A senior Department of Justice official says he repeatedly and specifically told top officials at the FBI and DOJ about dossier author Christopher Steele’s bias and his employer Fusion GPS’ conflicts of interest, information they kept hidden from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These conversations involved high-level officials, including some who are now senior officials in the special counsel probe. And the conversations began taking place in the earliest days of August 2016, much earlier than previously revealed to congressional investigators seeking to learn the facts about the FBI’s decision to spy on the Trump campaign.
Testimony from Bruce Ohr, the demoted associate attorney general at Justice, informs a years-long partisan debate about the role he played in funneling information to the FBI from the terminated source.
Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., expressed concern in February 2018 about Ohr’s role in their memo warning about abuses of the process by which the federal government spied on Trump affiliates. They claimed the high-ranking Justice official was in contact with Steele after the foreign actor had supposedly been terminated with cause as the primary source of negative and outlandish information on Trump.
They also said Ohr, whose wife worked for the very same information operation that Steele did, had shared critical information about the source that did not appear in the applications to spy on Carter Page. Finally, they claimed that Ohr funneled to the FBI his wife’s opposition research, which had been secretly bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign.
All of that is true. If anything, it understates what Ohr admitted to congressional investigators.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the Republican majority overstated Ohr’s role. They claimed Steele’s conversations with the FBI “occurred weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FlSA application.”
In fact, Ohr met with Steele on July 30, 2016, and initiated discussions with top officials within days, continuing to share information from and about the supposedly terminated source, not just through the election but well into the first year of the Trump administration.
Early Meetings With Top Officials
Shortly before Ohr’s testimony in August, The New York Times took part in a bizarre effort to get investigators looking elsewhere. Reporters Michael Shear, Katie Benner, and Nicholas Fandos claimed that it was a “conspiracy theory” to view him as having a role in the Trump dossier saga.
Ohr is an interesting character in the Russia-Trump collusion investigation because his role was unknown for a long time. The former top career official at the Department of Justice was a 27-year veteran with no role in counterintelligence operations. Initially, the FBI and Department of Justice claimed he had no involvement in the probe, despite his marriage to a Fusion GPS contractor. Then they claimed his role was unique and was unknown by others in the department.
It turns out that Ohr kept top officials at both the FBI and Department of Justice apprised of his conversations with Steele, passed along electronic and written materials from multiple Fusion GPS employees, and shared key information that was excluded from the FISA application to the courts.
According to Ohr’s testimony, just days after his July 30, 2016, meeting with Steele, he sought out top FBI officials. His first meeting involved none other than Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who later lost his job for lying about some of his leaks to reporters. Shortly thereafter, Ohr met with top Justice Department officials, including two who now serve on the special counsel.
Mr. Gowdy. How did you find out who to meet with? Who did you call to find out.
Mr. Ohr. So, prior to that meeting, I had — okay. After the July 30th meeting with Chris Steele, I wanted to provide the information he had given me to the FBI. I reached out for Andrew McCabe, at that time, deputy director of the FBI and somebody who had previously led the organized crime, Russian organized crime squad in New York and who I had worked with in the past, and asked if he could meet with me.
I went to his office to provide the information, and Lisa Page was there. So I provided the information to them. And some point after that, I think, I was given Peter Strzok, or somehow put in contact with Peter Strzok.
Mr. Gowdy. And that would have been when?
Mr. Ohr. I don’t recall the exact date. I’m guessing it would have been in August since I met with Chris Steele at the end of July, and I’m pretty sure I would have reached out to Andrew McCabe soon afterwards.
Ohr also admitted he was talking to top DOJ officials about his chats with Steele and Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson. (For what it’s worth, Simpson testified under oath that he had not met with Ohr during the campaign but Ohr testified that the two did meet during the campaign.)
Mr. Gowdy. Who at the Department knew that you were talking to Chris Steele and Glenn Simpson?
Mr. Ohr. I spoke with some people in the Criminal Division, other career officials who dealt with some of these matters. So —
Mr. Gowdy. Any of them have names?
Mr. Ohr. Yes. So I was about to tell you. One of them was Bruce Swartz, who is the Counselor for International Affairs in the Criminal Division; a person who was working with him at the time, working on similar matters in the Criminal Division was Zainab Ahmad; and a third person who was working on some — some of the matters I believe was Andrew Weissman.
Bruce Swartz was deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division. Andrew Weissmann was the head of the criminal division’s fraud section. A top official on the special counsel, Weissmann is known for destroying the 85,000-employee Arthur Anderson before the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction he got. Zainab Ahmad also works for the special counsel. She previously worked for none other than Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as this glowing profile of her in The New Yorkerdetails.
That Ohr was briefing one of Lynch’s top deputies, and heads of various divisions, counters the previous narrative that Justice officials were in the dark about Ohr’s work. That it took place in late summer refutes the claims he only got involved after the election. Ohr also testified that he met with Peter Strzok and others.
In conversations with various members, Ohr claimed he repeatedly made it clear to the FBI that the information was not verified, risked bias, and had been obtained under political circumstances.
Schiff is the typical liberal liar doing all he can to keep this charade going. He should be under investigation.
It also casts more doubt that Obama was not being kept updated on the progress of his own scheme. Loretta was not about to leave Barack in the dark.
Ohr says he told the FBI that Steele was biased, hated Trump and didn’t really trust the information himself, yet they did not bother to include that knowledge in the FISA application (or even doubt they should get the FISA warrant). Beyond any possible doubt, the whole purpose all through the “investigation” has been to attack Trump. No one ever had any true suspicions.
THIS is why Mueller is not going to submit any report until he has some dynamite. His report has to be bigger than the “what about’s”, but that’s going to take some real explosive power.