by Chuck Ross, The Daily Caller:
- A mysterious nonprofit group backed in part by George Soros and linked to Fusion GPS has investigated President Donald Trump and possible Russian interference.
- The Democracy Integrity Project has largely remained a mystery, but The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned new details about the group’s board of directors.
- One board member is an attorney who has worked closely with Fusion GPS in the past. The lawyer, Adam Kaufmann, has worked for Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan power company accused of bribery and money laundering.
Days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, a nonprofit organization opened up shop in Washington, D.C., to continue a private investigation into the president’s possible ties to Russia.
Only a few details of the group, the Democracy Integrity Project, have trickled out over the nearly two years since its founding.
The organization’s founder, a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer named Daniel J. Jones, hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS and dossier author Christopher Steele as part of the initiative, he told the FBI in March 2017. And it has been revealed that billionaire financier George Soros has given at least $1 million to the group and is considering giving more.
But The Daily Caller News Foundation has obtained Demand Integrity Project’s articles of incorporation showing that a white collar defense attorney who has worked with Fusion GPS in the past and a former State Department official were also on the group’s board of directors. (RELATED: Cabal Of Wealthy Donors Financing $50 Million Trump-Russia Investigation)
Documents obtained through a public records request show that Adam Kaufmann, a partner at the firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, and Dafna Hochman Rand, the former deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, are listed along with Jones as Democracy Integrity Project board members.
Rand is listed on the initial registration for the Democracy Integrity Project, which was filed on Jan. 31, 2017. Her LinkedIn profile says that she worked at the State Department through January 2017, though the exact date of her departure is unknown. Rand is not listed as a board member in a March 31, 2017, filing, suggesting that she left the organization shortly after joining.
She did not respond to a request for comment.
But it is Kaufmann’s link to Democracy Integrity Project that is especially noteworthy.
The former chief investigator at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Kaufmann has worked in the past with Fusion GPS on behalf Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan power company reportedly under investigation for bribery and money laundering.
Kaufmann also recently commented for a New York Times story about Trump’s family taxes.
“All of this smells like a crime,” Kaufmann told The Times in a lengthy story published in October that details various tax shelters used by the Trump real estate empire. His role with the Democracy Integrity Project was not mentioned.
But a DCNF search could not find Kaufmann providing quotes for any other news stories during Trump’s tenure. Jones has said that one of Democracy Integrity Project’s objectives is to provide information to the FBI, lawmakers and the press.
Neither Kaufmann nor Jones responded to multiple requests for comment.
At Lewis Baach, Kaufmann has represented Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan power company reportedly under investigation for a bribery and kickback scheme. In addition to his work for Derwick, Kaufmann has is also representing Francisco Convit Guruceaga, a Venezuelan national and Derwick Associates director charged by the Justice Department in July in a money laundering case involving Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
For Derwick, Kaufmann worked alongside Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch, allegedly to kill negative stories about their client.
Thor Halvorssen, an activist who heads the Human Rights Foundation, submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26, 2017, alleging that Kaufmann and Fritsch met in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2014 with Wall Street Journal reporter Jose de Cordoba, a former colleague of Fritsch’s who was investigating Derwick’s activities.
Halvorssen testified that de Cordoba told him that Fritsch and Kaufmann confronted him in an attempt to derail his investigation of Derwick. Fritsch also provided de Cordoba with a dossier of negative information on Halvorssen and other Derwick critics, Halvorssen claimed. A former senior U.S. government official told The Daily Caller in 2017 that de Cordoba told him that Fritsch pressured him to soften his coverage of Derwick.
De Cordoba did not respond to a request for comment. But TheDCNF has obtained an 18-page letter that Kaufmann sent to de Cordoba on July 14, 2014, responding to the reporter’s questions about Derwick. Kaufmann makes reference in the letter to a meeting he had scheduled with de Cordoba in Caracas.
De Cordoba did do some reporting on Derwick, but his coverage was mostly related to legal developments involving the power company. He reported on Aug. 8, 2014, that federal prosecutors and prosecutors in Kaufmann’s former office in New York City had opened an investigation into Derwick’s contracts for power turbines.
Halvorssen, who has since filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit accusing Fusion GPS and Derwick of retaliation, was unwavering in his criticism of Kaufmann, asserting that he should not be working for a group that calls itself the Democracy Integrity Project.