President Donald Trump took to Twitter to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions on whether he’ll fire Justice Department (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr, amid revelations that Ohr served as a middleman between private anti-Trump researchers and the FBI in 2016 and 2017.
Ohr maintained contact with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier of unverified opposition research on Trump, even after the FBI terminated Steele as a source in November 2016. Ohr did so while his wife, Nellie Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS, the same firm that was working with Steele to conduct the anti-Trump research.
“Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions ‘Justice’ Department? A total joke!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Aug. 20.
In a follow-up message, Trump quoted Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) who told Fox News that “Ohr is at the center of false allegations, which led to a multi-million dollar investigation into what apparently didn’t happen.”
Trump had previously threatened to revoke Ohr’s security clearance. If the president follows up, Ohr is certain to lose his job, since officials of his grade at the DOJ require security clearances, according to national security attorney Mark Zaid.
“The job he has at the Justice Department requires him to maintain his eligibility,” Zaid said. “For most jobs in the government now, clearance is required.”
Ohr was the fourth-highest-ranking Justice Department official throughout 2016 and part of 2017, when he was in regular contact with Steele. The president began spotlighting Ohr in Twitter messages after documents surfaced detailing extensive communications between Ohr and Steele.
When Trump announced that he is revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, Ohr’s name appeared on the list of nine officials whose clearances also may be revoked.
“Any access granted to our nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests,” Trump said in a statement on Aug. 15.
Two days later, when asked if he would be taking away Ohr’s clearance, Trump indicated that he may soon do so.
“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I’ll be taking [his clearance] away very quickly,” Trump said on Aug 17.
After the FBI terminated Steele as a source for leaking to the media, he fed information to the bureau through Ohr. The pair stayed in touch for more than a year after the FBI prohibited Steele from obtaining intelligence on the bureau’s behalf. Ohr aided Steele and tried to reinstate the ex-spy with the bureau and link him with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump–Russia investigation team.
The DOJ demoted Ohr twice after learning that he had failed to disclose that his wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS—the same firm that hired Steele to dig for dirt on Trump. Nellie Ohr worked on the same opposition research project targeting Trump as Steele in the summer and fall of 2016, according to Fusion GPS court filings.
On May 23, 2016, roughly a month after the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS through a law firm, Nellie Ohr applied for and received a HAM radio license. A HAM radio can be used to circumvent standard communications intercepts.
Bruce Ohr is scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Aug. 28 before a joint session of the House Judiciary and Government Oversight committees, which are investigating FBI and DOJ actions surrounding the 2016 presidential election.
Issa, who is part of the investigation, told Fox News on Aug. 19 that lawmakers plan to ask Ohr why he maintained the dialogue with Steele and kept the communications secret. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said he plans to ask Ohr if he acted on his own or received approval from his superiors. Ohr, at the time, reported to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
“The real question that we need to find out from Mr. Ohr is: Was he just a rogue employee acting improperly on his own or did he have some authority from within the Department of Justice and was Sally Yates aware of what he was doing?” Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) told Fox News on Aug. 19.
Yates was among a handful of FBI and DOJ officials who signed off on a secret court application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The applicants failed to disclose that the core of the evidence in the application came from the Steele dossier, that Steele had a known bias against Trump, or that Steele was in touch with Ohr.
The White House and the DOJ didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.