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A story online that says a witness will speak out against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of a larger investigation into her actions is a muddled mix of real developments misleadingly retold.
"Breaking: A witness will testify against Hillary Clinton," read the headline on a July 30, 2017, post on CoffeeBreakForYou.com. Facebook users flagged the story as being potentially fabricated as part of the social media site’s efforts to combat fake news.
The post said that Clinton would be "held accountable for the many wrongdoings she has been charged with," although it never specifies what those charges may be. It said President Donald Trump had tasked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate Clinton’s ties to Russia.
That’s where the "key witness" comes in.
"Glenn Simpson has been friends with the Clinton family for many years," the post read. "Not coincidentally, he is also a co-founder of the firm Fusion GPS that disseminated the widely debunked fake news dossier containing over-the-top stories about Donald Trump going to Russian hotels."
The CoffeeBreakForYou.com article said the Senate Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed Simpson. The post asked readers whether they thought Simpson "will share crucial information about how Hillary attempted to frame Donald Trump."
The story appears to have originated as a July 30 post on Conservative101.com. The byline on the post was Christopher Reynolds. We attempted to reach Conservative101.com through the website’s contact form (the only method of contact available) but didn’t get a response.
The story isn't fake in the sense that it makes up all its content, but it does spin things to the point of being misleading or incorrect. The most notable issues are whether Clinton is really being investigated, and for what reasons the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to talk to Simpson.
Trump has publicly criticized Sessions for failing to investigate Clinton for deleting emails from her private server and for allegedly getting information from Ukraine during her presidential campaign.
The Justice Department has not publicly acknowledged an investigation into Clinton, although the Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded the agency disclose if it’s investigating the Ukrainian allegations. The Justice Department has until Aug. 3 to respond. House Republicans have requested FBI documents into the campaign investigation and have asked for a special counsel for a Clinton probe.
The Senate committee has been looking into the extent of Russian influence on the 2016 election.
Simpson is a real person. He is a former journalist who is a founding partner of opposition research firm Fusion GPS. Simpson was initially being subpoenaed for a hearing, but not explicitly to expose Clinton. The committee wanted to compel him to discuss details of his company’s Trump dossier, which became public in January 2017.
Simpson wanted to protect the Democratic-leaning client who hired Fusion GPS to create the Trump dossier, according to the Daily Beast.
Simpson had originally intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, but struck a deal in which he would provide a transcribed interview. The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed and withdrew its subpoena.
We couldn’t find any proof that Simpson was "friends with the Clinton family," although the New York Post reported that Fusion GPS was "actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-Trump agenda."
But trying to protect the identity of a Clinton ally who paid for opposition research against Trump is not the same as testifying against Clinton.
In addition to the Trump opposition report, Fusion GPS also had reportedly worked to ease sanctions against Russia, through ties with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. She’s the same lawyer Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had met in a controversial and previously undisclosed 2016 meeting.
Bloggers said, "A witness will testify against Hillary Clinton."
The post used details from several real news events in a way that would lead readers to draw some unproven conclusions. The article said that a founding partner in an opposition research firm was being called to testify against Clinton.
Simpson was being asked to discuss details about a dossier filled with unsavory (and largely unsubstantiated) details about Trump as part of an investigation into Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election.
We rate this statement False.
CoffeeBreakForYou.com, "BREAKING: A Witness Will Testify Against Hillary Clinton," July 30, 2017
Conservative101.com, "Breaking: A Witness Will Testify Against Hillary Clinton," July 30, 2017
Fox News, "Co-founder of firm behind Trump-Russia dossier to plead the Fifth," July 21, 2017
Politico, "Senate committee slaps subpoena on Glenn Simpson," July 21, 2017
The Hill, "Senate panel subpoenas co-founder of firm tied to controversial Trump dossier," July 21, 2017
USA Today, "After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won't say if he will fire him," July 24, 2017
New York Post, "Sketchy firm behind Trump dossier is stalling investigators," July 24, 2017
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, "Glenn Simpson Agrees to Judiciary Committee Interview," July 25, 2017
Politico, "Senate Judiciary backs off plans to force Glenn Simpson to publicly testify," July 25, 2017
Fox News, "Russia probe: Democrats block key witness against shadowy firm Fusion GPS," July 26, 2017
NBC News, "Who Is Glenn Simpson, Man Entangled in Two Russia Scandals?," July 27, 2017
Business Insider, "Inside the battle between an anti-Putin banker and the firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier," July 27, 2017
McClatchy DC Bureau, "Republicans give Trump what he wants — new Clinton inquiries," July 31, 2017
Daily Beast, "The Russia Mess Sucks in Democrats, Too," Aug. 1, 2017
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