DOJ Official Bruce Ohr to Testify on His Close Relationship with Christopher Steele
Justice Department Official Bruce Ohr is expected to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on August 28 about his relationship with Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” Meadows tweeted Friday.
DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author, Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016.
He owes the American public the full truth.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) August 10, 2018
Lawmakers believe Ohr is key to finding out how the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid Fusion GPS and Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ sMaria Bartiromo:
So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,
During the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.
Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, and Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.
According to email communications obtained by the Washington Examiner, Steele emailed Ohr on Jan. 12, 2016 about Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Steele seemed to be working for Deripaska, who was seeking a visa to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the United States. The U.S. had revoked Deripaska’s visa years earlier, reportedly on the basis of his suspected involvement with Russian organized crime.
“I heard from Adam WALDMAN [a Deripaska lawyer/lobbyist] yesterday that [Oleg Deripaska] is applying for another official US visa ice [sic] APEC business at the end of February,” Steele wrote Ohr. He mentioned that Deripaska was being “encouraged by the Agency guys who told Adam that the [U.S. government] stance on [Deripaska] is softening.” … “A positive development it seems.”
Deripaska, who had connections in Iran and Russia, had assisted the FBI and CIA after Robert Levinson, who was working for the CIA, was captured in Iran in 2007, while Robert Mueller was FBI Director. Deripaska also had a business deal with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, in the late 2000s that reportedly went south.
Steele would again email Ohr on Feb. 8, 2016, to tell him that “our old friend [Oleg Deripaska] apparently has been granted another official visa to come to the US later this month.” He added, “as far as I’m concerned, this is good news all round although as before, it would be helpful if you could monitor it and let me know if any complications arise.”
Ohr promised Steele “to the extent I can I will keep an eye on the situation.”
Steele wrote Ohr again on Feb. 21, 2016, telling Ohr that he had talked to Waldman and Paul Hauser, Deripaska’s London lawyer, and said that there would be a U.S. government meeting on Deripaska that week, whicht he expected Ohr would be attending. He told Ohr he was “circulating some recent sensitive Orbis reporting” on Deripaska that suggested the Russian magnate was not a “tool” of the Kremlin. Ohr said he would send the reporting to the person responsible for receiving all such reporting.
“We reckon therefore that the forthcoming [Oleg Deripaska] contact represents a good opportunity for the USG.” Ohr responded by saying, “Thanks Chris! This is extremely interesting. I hope we can follow up in the next few weeks as you suggest.”
Steele next wrote Ohr on March 17, asking if he had any plans to visit Europe in the near future, where they could meet up. Ohr said there were no plans, but asked if he wanted to chat via phone. There would be no contact again for another three months.
During those three months, a lot would change. Candidate Donald Trump looked to be gaining momentum to become the presumptive nominee. Manafort would join his campaign. Trump would announce his foreign policy team, which included Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, who were virtually unknown to the nation.
Conservative donor Paul Singer would stop funding Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump. In April, Fusion GPS would approach the Clinton campaign and the DNC about continuing the research. The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through their lawfirm Perkins Coie, would hire Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia. Fusion GPS would hire Steele to conduct that research.
When Steele began to communicate with Ohr next, it would increasingly be about the research he was doing on Trump, that would come to form the dossier.
He contacted Ohr on July 1, 2016. “I am seeing [redacted] in London next week to discuss ongoing business,” he wrote, “but there is something separate I wanted to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favourite business tycoon!” Steele said he would be coming to the U.S. in August, but needed to talk to Ohr in the next few days. They spoke over the phone on July 7, 2016 between 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Steele would file installments of the dossier on July 19 and 26, 2016. On July 27, 2016, Steele wrote Ohr to say he would be in Washington, D.C. on business later that day, and asked if he and his wife Nellie would be free for breakfast on Saturday morning. They met for breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel on July 30, 2016.
According to investigative journalist Sara Carter, Steele later wrote Ohr on July 30, 2016: “Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce. Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issue/s. Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help,” in reference to Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.
The next day, on July 31, 2016, the FBI formally launched its investigation into the Trump campaign.
At some point, Nellie Ohr would begin working for Fusion GPS and receiving payments from Fusion GPS during the summer and fall of 2016. Nellie Ohr is a former professor and Russia expert.
Steele would finish another installment of the dossier on Aug. 22. That same day, Fusion GPS’s Simpson would email Ohr on Aug. 22, 2016, with the subject line, “Can u ring,” with a phone number in the message. Ohr had some kind of contact with Simpson that day.
Steele would finish another installment of the dossier on Sept. 14, 2016. Steele would write Ohr on Sept. 16, 2016, to say he would be back in Washington soon “on business of mutual interest.” Ohr said he would be out of town until Sept. 21, 2016. Steele would contact him again on Sept. 21, 2016, to say he was “keen to meet up with you.” The two had breakfast on Sept. 23, 2016.
Steele would email Ohr on Oct. 18 2016, requesting to discuss, preferably by Skype, “something quite urgent.” They spoke immediately thereafter. A few hours later, Steele emailed Ohr again, saying that Deripaska’s London lawyer, Paul Hauser, had asked Steele to forward to Ohr information about a dispute between the government of Ukraine and RUSAL, Deripaska’s aluminum company. “Naturally, he [Hauser] wants to protect the client’s [Deripaska’s] interests and reputation,” Steele wrote. “I pass it on for what it’s worth.”
Ohr then asked Steele if they could talk again via Skype. They spoke again that day and the next day, Oct. 19, 2016. Steele would finish dossier installments on Oct. 18, 19, and 20. The Oct. 18 installment would allege that Russians offered Carter Page millions of dollars, and the Oct. 19 and 20 installments alleged Manafort’s role in a collusion scheme.
In late October, the FBI would seek a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, using Steele’s research, which consisted of unverified allegations made by second and third-hand sources. Senior officials at the FBI and the DOJ signed off on the application.
The FBI cut ties with Steele sometime in early November 2016 for disclosing his relationship with the FBI to the media. The FBI told Steele he could not longer “operate to obtain any intelligence whatsoever on behalf of the FBI.” However, Ohr and Steele would remain in contact, according to the communications.
According to investigative journalist Sara Carter, a handwritten note suggests that in November 2016, Ohr may have met with FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok, FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka, who would later interview former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
On Nov. 21, 2016, Ohr would receive an email from a State Department official who worked in the Bureau of European Affairs in the State Department, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. She sent Ohr information on a Russian-born executive, Simon Kukes, who contributed more than $250,000 to Trump-supporting organizations. Kavalec told Ohr in a follow-up email that she was “re-looking at my notes from my convo with Chris Steele” and that that Kukes had a connection to a Russian emigre, Serge Millian, who was the head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. Millian is reportedly the source for the “golden showers” allegation.
Ohr would call Simpson on Dec. 8, 2016, to set up a coffee meeting for the next day, Dec. 9, 2016. Two days later, Simpson would send Nellie Ohr an email, on Dec. 11, 2016, with a ThinkProgress article headlined, “Why has the NRA been cozying up to Russia?” She responded, “Thank you!” Simpson responded the next day with, “Please ring if you can.” Ohr forwarded the email to her husband, saying, “I assume Glenn means you not me.” Ohr spoke with Simpson on Dec. 12, 2016. Steele finished his final dossier installment on Dec. 13, 2016, which alleged that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague as part of the collusion scheme.
Steele would next email Ohr on inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2017, with “Can you call me please?” He reportedly texted Ohr on Jan. 31, 2017: “B, doubtless a sad and crazy day for you re-SY,” in reference to President Trump’s firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. “Just want to check you are OK, still in the situ and able to help locally as discussed, along with your Bureau colleagues,” Steele texted. Ohr reportedly replied, “I’m still here and able to help as discussed….I’ll let you know if that changes.”
Steele reportedly wrote back: “If you end up out though, I really need another (bureau?) contact point/number who is briefed. We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous.” It was not clear who he was talking about.
Ohr would be demoted as associate deputy attorney general in December 2017 for reportedly hiding his ties to Steele and Simpson from colleagues at the Justice Department. He would be stripped of his other title the next month, as director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. He still works at the Justice Department.
It is unclear whether Steele was working for Deripaska at the same time he was putting together dirt on Trump — which could mean that Deripaska — who is known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin — may have fed him disinformation to include in the dossier. Deripaska’s London lawyer, Hauser, has refused to clarify whether Steele worked for Deripaska, but has said that neither he or his firm was involved with the dossier. He said he was “not aware of any involvement” by Deripaska in the dossier.
Deripaska would later sue Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates in January 2018 for fraud, alleging that they “vanished more than $18.9 million.”
Carter also reported that the emails and handwritten notes suggest that the FBI used Ohr as a conduit to Steele, even after he was terminated as a source. She wrote: “These revelations raise many serious questions, among them: Who at the FBI authorized the continued use of Steele? And who at the DOJ allowed Ohr to be used as a source in an FBI investigation spun from a document produced by a foreign spy at the behest of Fusion GPS, who employed Ohr’s wife?”
In July, under questioning by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Strzok admitted that the FBI had gotten parts of the dossier from Ohr. Jordan told Carter on Ohr: “I think he’s a key guy that we just have to depose for questioning.”
Nunes has called on President Trump to declassify information so it can be released, such as the document the FBI used to launch the investigation into Trump, which allegedly did not include any intelligence showing collusion. He has also called for the whole surveillance application on Carter Page — included parts redacted by the DOJ — to be declassified, so that Americans can see what the FBI included and did not include to justify spying on the Trump campaign.
“We’re going to have to have, I think, an unprecedented amount of information declassified because the media is just not covering this topic,” Nunes said. He said the DOJ and FBI are “slowly” providing information.
“But we’re going to have to have all of this information declassified. And, really, we need an investigation into these top level people as to how somebody concocted the idea that it’s OK to take information from one political campaign and use it to open up an investigation on the other political — on somebody else’s opposing political party,” he said.
“We have to have a strong Department of Justice and a strong FBI that stays out of politics. … the Department of Justice and the FBI need to decide whether or not they want to be part of the clean-up crew or the cover-up crew,” he said.