Bruce Ohr, the fourth-highest-ranking official at the Department of Justice (DOJ), actively shared information he received from former MI6 spy Christopher Steele with the FBI, after the agency had terminated Steele as a source.
Interactions between Ohr and Steele stretched for months into the first year of Trump’s presidency and were documented in a number of FD-302s, memos that summarize interviews with him by the FBI.
The existence of the FD-302s that detail Ohr’s interactions with Steele calls into question who at the FBI—and possibly the DOJ—was aware of his activities.
As associate deputy attorney general, Ohr reported directly to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
Ohr first came to the public’s attention on Dec. 7, 2017, when Fox News revealed that Ohr had been in repeated contact with Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign—while Steele was in the process of constructing his dossier that contains unverified claims about Trump.
Fox News also disclosed that Ohr met with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson after the election. Fusion GPS had been hired by the Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) to produce the dossier on Trump, for which the company had hired Steele.
It was later revealed that Ohr met with Simpson prior to the presidential election, as well.
On Dec. 11, 2017, it was revealed that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, had worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election. Nellie Ohr was “paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.”
Bruce Ohr never publicly disclosed his wife’s employment by Fusion GPS, despite a requirement to file financial disclosure forms regarding his wife’s work.
Ohr was demoted following the initial Fox News report, losing his title of associate deputy attorney general and his prestigious office on the fourth floor of the Justice Building. It appears the DOJ only took action after they learned of the Fox News investigation into Ohr’s role.
It appears that Ohr became the conduit between Steele, Fusion GPS, and the FBI after Steele was formally terminated by the FBI in late October or early November 2016. Steele’s termination occurred after he revealed—in violation of FBI policy—his relationship with the FBI in an Oct. 30, 2016, article in Mother Jones magazine by journalist David Corn.
Interactions between Ohr and Steele are highlighted in a Feb. 28, 2018, letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which makes reference to documents that the DOJ provided to Grassley.
“These documents have raised several serious questions about the propriety of the FBI’s relationship with former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele,” the letter reads. “The documents also raise questions about the role of Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, in continuing to pass allegations from Steele and Fusion GPS to the FBI after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a source.”
Of importance is the specific wording by Grassley. Ohr was “continuing to pass allegations from Steele and Fusion GPS to the FBI after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a source.”
Grassley then provided specific evidence detailing his claims: “Numerous FD-302s demonstrating that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr continued to pass along allegations from Mr. Steele to the FBI after the FBI suspended its formal relationship with Mr. Steele for unauthorized contact with the media, and demonstrating that Mr. Ohr otherwise funneled allegations from Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to the FBI.”
Grassley wasn’t insinuating that Ohr might have served as the conduit between Steele and the FBI. He was stating these occurrences as fact. Grassley had seen the underlying 302s and listed them in his letter to Horowitz along with actual FBI interview dates:
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 11/22/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 12/5/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 12/12/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/27/16 (interview date 12/20/16)
- Ohr FD-302 1/27/17 (interview date 1/27/17)
- Ohr FD-302 1/31/17 (interview date 1/23/17)
- Ohr FD-302 1/27/17 (interview date 1/25/17)
- Ohr FD-302 2/8/17 (interview date 2/6/ 17)
- Ohr FD-302 2/15/17 (interview date 2/14/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/10/17 (interview date 5/8/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/12/17 (interview date 5/ 12/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/16/17 (interview date 5/15/17)
Contact between Steele and Ohr continued through to at least mid-May 2017—six months after the election.
We know that Steele and Fusion GPS continued their work following the 2016 election.
Sometime in early 2017, Steele and Fusion GPS were hired by Daniel Jones, a former intelligence committee staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who runs the Penn Quarter Group. The stated purpose behind hiring Steele and Fusion was to “continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Ohr’s role in this process is currently being investigated by Congress.
Ohr is scheduled for an Aug. 28 interview before the House judiciary, and oversight and government reform committees. In advance of this interview, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) are requesting additional information regarding Ohr in the form of any and all FD-302s—including any generated from previously undisclosed FBI interviews of Ohr:
“In anticipation of this interview, we request DOJ provide the Committee access to all FD-302’s written as a result of any interviews conducted by the FBI of Mr. Ohr. These should include, but not be limited to, any 302’s previously made available to other congressional committees,” the letter reads.
The existence of additional FD-302s could reveal that contact between Ohr, Steele, and Simpson was more prevalent than previously thought.
The fact that Ohr was able to continue his communications with Steele and funnel information into the FBI through interviews formalized in FD-302s raises the question of who in the chain of command was aware of the interactions.
Information provided by Steele, which the FBI itself said it was unable to verify, played a crucial role in the FBI obtaining a FISA warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. Information provided by Ohr could have made its way into subsequent FISA renewals.
Yates signed the original FISA warrant on Page in October 2016 along with the first FISA renewal in January 2017. Ohr reported directly to Yates.
Yates was present at a Jan. 5, 2017, meeting with then-President Barack Obama, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and then-national security adviser Susan Rice in the oval office of the White House. That meeting was documented in an email sent by Rice to herself and was disclosed in a letter from Grassley.
According to Grassley, that meeting reportedly included a discussion of the Steele dossier and the FBI’s investigation of its claims.
The FD-302s that detail the FBI interviews of Ohr might shed more light on the role that senior Obama officials played in the creation of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign based on Steele’s information.
Jeff Carlson is a CFA® Charterholder. He has worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He runs the website TheMarketsWork.com