The former British spy who composed the infamous dossier of unverified claims about the presidential campaign of Donald Trump was “very concerned” that the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in May last year would expose a clandestine operation.
According to notes handwritten by senior Justice Department (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr on May 10, 2017, Christopher Steele, the dossier’s author, was “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” The content of the notes was first published by investigative journalist Sara Carter.
Though it is unclear what covert operation Steele is referring to, less than two weeks prior to the message, on March 28, 2017, the FBI filed a report on a meeting with Daniel Jones, who heads Penn Quarter Group, a “research and investigative advisory” firm. The report stated that Jones had retained the services of Steele as part of a project to gather dirt on President Donald Trump. The project, run by Penn Quarter Group, was funded by 7-10 wealthy donors “who provided approximately $50 million.”
Whether Steele was referring to the private dirt-digging operation or something else, Steele’s message raises questions about Comey’s role in clandestine activities against the president, the exposure of which Steele was “very concerned” about.
Steele was growing nervous about the covert operation being exposed even before Comey was fired. Two days prior to Comey’s March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Steele wrote to Ohr that he and his associates were “apprehensive” about the upcoming hearing and hoped “important firewalls will hold.”
“Hi! Just wondering if you had any news? Obviously, we’re a bit apprehensive given scheduled appearance at Congress on Monday. Hoping that important firewalls will hold. Many thanks,” Steele texted to Ohr on March 18, 2017.
“Sorry, no new news. I believe my earlier information is still accurate. I will let you know immediately if there is any change,” Ohr replied the same day.
Lawmakers investigating FBI and DOJ actions surrounding the 2016 election have scheduled a closed-door hearing to question Ohr on Aug. 28. Trump said on Aug. 16 that he plans to remove Ohr’s security clearance.
“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace, I suspect I’ll be taking it [clearance] away very quickly,” Trump said at the White House on Aug. 17. “I think that Bruce Ohr is a disgrace with his wife, Nellie. For him to be in the Justice Department and to be doing what he did, that is a disgrace, that is disqualifying for [special counsel Robert] Mueller.”
At the time of those communications between Steele and Ohr, Steele had already been officially terminated by the FBI and was prohibited from gathering intelligence on the bureau’s behalf. The FBI had terminated Steele on Nov. 1, 2016, for leaking to the media in violation of the bureau’s rules for confidential human sources. Ohr became Steele’s back channel to the FBI after the termination.
Ohr continued to aid Steele as late as November 2017 despite having no official role in the Russia investigation.
Ohr was demoted twice for concealing that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS in 2016 on the same dirt-digging operation against the Trump campaign as Steele. Ohr would go on to hand all of his wife’s research to the FBI, according to a House Intelligence Committee report.
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid Fusion GPS $160,000 for Steele’s dossier. A counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane” would go on to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil former Trump-campaign volunteer Carter Page.
The officials who signed off on the FISA application failed to disclose that the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the dossier, that the FBI knew of Steele’s bias against Trump, and the connection between the Ohrs, Steele, and Fusion GPS. Comey signed the initial FISA application in October 2016, and two renewal applications in January and April 2017.
“DOJ’s Emails & Notes show Bruce Ohr’s connection to (phony & discredited) Trump Dossier. A creep thinking he would get caught in a dishonest act. Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Aug. 16.
The Epoch Times previously reported that while writing the dossier, Steele lobbied Ohr on behalf of a Russian billionaire. Ohr also worked to reinstate Steele with the FBI and engage him with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.