'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional panel on Wednesday dropped attempts to force the founder of a firm that hired a former British spy to compile a dossier of links between the 2016 Trump election campaign and Russia to testify under oath, a lawyer for the firm said.

Fusion GPS lawyer Joshua Levy said in a statement that Republican Representative Mike Conaway and Democrat Adam Schiff, leaders of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee's investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russia, had "agreed to withdraw a subpoena" served on Glenn Simpson, a founder of the firm.

"Mr. Simpson will instead sit for a voluntary interview next week, and nothing will be said at that interview – per the agreement of Mr. Conaway and Mr. Schiff – shall interfere with Mr. Simpson's ability to assert privileges in this investigation," Levy said.

He said that under this agreement, Fusion GPS would be allowed to "cooperate while honoring its obligations to clients."

6 PHOTOS
Former British spy compiled dossier on Trump-Russia ties
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Former British spy compiled dossier on Trump-Russia ties
A man enters the building housing the offices of Orbis Business Intelligence where former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele works, in central London, Britain January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A camera man stands outside the building housing the offices of Orbis Business Intelligence where former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele works, in central London, Britain January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A police car drives past an address which has been linked by local media to former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who has been named as the author of an intelligence dossier on President-elect Donald Trump, in Wokingham, Britain, January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
People stand outside the building housing the offices of Orbis Buiness Intelligence (C) where former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele works, in central London, Britain, January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Journalists gather outside the headquarters of Orbis Business Intelligence, the company run by former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, on January 12, 2017 in London, England. Mr Steele has been named as the man who compiled the intelligence dossier on US President-elect Donald Trump, alleging that Russian security forces have compromising recordings that could be used to blackmail him. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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Three congressional committees and a special counsel are looking into former MI6 officer Christopher Steele's reports that are central to investigations into U.S. allegations that Russia tried to help Donald Trump's campaign. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations and President Trump has called the probes a witch hunt.

Fusion lawyer Levy said that on Aug. 22, Simpson had appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answered questions for 10 hours. Two other Fusion investigators also were summoned before the House Intelligence Committee, but they declined to respond to questions, citing their rights under the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which protect free speech and allow legal witnesses to avoid self-incrimination.

The committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, recused himself from the investigation, but he and some other Republicans have continued seeking information about who paid Fusion for the dossier. The company has resisted such disclosures, saying it promises its clients confidentiality.

A conservative website, the Washington Free Beacon, has already said that it hired Fusion to research Trump and other Republican candidates. A law firm representing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign later paid Fusion $1.02 million for work on Trump and Russia.

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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.
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A lawsuit by Fusion against its own bank seeking to block a subpoena the House Intelligence Committee issued for two years of the bank's records is still pending in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., a Fusion representative said.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball and John Walcott; editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

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