EXCLUSIVE: McCabe’s FBI Tried to Re-engage Christopher Steele After Comey Was Fired

Transcript of congressional testimony by DOJ official Bruce Ohr shows FBI went back to disgraced source between Comey’s firing and Mueller’s appointment
January 14, 2019 Updated: March 8, 2019

In the days following the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump, the FBI, under Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, sought to re-engage with former MI6 spy and author of the Steele dossier, Christopher Steele. 

The FBI’s attempts to re-engage Steele, who had been fired by the FBI six months earlier for breaking protocol by talking to reporters, were soon thwarted by the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

McCabe appears to have been blindsided by the appointment of Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel on May 17, 2017, the day after a meeting with Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the oval office.

The appointment of Mueller shifted control of the Russia investigation from the FBI and McCabe to Mueller. Rosenstein would retain ultimate authority over the probe, and any expansion of Mueller’s investigation required authorization from Rosenstein.

McCabe had been a key player in the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump presidential campaign, which relied heavily on information provided by Steele. The FBI also obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) spy warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page using the information.

Bruce Ohr (C), a Justice Department official demoted from the posts of associate deputy attorney general and director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, on Capitol Hill for testimony on Aug. 28, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr served as a key conduit in transferring information from Steele, both before and after the FBI terminated Steele, along with information from Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.

An Aug. 28, 2018, testimony before Congress by Ohr, which was reviewed for this article, sheds new light on McCabe’s involvement in the investigation. His testimony also illustrates how Steele and Simpson passed their information targeting Trump to the FBI, using Ohr as an unofficial back-channel.

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Ohr, per his testimony, reported directly to then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Prior to a series of demotions that occurred in December 2017 and January 2018, Ohr held two titles: associate deputy attorney general and director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr testified that he had known Steele since 2007, when they met during an “official meeting” while Steele was still employed by the British government. After that, they maintained contact approximately “once a year.”

Ohr had also “met Mr. Simpson on various occasions over the years” and his wife, Nellie Ohr, had also known Simpson for “several years.” A 2010 report by the National Institute of Justice listed the three as participants in a paper.

Nellie Ohr, who would join Fusion GPS in late 2015 as a Russia analyst, was listed in the report as working for the CIA’s Open Source Works as a researcher.

On July 30, 2016, Bruce and Nellie Ohr met with Steele and an unknown associate of Steele’s. Almost immediately, Ohr would initiate a meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to detail his conversation with Steele. Also present at the meeting was McCabe’s counsel, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who would play a key role in the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.

Shortly thereafter, on Aug. 15, 2016, FBI agent Peter Strzok would send the now-infamous “insurance policy” text referencing McCabe to Page.

Later that same month, the FBI suddenly reached out to Steele asking for the information in his possession.

Ohr would also meet with Simpson on or around Aug. 22, 2016. At that point, Ohr says in his testimony, he was aware that his wife was working for Simpson’s company as a contractor, that Steele worked for Fusion GPS as well, and that there were ties to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Ohr would have another meeting with Steele on Sept. 23, 2016, and would also meet either that same month or early October with Strzok, Page, and Justice Department (DOJ) career officials from the criminal division, Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman (Ohr testified that he was unsure whether Weismann was at this or a later meeting).

Sometime in late 2016, Nellie Ohr provided her husband with a memory stick containing the research she compiled while employed at Fusion GPS. Bruce Ohr testified he gave the memory stick to FBI agent Joe Pientka. Nellie Ohr had left Fusion in September 2016.

Steele was terminated as a source by the FBI on Nov. 1, 2016, for communicating with the media. Despite this, Bruce Ohr and Steele communicated regularly for another full year, until November 2017. Ohr relayed all these communications with Steele to the FBI through Pientka and possibly two other handlers.

On Nov. 21, 2016, Ohr had a meeting with Strzok and Page and was introduced to Pientka, who became Ohr’s FBI handler. Pientka was also present with Strzok during the Jan. 24, 2017, interview of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page arrives to testify before a House Judiciary Committee closed-door meeting on July 13, 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The next day, Nov. 22, 2016, Ohr met alone with Pientka. Ohr would continue to relay his communications with Steele to Pientka, who then recorded them in FD-302 forms.

During a meeting on Dec. 10, 2016, Ohr met with Simpson, who gave him a memory stick that Ohr believed contained the Steele dossier. Ohr passed the memory stick to Pientka.

Ohr, in his testimony, detailed his interactions with Steele and Simpson, as well as his communications with officials at the FBI and DOJ. Notably, Ohr repeatedly stated that he never vetted any of the information provided by either Steele or Simpson. He simply turned it over or relayed it to the FBI—usually to Pientka. What Ohr didn’t know was that Pientka was transmitting all the information directly to Strzok.

Details of Ohr’s First Meeting With Steele About Trump

Bruce and Nellie Ohr met for a breakfast with Steele on July 30, 2016. In addition to the Ohrs and Steele, there was a fourth individual, described by Ohr as “an associate of Mr. Steele’s, another gentleman, younger fellow. I didn’t catch his name.”

The topics covered at the meeting were discussed during testimony by Ohr:

“In the July 30th conversation, one of the items of information that Chris Steele gave to me was that he had information that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, had stated to someone—I didn’t know who—that they had Donald Trump over a barrel.”

“He also mentioned that Carter Page had met with certain high-level Russian officials when he was in Moscow. My recollection is at that time, the name Carter Page had already been in the press, and there had been some kind of statement about who he had met with when he went to Moscow. And so the first item that I recall Chris Steele telling me was he had information that Carter Page met with higher-level Russian officials, not just whoever was mentioned in the press article. So that was one item.”

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“And then the third item he mentioned was that Paul Hauser, who was an attorney working for Oleg Deripaska, had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with Oleg Deripaska, had stolen a large amount of money from Oleg Deripaska, and that Paul Hauser was trying to gather information that would show that, you know, or give more detail about what Paul Manafort had done with respect to Deripaska.”

Ohr also testified that “Chris Steele had provided some reports to the FBI, I think two, but that Glenn Simpson had more.”

The information on Deripaska is particularly notable. The New York Times published the article “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief” on Aug. 14, 2016, approximately two weeks after Ohr’s meeting with Steele. The article states:

“Mr. Deripaska would later say he invested $18.9 million in Pericles in 2008 to complete the acquisition of Black Sea Cable. But the planned purchase—including the question of who ended up with the Black Sea assets—has since become the subject of a dispute between Mr. Deripaska and Mr. Manafort.”

Russia billionaire at a conference in St. Petersburgh
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who heads aluminium producer Rusal, attends the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg on June 1, 2017. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Steele wrote a document on Aug. 22, 2106, to be included in his dossier that detailed payments to Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Steele had known Deripaska since at least 2012, when he was hired by Deripaska’s U.S. lawyer, Adam Waldman, on behalf of Deripaska to assist in a lawsuit filed “by a business rival,” according to an article by John Solomon for The Hill.

In late 2014, Steele and Ohr met in Washington to discuss cultivating Deripaska into an FBI informant on Russian organized crime, according to a New York Times article. This wasn’t disclosed during Ohr’s testimony.

In 2015, Steele helped set up a meeting between Deripaska and the FBI, but wasn’t directly involved in the meeting itself, according to the New York Times article. Ohr, however, was personally involved in the meeting, which reportedly involved pressing Deripaska “on the connections between Russian organized crime and Mr. Putin’s government, as well as other issues.”

During a series of communications in early 2016, Steele appeared to be lobbying Ohr on Deripaska’s behalf, and Waldman’s name was also mentioned.

Notably, the FBI’s investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” was formally opened the following day by FBI agent Strzok.

Details of Ohr’s Initial Meeting With McCabe, Page

Sometime in early August 2016, following closely on the July 30 breakfast meeting with Steele, Ohr reached out to McCabe in order to set up a meeting to detail the information he had been given by Steele. The meeting took place in McCabe’s office:

Q: “Shortly after you met with Christopher Steele on July 30, you had a meeting with Andy McCabe and Lisa Page?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “You said that meeting was at main Justice?”

Ohr: “No, that meeting was in Andrew McCabe’s office.”

Q: “It was in Andrew McCabe’s office.”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “And it was sometime, you believe, in August, because it was shortly after the meeting with Christopher Steele?”

Ohr: “Probably, yes.”

Q: “And that was because, at that point in time, you wanted the FBI to have that information and be aware of your contact with Christopher Steele?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “Did anyone prompt that call to Andy McCabe?”

Ohr: “No, I don’t think so I think that was me. Just me.”

Present at this meeting was Lisa Page, assistant general counsel at the FBI. Ohr had known Page for some time as she previously had worked under his supervision at the DOJ for a period of “5-6 years.”

During the questioning, Ohr noted that he had not informed his boss, Deputy AG Sally Yates. It is also unclear if then-FBI Director Comey was ever informed of the meeting:

Q: “Sally Yates—she was your boss, right?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “You said she didn’t know that you were talking to Steele or Simpson?”

Ohr: “Correct.”

Q: “How do you know she didn’t know?”

Ohr: “Well, I didn’t tell her.”

Q: “Okay. So she may have known from some other source.”

Ohr: “Possible.”

Q: “Well, you would think she would, because over at the FBI, Andy McCabe knew that you were talking to Steele and Simpson as early as August of 2016.”

Ohr: “Right. But I don’t know what, if anything, was conveyed to Sally Yates.”

Q: “Andy McCabe knew. Did Jim Comey know in August of 2016 that you were talking to Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson?”

Ohr: “I don’t know.”

Ohr Became Conduit Following Steele’s Termination by FBI

Steele was terminated by the FBI as a source “on or about November 1, 2016.” Following Steele’s termination, Ohr was provided with an FBI agent—Pientka—on Nov. 21, 2016, who would serve as his handler. Ohr transmitted all of his communications with Steel and Simpson to Pientka, who would then relay the information to Strzok:

Q: “Was Joe Pientka your go-between in December when you got additional information from either Christopher Steele or Glenn Simpson in getting it to the FBI?”

Ohr: “Joe Pientka, I believe, was my contact at that time, yeah.”

Q: “You immediately go to Joe Pientka, who immediately goes to Peter Strzok. Are you aware of that?”

Ohr: “No.”

Steele’s information was going directly to Strzok, after Steele had been terminated by the FBI as a source. Ohr testified that he thought the FBI was verifying Steele’s information—but Comey said the dossier remained unverified in December 2016.

FBI agent Peter Strzok during testimony before Congress on July 12, 2018. Strzok oversaw both the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, Ohr continued to transmit information from Steele to the FBI throughout 2017.

There were 12 meetings—primarily with Pientka—documented in a series of FD-302s that ran from Nov. 22, 2016, until May 15, 2017. The 302s—summaries of FBI interviews—haven’t been made public:

Ohr: “So they [Strzok & Page] understood that I had received information, and they said they would get me an agent to talk to who would write the stuff down and do whatever—well, I don’t know if write it down, but that they would give me an agent to speak with and provide the information.”

Q: “Is that why there are 302s of you in the file?”

Ohr: “I believe so.”

Q: “That is the agent interviewing you?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Missing 302s

Ohr testified that he maintained contact with Steele beyond the date of the final 302—but this was either not documented in FBI 302s or the 302s weren’t provided to congressional investigators:

Q: “On page 2 of the letter it lists 12 separate dates and 302s where the FBI interviewed you indicating the first interview took place on November 22, 2016, and the last one on May 15, 2017. Is this list of interviews and dates generally consistent with your recollection?”

Ohr: “Yes. The caveat I would say is, I continued to have some conversations with Christopher Steele after May 15, 2017. I’ve reported all of those to the FBI, but I do not see any 302s relating to those conversations.”

Ohr later testified that he maintained contact with Steele—and relayed the content of that contact to the FBI into November 2017. Ohr also testified that he wasn’t aware the FBI was documenting his meetings in 302s:

Q: “Do you know anything different about those interviews or about those 302s as to why they wouldn’t have been produced in response to a request by Members of Congress?”

Ohr: “I don’t know if they did 302s later on. A lot of these conversations seemed less substantive, but I don’t know. I didn’t know about the original 302s either.”

Q: “Did you continue to meet with the FBI to discuss your conversations with Mr. Steele all the way up through late November of 2017?”

Ohr: “Correct.”

On at least two occasions in 2017, Ohr was provided with a new FBI handler. Most of his meetings took place at FBI headquarters but Ohr also had later meetings at the Washington Field Office.

Q: “And who at the Washington field office conducted an interview?”

Ohr: “I cannot remember the names.”

Q: “But it wasn’t Pientka?”

Ohr: “Right.”

Q: “So it was somebody, another agent, or agents, at the FBI’s Washington field office?”

Ohr: “My recollection is at least on two occasions, I was handed onto a new agent.”

The FBI Attempts to Re-establish Direct Contact

The information flow between Ohr and Steele typically went in one direction. Steele would provide information to Ohr, who would then provide it to the FBI.

Q: “Was there an unofficial back channel that was acknowledged by the FBI that they knew that you were the unofficial handler for Chris Steele after that termination?”

Ohr: “I don’t know if you can characterize it that way. All I can say is, I would get calls from Chris Steele and I would pass it to the FBI.”

But in May 2017, the direction changed.

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Q: “Did the FBI ever encourage you to reach out to try to get additional information from Chris Steele?”

Ohr:  Yes, there was one occasion.

Q: “So there was a coordination? If they’re reaching out to you, then there is obviously this channel that has been at least unofficially acknowledged.”

Ohr: “On one of the occasions when I talked to the FBI to tell them I got a call from Chris Steele, they said, oh, next time you talk with him, can you ask him if he’s willing to meet with us?’ And I conveyed that back to Chris Steele.

Q: “After he had been terminated—”

Ohr: “Correct.”

The FBI, which had maintained that when it uncovered a credibility issue with Steele, it immediately severed contact, was now looking to re-establish direct contact. And it was using Ohr to do it.

FBI Attempts to Re-engage With Steele After Comey’s Firing, But Prior to Mueller’s Appointment

In May 2017, the FBI suddenly decided to reach out to Steele through Ohr. The re-engagement attempt came six months after Steele had been formally terminated by the FBI on Nov. 1, 2016.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The matter, which was discussed at several points during Ohr’s testimony, was highlighted during a review of some text messages between Ohr and Steele:

Q: “The next page, 2 months forward, 5-15, three-quarters of the way down. ‘Having now consulted my wife and business partner about the question we discussed on Saturday, I am pleased to say yes, we should go ahead with it.  Best, Chris.’”

Q: “Go ahead with what?”

Ohr: “The FBI had asked me a few days before, when I reported to them my latest conversation with Chris Steele, they had had would he—next time you talk with him, could you ask him if he would be willing to meet again.”

Q: “So this is the re-engagement?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

The texts that are being referenced were sent on May 15, 2017, and refer to a request that Ohr received from the FBI to ask Steele to re-engage with the FBI in the days after Comey had been fired on May 9.

Q: “So you have asked him will he re-engage with the FBI?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “And he says: ‘Talked with my wife; I’m in.’ You say: ‘Thanks. We’ll let them know and we will follow up.’”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “‘Thanks again. I chatted with my colleagues and can give you an update when you have a minute.’ What was the update about? Was it about that subject?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “So that all happens on May 15?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Several days prior, on May 12, 2017, Ohr and Steele exchanged a series of text messages published by John Solomon of The Hill, that appear to detail Ohr reaching out to Steele following the FBI’s request for re-engagement:

Ohr: “Thanks again for your time on Wednesday. Do you have time for a short follow up call sometime this weekend?”

Steele: “Yes, of course. Perhaps sometime tomorrow. When might suit?”

Ohr: “Would 3 pm your time work? I’m pretty open so just let me know. Thanks!”

Steele: “Fine, or possibly even at 2 pm our time if that works for you? Best”

Ohr: “2 pm your time is good. It will be quick. Thanks!”

The next text message is a response from Steele on May 15, 2017:

Steele: “B, having now consulted my wife and business partner about the question we discussed on Saturday I’m pleased to say yes, we should go ahead with it. Best C”

Ohr: “Thanks! I will let them know and we will follow up.”

Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, 2017. This appears to have been the precipitating event that led the FBI to suddenly attempt to re-establish contact with Steele through Ohr. This was the only time the FBI used Ohr to reach out to Steele.

Notably, McCabe was now the acting FBI director.

On the morning of May 16, 2017, Rosenstein reportedly suggested to Acting FBI Director McCabe that he secretly record Trump. This remark was reported in a New York Times article that was sourced from memos from the now-fired McCabe. Rosenstein immediately issued a statement denying the accusations.

An unidentified participant at the meeting, in comments to The Washington Post, framed the conversation somewhat differently, noting that Rosenstein responded sarcastically to McCabe, saying, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

The comments by Rosenstein allegedly occurred at a meeting where McCabe was “pushing for the Justice Department to open an investigation into the president.” Note that just five days earlier, McCabe had publicly testified that there was no obstruction, stating “there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”

Following Rosenstein’s meeting with McCabe, Trump met with former FBI Director Robert Mueller, reportedly as an interview for the FBI director job. Rosenstein was present at that meeting as well.

Trump, in an interview with The New York Times said this about the meeting:

“We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed? … Now what happens is, [Mueller] leaves the office. Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, [Mueller] is appointed special counsel.”

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The idea that Mueller would be considered for the FBI director role seems highly unlikely, although not entirely impossible. Mueller had previously served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013—two years beyond the normal 10-year tenure. In 2011, President Barack Obama requested that Mueller stay on as FBI director for an additional two years, which required special approval from the Senate.

We still don’t know what was actually said at the meeting between Mueller, Rosenstein, and Trump.

On May 17, 2017, the day after Trump’s meeting with Mueller—and the day after Rosenstein’s encounter with McCabe—Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. In doing so, Rosenstein took the Trump–Russia investigation out of McCabe’s control.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

On the one hand, McCabe testified there was no obstruction from Trump, yet, just five days later, McCabe was attempting to convince Rosenstein to go along with his efforts to open an obstruction investigation into the president. Events suggest that McCabe’s efforts were met with alarm from Rosenstein, who responded by appointing Mueller as special counsel. Rosenstein may have also informed Trump of McCabe’s intentions.

Rosenstein would now retain ultimate authority over the probe, and any expansion of Mueller’s investigation required authorization from Rosenstein.

Text messages to Ohr from Steele provide some hints and highlight an abrupt pullback by the FBI. In June 2017, Steele sent Ohr the following text:

“We are frustrated with how long this re-engagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking. There are some new perishable operational opportunities we do not want to miss out on.”

Steele sent another text to Ohr on Nov. 18, 2017:

“I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC colleagues on the issue you kindly put to them for me. We have heard nothing from them either. To say this is disappointing would be an understatement.”

Ohr testified that “at some point during 2017, Chris Steele did speak with somebody from the FBI, but I don’t know who.”

Steele’s Anti-Trump Bias

Steele’s biases against then-candidate Trump have been reported in the media. Ohr testified that he relayed these to the FBI prior to the election.

“Prior to the election, when I spoke with Chris Steele, I got the sense he was very alarmed by this information, which I think he believed to be true. And so I definitely got the impression he did not want Donald Trump to win the election,” Ohr said in his testimony.

“I don’t recall the exact words. I definitely had a very strong impression that he did not want Donald Trump to win, because he believed his information he was giving me was accurate, and that he was, as I said, very concerned, or he was desperate, which is what I then told the FBI,” Ohr said.

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Ohr later testified that he informed the FBI of Steele’s bias, along with details of his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS—and Fusion’s political mandate—prior to the Oct. 21, 2016, FISA application made on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page:

Q: “So the record is clear, what the Department of Justice and the FBI was aware of prior to the first FISA application was your relationship with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, your wife’s relationship with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, Mr. Steele’s bias against Donald Trump, Mr. Simpson’s bias against Donald Trump, your wife’s compensation for work for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, correct?”

Ohr: “Right. So just, again, to reiterate, when I spoke with the FBI, I told them my wife was working for Fusion GPS. I told them Fusion GPS was doing research on Donald Trump. You know, I don’t know if I used the term opposition research, but certainly that was my—what I tried to convey to them. I told them this is the information I had gotten from Chris Steele. At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when, I don’t think it was the first conversation, I told them that Chris Steele was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected.”

It turns out that Ohr personally told Deputy FBI Director McCabe of his concerns about possible bias during the initial August 2016 meeting:

Q: “So in August of 2016, you tell Andy McCabe that you’re concerned because your wife works for Fusion GPS and that’s where you’re getting the information?”

Ohr: “I wanted Mr. McCabe to know that there was a possible, you know—that the—”

Q: “Conflict of interest—”

Ohr: “—of interest or appearance thereof, yeah.”

Q: “So there’s a possible conflict of interest in August of 2016 before a FISA warrant is actually initiated?”

Ohr: “I think I did not mean to say conflict of interest. What I would say is that in evaluating any information that I transmitted to the FBI, I wanted the FBI to be aware of any possible bias—”

Q: “So you believe there was the possibility of bias?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

The FBI’s Other Channel to Steele

We know that Steele had been interacting with the FBI prior to Ohr’s July 30, 2016, meeting with Steele. FBI agent Michael Gaeta traveled to London on July 5, 2016, for the express purpose of obtaining Steele’s initial two documents on Trump. Notably, it isn’t fully known to whom in the FBI that Gaeta transmitted Steele’s documents. The counterintelligence team didn’t receive them until mid-September.

Gaeta, an FBI agent and assistant legal attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, had known Steele since at least 2010, when the former spy provided assistance in the FBI’s investigation into the FIFA corruption scandal.

The US embassy in Rome, Italy, on Feb. 23, 2014. (Simone Ramella/Flickr)

But following Steele’s meeting with Gaeta, there had been no further contact with Steele by the FBI. After nearly a month, Steele initiated the July 30 breakfast meeting with Ohr. His tactic appeared to work.

Following Steele’s July meeting with Ohr, and Ohr’s meeting with McCabe and Page in early August, the FBI was now fully re-engaged with Steele and, by association, Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS.

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According to a House Intelligence Committee minority memo released on Jan. 29, 2018, Steele’s reporting didn’t reach the FBI counterintelligence team until mid-September 2016. This almost certainly occurred at a meeting in Rome between FBI officials and Steele. Gaeta was also present at the meeting:

“In September, Steele went back to Rome. There, he met with an FBI team. Their response was one of ‘shock and horror,’ Steele said,” according to The Guardian. “The bureau asked him to explain how he had compiled his reports, and to give background on his sources. It asked him to send future copies.”

Ohr appears to have been unaware of these ongoing events.

Steele’s Contacts Outside the FBI

According to the Washington Post, in early fall of 2016, Steele and his partner, Christopher Burrows, met with former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove—who they had both served under. Dearlove advised the two men to work with an unknown top British official to get their information to the FBI.

Steele also met with various media sources in the United States during two separate visits in September and October of 2016, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Yahoo News, and CNN, according to UK court documents. Separately, Steele talked with Mother Jones reporter David Corn via Skype.

On the same day as Steele’s second breakfast meeting with Ohr, on Sept. 23, 2016, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News, published an article based on an interview with Steele. The article, which was used to corroborate the dossier, would later be used by the FBI in the FISA application on Carter Page.

At an undetermined point in September 2016—probably during this same trip to Washington—Steele also met with Jonathan Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement and a former special envoy for Libya, whom he had known since at least 2010.

Winer had received a separate dossier, very similar to Steele’s, from longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal. This “second dossier” had been compiled by another longtime Clinton operative, former journalist Cody Shearer, and echoed claims made in the Steele dossier. Winer then met with Steele in late September 2016 and gave Steele a copy of the “second dossier.” Steele then shared this second dossier with the FBI, which may have used it to corroborate his dossier.

According to the Guardian’s Luke Harding, Steele met with Sir Andrew Wood, the UK’s former ambassador to Russia, at some point prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Wood later relayed information regarding the dossier to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a meeting at the Halifax International Security Forum. McCain then dispatched longtime associate David Kramer to London to meet with Steele on Nov. 28, 2016, and review Steele’s memos.

Sen. John McCain speaks at a press conference in Washington on Oct. 25, 2017. (Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)

McCain later passed a copy of the dossier to FBI Director Comey on Dec. 9, 2016. It isn’t known if McCain also provided a copy to then-CIA Director John Brennan. Notably, Brennan did attach a two-page summary of the dossier to the Intelligence Community Assessment that he delivered to outgoing President Obama on Jan. 5, 2017.

Ohr’s Contacts With Simpson

Ohr met with Simpson twice in 2016—once in August 2016, prior to the election, and again in December 2016. Ohr also had one call with Simpson on Jan. 20, 2017—the same day as Trump’s inauguration.

Ohr’s first meeting with Simpson in August 2016 followed the July 30, 2016, breakfast meeting Ohr had with Steele:

“I don’t know exactly what Chris Steele was thinking, of course, but I knew that Chris Steele was working for Glenn Simpson, and that Glenn might have additional information that Chris either didn’t have or was not authorized to prevent [present], give me, or whatever.”

“I don’t recall the exact facts he gave me in August. I believe I made some notes at the time, and I believe it had to do with possible intermediaries between the Russian Government and the Trump campaign.”

Ohr testified that Simpson mentioned a number of names at the August 2016 meeting: Sergei Millian, Michael Cohen, Carter Page, and Paul Manafort. Ohr also noted that Page and Manafort had been previously mentioned by Steele at the July 30, 2016, breakfast meeting.

But Ohr also testified that Simpson didn’t relay the specific nature or content of communications he was referring to—only the means by which they were occurring:

“What Glenn Simpson was giving me was more the means by which this communication was being—what he thought how the communication was happening. I don’t think he was talking as much about what exactly they were—you know, what policies or whatever they were talking about.”

Ohr did note that either Simpson or Steele told him that somebody associated with the Trump campaign had advance knowledge of hacking or leaks related to the Clinton campaign:

Ohr: “I don’t remember if it was Glenn Simpson or Chris Steele that mentioned this—talked about—I’m going to get the names wrong, but somebody associated with the Trump campaign having advance knowledge of when information about the Clinton campaign that had been stolen and hacked, when it was going to be leaked.”

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Notably, the Aug. 22, 2016, meeting with Simpson preceded the FBI counterintelligence team having seen the Steele dossier—which they received in mid-September 2016. Other individuals within the FBI may have seen the first two Steele documents by this time as FBI agent Michael Gaeta received them directly from Steele in early July 2016 during the London meeting, which had been officially sanctioned by former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

Nellie Ohr, who had left her position with Fusion GPS in September 2016, gave Ohr “a memory stick that included research she had done for Fusion GPS on various Russian figures. And the reason she provided that information to me is, my understanding was, it related to some of the same—it related to the FBI’s Russia investigation. And she gave me that stick to give to the FBI.”

At the December 2016 meeting, Simpson provided Ohr with additional information regarding contacts with the Trump campaign. Simpson also provided Ohr with a memory stick:

Ohr: “He provided me with a memory stick, and he provided additional information regarding the contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign.”

Ohr testified that he gave Simpson’s memory stick, along with one he received from his wife, Nellie, to FBI agent Pientka, who had been assigned as his handler. It isn’t clear if Ohr handed these to Pientka in a single meeting or if Ohr provided them to Pientka on separate occasions.

Pientka’s receipt of the two memory sticks does provide a timing implication, in that it would imply that Ohr gave Nellie’s memory stick containing her Fusion research to the FBI post-election, given that Ohr first met Pientka on Nov. 21, 2016. Later testimony does make clear that Ohr turned over his handwritten notes of his meetings with Steele and Simpson on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 22.

Ohr would later testify that he believed the memory stick provided by Simpson may have contained the Steele dossier:

Q: “Glenn Simpson gave you a thumb drive and didn’t suggest what was on it or anything else and said give it to the FBI, and your curiosity was not piqued?”

Ohr: “I think I assumed it was the dossier, but he did not say that.”

Q: “Why did you assume it was the dossier?”

Ohr: “This was in December. The rest of the conversation had to do with additional information that he had gathered about the possible connections between the Russian Government and the Trump campaign, and he gives me a thumb drive. I think the natural assumption at that point—I had not seen the dossier. I had heard there was such a thing as a dossier, but I hadn’t seen it.  So he gives me a thumb drive. I assumed this was the dossier.”

Q: “So he gives you the dossier or what you believed to be the dossier. How did you first become aware of the dossier?”

Ohr: “I don’t recall. It might have been in the press.”

Ohr Notes Simpson’s Reluctance to Speak With FBI

Ohr repeatedly testified that Simpson refused or was reluctant to speak with the FBI directly—despite Ohr’s encouraging him to do so. Notably, Steele was already speaking with the FBI:

Q: “Why not tell Steele and Simpson to go talk to the Bureau directly?”

Ohr: “I believe Steele was talking to the Bureau directly. I think Glenn Simpson was willing to talk with me. I’m not sure that—my recollection is I’m not sure he was willing to talk with the FBI, although that was where obviously it would be better to—”

Q: “Why not? Why talk to a prosecutor who does not investigate crime? Were you assigned to the Russia investigation?”

Ohr: “I was not.”

Q: “Did you have any connection with the Russia investigation at all?”

Ohr: “Aside from passing this information, no.”

Q: “So why would Glenn Simpson go through you and not go directly to the Bureau?”

Ohr: “I don’t know what was in his head. I know he was willing to talk—”

Q: “I’m sure you asked him.”

Ohr: “I think I tried to get him to talk with the FBI, but I don’t recall the exact conversation.”

During a later point in Ohr’s testimony—after Ohr’s meetings and history with Steele and Simpson had been detailed—the observation was made that both Steele and Simpson simultaneously re-engaged with Ohr and his wife in 2016 after a quiet period:

Q: “It had been 2 years prior before you—since you had most recently talked to Chris Steele before he wants to meet you on July 30, a couple years prior before Glenn Simpson wants to meet you on August 22. Same pattern with your wife?”

Ohr: “I can’t—because I don’t know the years. I’m guessing it’s—again, I shouldn’t guess, but I know it was not close in time, in terms of weeks or months.”

Q: “Why do you think they picked your wife? There’s probably lots of Russian experts in the Washington, D.C., area.”

Ohr: “You know, I think—first of all, I don’t think that there are that many people that do Russia research that are available to do these kinds of contracts. So I think, you know, they have talked over the years from time to time. So I don’t know why he picked her, but they were certainly acquainted and knew of each other.”

The timing of Steele’s re-engagement with Ohr was particularly notable, given that Steele had met with Gaeta in London in early July 2016, but had since heard nothing back from the FBI.

Ohr Didn’t Verify Information From Simpson or Steele

Ohr testified at multiple points that he simply transmitted information from Steele and from Simpson to the FBI, but did nothing to attempt to verify its accuracy. Ohr knew that Steele held a bias against Trump. He was also fully aware that Fusion GPS was engaged in opposition research—his wife was part of the ongoing effort. Ohr also testified that although he didn’t know Fusion was employed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), he was aware “they were somehow working associated with the Clinton campaign.” From his testimony:

Q: “Who were Steele’s sources?”

Ohr: “I don’t know.”

Q: “How did you vet those—how did he vet those sources? How did Fusion GPS vet those sources?”

Ohr: “I think—I don’t know the specifics. The fact that my wife was looking at some of the same figures, like Sergei Millian, suggests that that was one way they were trying to vet the information.”

Ohr attempted to make clear his concerns—his reason for passing Steele’s information directly to the FBI—but his logic appeared somewhat one-sided:

Ohr: “I think any attempt by a foreign power to gain influence over a Presidential campaign would be troubling.”

Q: “But that does not include Steele relying on Russians to provide dirt on Trump?”

Ohr: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question … I think my understanding is that what Steele was finding out was investigating the links, the national-security threat posed by Russian Government officials attempting to gain influence over the Trump campaign.”

Q: “He was relying on foreign nationals for that information?”

Ohr: “I don’t know who he was getting it from.”

A bit later in Ohr’s testimony, an interesting exchange took place, during which Ohr admitted that the information he had provided to the FBI on the behalf of Steel and Simpson wouldn’t be admissible in court:

Q: “So tell me all of the questions, cross-examination-like questions, that you asked Chris Steele about the source of his information.”

Ohr: “I knew—he would not give me the source of his information, so I couldn’t get it.”

Q: “How much of what Chris Steele told you would have ever come out in a courtroom?”

Ohr: “I’m not sure it would have. It was source information. It was hearsay.”

Steele had no direct connections to his sources of information and everything Steele listed in the dossier was provided to him second- or third-hand. Which creates evidentiary problems:

Q: “I’m guessing you never talked to the sources or sub-sources.”

Ohr: “That is correct.”

Q: “Well, Mr. Ohr, that information would never see the inside of a courtroom, because you can’t cross-examine it. You can’t find out who, if anyone, really is the source of that. Do you agree?”

Ohr: “Yes. But this is not evidence in a courtroom. He is providing information from—this is source information.”

Q: “Best-case scenario, it’s double hearsay. Worst-case scenario, we don’t have any—it could be quintuple hearsay, right?”

Ohr: “I think—I don’t know. It definitely is hearsay, and it was source information, which is what I was telling the FBI.”

Q: “I guess what alarms me about this fact pattern is all the way in December of 2016, a guy named Comey was referring to the information as unverified. That’s in December of 2016.”

To this day, the Steele dossier remains unverified.

Steele Was Working Concurrently for Fusion GPS, FBI

Steele had been working with the FBI prior to approaching Ohr. On July 5, 2016, Steele provided FBI agent Gaeta copies of his early memos. However, after Steele provided the information to the FBI, he heard nothing back in response. It was at this time that Steele, perhaps in concert with Simpson, decided to reach out to Ohr.

Journalists gather outside the headquarters of Orbis Business Intelligence, the company run by former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, in London on January 12, 2017. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Ohr, who met with Steele on July 30, 2016, didn’t appear to be initially aware that Steele was already engaging with the FBIbut he would later learn that Steele was indeed doing so.

Q: “So Chris Steele was working for Fusion GPS and the FBI at the same time?”

Ohr: “Yes, I believe so.”

Q: “Was he being paid by both?”

Ohr: “I believe so.”

Q: “Why was the Bureau paying him for information if you were going to pass it on from Fusion GPS to the Bureau?”

Ohr: “I know the FBI had other contacts with Chris Steele besides my contact, besides what I was getting, but I don’t know the specific nature of what they paid him for.”

This sequence highlights the anomaly of Ohr’s actions. But it also points to his role in larger events.

Brennan Briefs White House, Rep. Harry Reid

Ohr went to McCabe and Lisa Page in early August 2016 following his meeting with Steele at the end of July.

Then-CIA Director Brennan has admitted during congressional testimony that his intelligence helped establish the FBI counterintelligence investigation:

“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons … and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation.”

Brennan’s role was discussed during a testimony by Lisa Page before Congress, which hasn’t been publicly released. Page was questioned in relation to an Aug. 25, 2016, text message: “What are you doing after the CH brief?” CH almost certainly referred to “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Former CIA director John Brennan
Former CIA director John Brennan and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper arrive at a closed hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on May 16, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Page was then asked about another briefing that occurred on the same day:

“It’s the same day that Director Brennan is briefing Harry Reid, is why I ask. And so what you’re saying is you were unaware that Director Brennan was briefing Harry Reid that same day?”

Page said she was unaware of Brennan’s briefing to Rep. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The discussion continued:

Q: “We have documents that would suggest that in that briefing the dossier was mentioned to Harry Reid and then, obviously, we’re going to have to have conversations. Does that surprise you that Director Brennan would be aware [of the dossier]?”

Page: “Yes, sir. Because with all due honesty, if Director Brennan—so we got that information from our source, right? The FBI got this information from our source. If the CIA had another source of that information, I am neither aware of that nor did the CIA provide it to us if they did, because the first time we—”

Q: “We do know there are multiple sources.”

Page: “I do know that. I do know that the information ultimately found its way lots of different places, certainly in October of 2016. But if the CIA as early as August, in fact, had those same reports, I am not aware of—I’m not aware of that and nor do I believe they provided them to us, and that would be unusual.”

Q: “Were you aware that Christopher Steele had conversations or multiple conversations with Fusion GPS and others outside of just working special intel for you?”

Page: “As of August of 2016, I don’t know who Christopher Steele is. I don’t know that he’s an FBI source. I don’t know what he does. I have never heard of him in all of my life. So let me just sort of be clear. When the FBI first receives the reports that are known as the dossier from an FBI agent who is Christopher Steele’s handler in September of 2016 at that time, we do not know who—we don’t know why these reports have been generated.  We don’t know for what purpose.”

There are two major questions raised by this discussion. How did Brennan come to have knowledge of Steele’s dossier in August 2016?

And how is it possible that Page is saying “as of August of 2016, I don’t know who Christopher Steele is.” Page was present at the early August meeting in McCabe’s office where the entire purpose of Ohr’s visit was to fill McCabe in on what had been learned at his July 30, 2016, breakfast with Steele.

It’s possible that Ohr never divulged Steele’s name at the initial August meeting with McCabe and Page. But that seems unlikely.

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“After the July 30th meeting with Chris Steele, I wanted to provide the information he had given me to the FBI,” Ohr testified. “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.”

Later during his testimony, Ohr was asked about communications regarding Steele:

Q: “Did you ever discuss Mr. Steele with Ms. Page?”

Ohr: “I assume so, since I was telling them about what I was hearing from Chris Steele.”

Ohr is mentioned five times on Day One of Page’s testimony and twice on Day Two. Page’s name, by contrast, comes up repeatedly throughout Bruce Ohr’s testimony.

On Day Two of Page’s testimony, both of her references to Ohr were contained within this conversation:

Q: “You were asked on Friday again about the Christopher Steele dossier and how it came to the FBI. I believe you claimed that you were not really involved with how the dossier came to the FBI so you weren’t clear on its providence. Is that correct?”

Page: “No, that is not correct. I am very clear about its providence.”

Q: “Oh, you’re very clear about its providence?”

Page: “How we received the reports from Christopher Steele, yes, I am very clear about how we received those.”

Q: “Certainly. So are you also clear then as to whether Bruce Ohr gave those dossiers to the FBI?”

Page: “This is in the category of things that I can’t answer. What I can say is when we first received the set of reports that are commonly referred to as the dossier, that initial—our having obtained those documents initially, did not come from Bruce Ohr. They came from Christopher Steele, through his handler to the FBI.”

Page’s statement is factually correct. FBI agent Michael Gaeta obtained the first two documents from Steele at a meeting in London on July 5, 2016. But it in no way precludes information that was subsequently provided by Ohr at the August 2016 meeting.

Nellie Ohr’s Role

Nellie Ohr began working for Fusion in late 2015 as a Russia analyst. Bruce Ohr testified that he didn’t believe that Nellie Ohr was initially hired to investigate Trump:

Ohr: “She was a Russia analyst, and she would research people and companies that Fusion GPS asked her to look into. She would do her research on the internet, open sources; and she would report her findings to Fusion GPS, usually I think—I don’t remember exactly the names.”

Q: “Was she hired specifically to work on an investigation into then-candidate Trump, or was it a broader portfolio than that?”

Ohr: “My understanding is that it was a broader portfolio. She began, as I said, I believe in late 2015.”

But Nellie Ohr’s focus began to shift toward the Trump campaign:

Ohr: “At some point, I don’t remember when, I became aware that she was looking at some of the same figures as part of her work for Fusion GPS.”

Q: “So Fusion GPS were looking at potential Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “And that’s what your wife was working on?”

Ohr: “Yes. At some point, I became aware that some of the people she was invest—she was researching were some of the same people that I had heard about from Chris Steele and Glenn Simpson.”

Later in his testimony, Bruce Ohr provided greater clarity as to who Nellie Ohr was actually investigating:

“At some point, I became aware that she was looking at, among other people, Sergei Millian, which was one of the names that either Chris Steele or Glenn Simpson had given to me.”

Ohr testified at several points, he didn’t believe that his wife’s work made it into the dossier:

Q: “So your wife didn’t work on the dossier?”

Ohr: “Not specifically, from what I can tell. She worked on some of the same people…Sergei Millian.”

But Ohr also testified he had no way of being certain as he never reviewed his wife’s work:

Q: “You testified before that you didn’t look at the information that your wife gave you to the FBI?”

Ohr: “Correct; I did not look.”

Q: “So how do you know, as you are testifying under oath here, that the information that your wife gave to the FBI was not part of the dossier?”

Ohr: “What I saw of the dossier was in the form of the kinds of reports that Chris Steele and [Steele’s firm] Orbis prepared. So I believe from what I can tell—and I haven’t studied it closely—that these reports reflected information that Orbis has collected and then provided to Fusion GPS.”

Q: “But, again, to be clear, you never reviewed the information that your wife gave to the FBI.”

Ohr: “Right … I am not aware that my wife ever gave any information [directly] to Chris Steele.”

Additionally, Ohr testified that he and his wife didn’t discuss sensitive work matters with each other:

Q: “When she works on sensitive projects, does she discuss those details with you?”

Ohr: “Generally, no.”

Q: “And on the flip side, have you discussed details of your cases with her?”

Ohr: “No.”

Former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr arrives for a closed-door interview with investigators from the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on Capitol Hill on October 19, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As previously noted, Nellie had provided Ohr with a memory stick sometime after she left Fusion in September 2016. Ohr’s acceptance of the memory stick brought him into the chain of evidence. It also raised some questions:

Q: “I’m just asking if this was proprietary information that belonged to Fusion GPS and it was being given to you by your wife, but effectively, it was being given to you through your wife by Fusion GPS. That’s what it appeared to be. I just want to see if you knew that or reasonably would believe that.”

Ohr: “I don’t think that was the case.”

Q: “So you think she did that on a rogue basis, that she didn’t go to Fusion GPS for permission?”

Ohr: “I think it was her giving it to me, not—without—you know, without any sanction or whatever from—as far as I know, yes.”

Ohr claimed that he never examined the contents of the memory stick that his wife provided to him:

Q: “Did you look at that stick or thumb drive?”

Ohr: “No.”

Q: “You didn’t even open it?”

Ohr: “No. I didn’t want to plug it into my machine at work. I just gave it to the FBI.”

Q: “What did she describe was on it?”

Ohr: “My understanding was that it included her research on behalf of Fusion GPS.”

Inconsistencies of Ohr’s Involvement

Ohr often struggled to explain why he got involved as an intermediary between the FBI and Steele and Simpson in the first place:

Q: “You got the world’s premier law enforcement agency investigating a fact pattern. Chris Steele already has a handler, already is in contact with the FBI; and you allow the person hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on a Presidential candidate to talk to you directly and use you as a conduit. We’re just trying to figure out why you let that happen?”

Ohr: “I took the information. I thought the information might be important, and I wanted to get it to the FBI. It seemed the only way to do it.”

Q: “What information would Glenn Simpson have that the Bureau couldn’t get or already have?”

Ohr: “I don’t know exactly what the FBI had access to, and I know Glenn Simpson was also gathering information. So more information is better. The FBI is in a position to decide whether the information is useful or credible.”

Toward the beginning of Ohr’s interview, he was questioned in regard to precisely who he had brought Steele’s information to within the FBI:

Q: “Who at the FBI did you pass it on to?”

Ohr: “Well, at that point I had—I believe I met with Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and some people from the Department’s—Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and I gave them the information that I had received.”

And a notable point was made:

Q: “Can you see how it might be troubling? You just called the names of two people, neither of whom I think are with the Bureau, one who was mentioned unfavorably in an IG report, both of whom had, at least from my standpoint, an unprecedented amount of animus or bias towards one of the candidates, and you are getting information from someone hired by the DNC and funneling it to the lead agent on the Russia investigation. Can you possibly see how that might be troubling to people?”   

Ohr: “Yes.”

Ohr also admitted that his actions represented an unusual pattern of behavior for him:

Q: “Are there other cases where you recall taking information from fact witnesses and passing it on to the Bureau?”

Ohr: “I don’t recall specific instances, but whenever I—over the years, as I’ve talked with people who are, you know, experts or have information one way or another on transnational organized crime, including Russian organized crime, I take their information, and if it looked like it—if there’s anything there, I would pass it to the FBI.”

Q: “I’ve been out of it for about 8 years, so you help me if I’m wrong, but a stick, or thumb drive, would be physical evidence for which a chain would exist if it were ever needed in court? And you made yourself part of the chain?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “Can you think of other instances in your career since 1991 where you made yourself part of a chain of custody?”

Ohr: “Not—I don’t remember getting any other sticks or anything like that, so—”

Q: “And you can’t think of a single case where you inserted yourself into a chain of custody other than this one?”

Ohr: “That’s right.”

Q: “I guess my colleagues are wondering why. Why this one?”

Ties at DOJ and Ohr’s Aversion to Political Appointees

Ohr noted at several points that he never informed anyone above him at the DOJ. At the time, Ohr occupied the highest career position within the DOJ. All positions above his own were political appointees.

Q: “Did DAG Yates know that you were talking to Steele or Simpson?”

Ohr: “No.”

Q: “Did any of your supervisors at the Department know? I think the others you described were more peers.”

Ohr: “Right.”

Q: “Any of your supervisors?”

Ohr: “No.”

Q: “Did you have any specific thoughts as to why it was important to inform the career level but not that one political level above it?”

Ohr: “Beyond saying I wanted to keep it in career channels, and not make it political or not have it treated in a political way, that’s all I can say.”

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Q: “So was it important to you to keep it in career channels?”

.Ohr: “I thought it was appropriate that career officials would be the ones dealing with the information.”

Q: is it your typical habit to let your supervisor or those you report to know your professional activity?”

Ohr: “In general, yes.”

Ohr seemed to indicate his preference for keeping communications out of the political appointee level. But there was another individual who would also be communicating with the DOJ. And he was the person responsible for running the entire investigation.

Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on Capitol Hill on May 8, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

From Lisa Page’s testimony, we know that Deputy FBI Director McCabe was keeping the DOJ informed:

Page: “I do know that at least John Carlin, for example, who is a political appointee, was kept abreast of the sort of investigative activity that was going on. And the only reason I know this is because when there was conflicts between us and DOJ, John might call over to—John Carlin might call over to Andy McCabe, and sort of make his team’s pitch, and then Andy would, you know, sort of the back-and-forth would go on. So it is clear that John had, was getting some sort of briefing, but he was not, it was, it never occurred by the FBI, which is, in my view, atypical.”

In response to a question asking who was McCabe’s direct counterpart at the DOJ on the investigation, Page responded, “it would have been John. It was either John Carlin or George Toscas who would have, who would have reached out to Mr. McCabe.”

Ohr’s Demotion

Despite being demoted in December 2017 and then being removed as director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in January 2018, Ohr remained in an active position within the DOJ. Ohr’s official title at the time of his interview was senior counsel in the Office of International Affairs in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

It appears that Ohr’s demotion, while significant, wasn’t as severe as originally thought.

The Department of Justice in Washington
The Department of Justice in Washington on July 11, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Ohr described his current role as advising “director and deputy directors of the Office of International Affairs in the operation of the office and the work of the office.”

During testimony, Ohr described the reasons given to him for his “reassignment” in December 2017, when he was stripped of his associate deputy attorney general title:

Q: “The reasons they gave for that reassignment, the first?”

Ohr: “Two reasons. One was they said I had not given them sufficiently and timely notice of my conversations with Chris Steele. And, secondly, that they were planning a reorganization of the Department, where none of the component heads would be sitting within the Deputy Attorney General’s Office.”

Q: “Did they provide you anything in writing…with regard to their explanation?”

Ohr: “No, they didn’t cite anything specific.”

The commentary regarding his removal as head of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in January proved particularly intriguing:

Ohr: “I was told at this time that the Attorney General or the deputy attorney general did not want me in a position where I would be having contact with the White House.”

Q: “Did they offer an explanation as why you couldn’t have contact with the White House, why they didn’t want you in that type of position? Did they offer details?”

Ohr: “They did not provide any additional details.”

Q: “Did the DAGs at any point speak with you directly?”

Ohr: “No.”

Recall that Ohr’s demotions took place at the end of 2017, and the start of 2018, Jeff Sessions was attorney general and Rod Rosenstein was deputy AG. Given Ohr’s role in events, it may have been considered legally prudent that Ohr not be allowed to have interaction with anyone within the White House.

Ohr Has Met With DOJ’s Inspector General

Q: “Have you at any point been approached by the Department’s Inspector General’s Office regarding your contacts with Mr. Steele?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Q: “If you can, share approximately when that occurred? I won’t pry into the details of it.”   

Ohr: “I think it was in July of this year [2018].”

Q: “And have you fully cooperated with his request?”

Ohr: “Yes.”

Jeff Carlson is a regular contributor to The Epoch Times. He also runs the website TheMarketsWork.com and can be followed on Twitter @themarketswork.

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