Person

Peter Fritsch

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Opposition Researcher

Peter Fritsch is an American journalist and Democratic Party operative. He is a founding partner at Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that produced the controversial and unverified document commonly known as the Steele dossier containing accusations against then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle. During Fritsch’s tenure with Fusion GPS, the firm also worked for clients including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a Cyprus-based corporation affiliated with the Russian government. It also targeted the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Mitt Romney and worked to counter reporting critical of the medical research company Theranos, which later imploded amid allegations of major fraud. [1] Prior to joining Fusion GPS, Fritsch spent more than a decade as an editor and bureau chief with the Wall Street Journal. [2] [3]

Fritsch has denied any wrongdoing related to the unproven allegations in the Steele dossier, downplayed the factual errors in it, and blamed Republican politicians for the controversy that the dossier incited. [4] [5]

Education and Early Career

Peter Fritsch attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, for his bachelor’s degree. He went on to attend the Columbia University graduate school of journalism and received his master’s degree in 1989. In 1997, Fritsch became the bureau chief for Latin America at the Wall Street Journal and remained there for five years. From 2002 to 2009, he spent time as the bureau chief for South Asia and Northern Europe, and in 2006, he also assumed the role of global editor of energy news. In 2009, he was assigned to the newspaper’s Washington, D.C., bureau as the senior editor for national security and foreign affairs coverage, a position he would hold until December 2010. [6]

Fusion GPS

Peter Fritsch has worked with Fusion GPS since he and his fellow Wall Street Journal alumnus Glenn Simpson launched the firm in 2011. He describes the work he has been involved with as “research for law firms, companies and investors.” [7] [8] The firm itself also provides limited information on its work. Its website consists of a single page with a mission statement, which also claims that non-political private sector clients are its focus. [9]

In practice, Fusion GPS has frequently worked for advocacy organizations and political causes, most prominently those affiliated with the Democratic Party and the political left. In 2012, the firm targeted Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot, who had made a $1 million donation to a political action committee supporting then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While neither Simpson nor Fritsch have ever disclosed who paid them to investigate VanderSloot, the Wall Street Journal reported that the businessman had been a target of the Obama 2012 presidential campaign. Similarly, Simpson claimed that VanderSloot’s views on LGBT interests made him a “legitimate” target for his firm’s investigation. [10]

In 2015, Fusion GPS initiated a public relations campaign on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in an attempt to discredit a series of undercover videos that suggested that the abortion provider was selling body parts of fetuses to medical companies. Politico reported that the firm’s report claimed that the videos “contain intentionally deceptive edits, missing footage and inaccurately transcribed conversations.” [11] Following the release of the videos and the ensuing effort to discredit them, the reporters who had collected the footage were charged with multiple felony counts after investigations under then-California attorney general Kamala Harris (D) and her successor Xavier Becerra (D). [12]

Fritsch’s associate Glenn Simpson has also shown a willingness to work for controversial foreign clients. In 2009, Simpson began working for Sheik Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi, an exiled member of the United Arab Emirates royal family, through his personal firm SNS Global. The prince, who had been ousted from the Emirates’ line of succession, was accusing the country’s leaders of collaborating with the government of Iran to help it bypass international trade sanctions. Sheik Khalid was also once spotted burning an American flag, allegedly to protest the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. During Fritsch’s time with Fusion GPS, the firm worked with a law firm representing a Russian company based in Cyprus, a jurisdiction long known as a tax haven for Eastern European corporations and individuals. The company was employing the law firm to defend against a Department of Justice investigation into its alleged money laundering activities. [13] [14]

Trump-Russia Accusations

In January 2017, less than two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, multiple news outlets began reporting on a dossier prepared by Fusion GPS that contained lurid and unverified allegations about Trump’s personal activities, including during the time he spent in Russia. Subsequent reporting revealed that the firm had been working for Marc Elias, a lawyer who had worked for the unsuccessful campaign of Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, since April 2016. In turn, Fusion GPS had hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, to compile the dossier, which the Department of Justice partially relied on to justify its warrant to spy on an associate of Trump. However, Steele later admitted that some of the allegations in the document had not been properly investigated and verified, while Trump has strongly condemned the dossier as a hoax. The Russian government denied Steele’s claims. [15]

Peter Fritsch was one of several Fusion GPS associates scrutinized following the release of the dossier. He invoked his right to remain silent in response to a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, and he has refused to discuss his firm’s actions. While mainstream media outlets such as ABC News have specifically identified Fritsch and his partner Glenn Simpson as having hired Steele to investigate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, Fritsch has claimed that the dossier’s public release was something that he and Fusion GPS would “absolutely never do” on purpose. [16]

At the same time, Fritsch has attempted to portray himself and his firm as victims of Trump, Republicans in Congress, and right-of-center media. In January 2018, Fritsch wrote an op-ed for the New York Times together with Simp­­son. In it, the two claimed that they had already done enough to “correct the record” regarding inconsistencies in the dossier, and described criticisms of their work, their motivations, and their choice of business partners as “mendacious conspiracy theories.” [17] In 2019, Fritsch and Simpson released a book, titled Crime in Progress, which attempted to present a favorable view of their investigation into Trump and the ensuing controversy. [18] The same year, the two gave an interview to NPR in which they claimed that the dossier was fundamentally accurate despite the errors in it. They also endorsed the disputed claim that the government of Russia had run an operation to help Trump win the election. [19]

In 2022, Fritsch and Simpson opposed an investigator’s request for documents about their work to link Trump to Russia. [20] A judge ordered Fusion GPS to provide a number of documents in May of that year. [21]

References

  1. Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty of Investor Fraud.” The United States Department of Justice, January 4, 2022. https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/theranos-founder-elizabeth-holmes-found-guilty-investor-fraud. ^
  2. Peter Fritsch. LinkedIn. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-fritsch-940980a/ ^
  3. Jessica McBride. “Fusion GPS: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know.” Heavy. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/ ^
  4. Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch. “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations.” The New York Times. January 2, 2018. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/opinion/republicans-investigation-fusion-gps.html ^
  5. Terry Gross. “Fusion GPS Founders On Russian Efforts To Sow Discord: ‘They Have Succeeded.’” NPR. November 26, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/26/782908119/fusion-gps-founders-on-russian-efforts-to-sow-discord-they-have-succeeded ^
  6. Peter Fritsch. LinkedIn. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-fritsch-940980a/ ^
  7. Peter Fritsch. LinkedIn. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-fritsch-940980a/ ^
  8. Jessica McBride, “Fusion GPS: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know.” Heavy. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/ ^
  9. Fusion GPS. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://fusiongps.com/ ^
  10. Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, “The President’s Hit List,” Wall Street Journal. May 11, 2012. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304203604577397031654422966 ^
  11. Jessica McBride. “Fusion GPS: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know.” Heavy. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2022.

    https://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/ ^

  12. Samantha Kamman. “Planned Parenthood was just forced to admit in court to harvesting aborted fetal parts.” Washington Examiner. September 12, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2022.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/planned-parenthood-was-just-forced-to-admit-in-court-to-harvesting-aborted-fetal-parts ^

  13. Jessica McBride. “Fusion GPS: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know.” Heavy. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2022.

    https://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/ ^

  14. “Cyprus tax for non-residents.” Global Citizen Solutions. May 7, 2021. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.globalcitizensolutions.com/cyprus-tax-for-non-residents/ ^
  15. Jessica McBride. “Fusion GPS: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know.” Heavy. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/ ^
  16. Kathryn McQuade. “Fusion GPS founders ‘horrified’ Steele Dossier was published but say ‘if you…tell fake stuff about us, we’re going to fire back.’” ABC News. November 26, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fusion-gps-founders-horrified-steele-dossier-published-youtell/story?id=67296294 ^
  17. Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch. “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations.” The New York Times. January 2, 2018. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/opinion/republicans-investigation-fusion-gps.html ^
  18. Luke Harding. “Crime in Progress review – the secret history of the Trump-Russia investigation.” The Guardian. December 3, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/28/crime-in-progress-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-review ^
  19. Terry Gross. “Fusion GPS Founders On Russian Efforts To Sow Discord: ‘They Have Succeeded.’” NPR. November 26, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/26/782908119/fusion-gps-founders-on-russian-efforts-to-sow-discord-they-have-succeeded ^
  20. [1] Kimberly Strassel, “Fusion GPS’s ‘Attorney-Client Privilege Cover,” Wall Street Journal. April 21, 2022. Accessed June 6, 2022.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/fusion-gps-attorney-client-privilege-cover-clinton-campaign-2016-presidential-election-john-durham-donald-trump-russiagate-steele-dossier-fbi-dnc-simpson-fritsch-sussman-11650575751 ^

  21. Marshall Cohen, “Opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign must turn over emails to special counsel Durham, judge rules,” CNN. May 12, 2022. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/12/politics/fusion-gps-judge-ruling/index.html ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Fusion GPS (For-profit)
    Co-Founder
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