The head of a research firm that hired a former British spy to investigate Donald Trump during his campaign for president told a U.S. Senate committee that the investigator gave a dossier about Trump to the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he was "very concerned" about a potential national security matter.
Senator Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday released a transcript of closed-door testimony Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in August.
Simpson's firm hired Christopher Steele to produce the dossier, and was paid for it first by a conservative website and later by Democrats, including the campaign of Trump's election opponent Hillary Clinton.
According to the testimony transcript, Simpson told lawmakers Steele worried a presidential candidate was being blackmailed.
"From my perspective there was a law enforcement issue about whether there was an illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws," Simpson said.
Trump has dismissed the dossier and repeatedly denied that his campaign colluded with Russia.
Simpson said Steele also told him the FBI believed information in the dossier "might be credible" because they had a source inside the Trump organization who "indicated the same thing."
"It was someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something," Simpson said.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Simpson requested the transcript of his testimony be released to the public and that the American people deserved the chance to see his words and judge for themselves.
"The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public," Feinstein said in a statement.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley objected to Feinstein's move. A spokesman for the Republican, Taylor Foy, called Feinstein's actions "confounding" and said she had undermined the committee's "ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses."
The committee is conducting one of several investigations into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion or obstruction of justice by Trump and his campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies assessed last year that Russia had conducted a campaign targeting the election with the goal of hurting Clinton's chances of winning while boosting Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion, and dismissed the so-called Steele dossier as untrue.
The website Buzzfeed published the entire dossier last year amid criticism that it contained unverified information. Ben Smith, the site's editor in chief, wrote Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed that he stands behind that decision and that his organization believed it was in the public interest to release information that Buzzfeed and other outlets were citing in stories.
"A year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That's a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish," Smith said.
One item in the dossier is a claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials.
Cohen denies he made such a trip, and on Tuesday sued Buzzfeed in a New York state court saying the website defamed him and harmed him financially. In a separate defamation lawsuit in federal court, Cohen also sued Fusion GPS.