This post is about William “Bill” Browder’s recent Senate testimony on the enforcement of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. While you don’t have to trust Browder on other issues, his testimony makes it rather likely that Fusion GPS tried to smear him in the media and was paid for that by a firm owned by Russian nationals. That has implications for the provenance and veracity of the so-called Steele dossier, paid for and peddled by Fusion GPS.

When Bill Browder claims that Fusion GPS pitched (unsuccessfully) slanderous stories about him and Sergei Magnitsky to US media, chances are he knows what he’s talking about. Browder was a major factor behind the passage of the Magnitsky Act and was involved, as the principal provider of information to the federal prosecutors and eventually a witness, in US v. Prevezon Holdings Ltd. No doubt he’s been paying close attention to everything related to the Magnitsky case in Russia and the US.

To defend itself from the accusations of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, Fusion would probably point out that it was merely reporting the findings of Russian courts and prosecutors. (Still I doubt these dispatches mentioned Magnitsky’s posthumous conviction for tax evasion.) Let them try and see how it goes. Eventually someone will note that the Russian court rulings Fusion cited were manufactured for propaganda purposes in the first place.

This should establish the core of the case against Fusion GPS: spreading information which they knew was most likely false and which was indistinguishable from the official position of a foreign government.

Beyond this core, Browder’s claims depend too much on his grand narrative. He seems to believe that Fusion GPS was paid by the Kremlin to smear him. If true, one would also suspect the Kremlin paid Fusion in 2016 to produce the Steele dossier. I don’t think the evidence in public view at the moment is strong enough for these inferences. It’s probably OK to say that Fusion GPS disseminated dubious claims about Browder and his associates that nearly coincided with the Kremlin’s official narrative. Also, that Fusion was paid by a group of Russians trying to have the Magnitsky Act repealed as a means of protecting themselves from a forfeiture lawsuit under the Act, whose efforts were in line with the Kremlin’s wishes.

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