Three former Department of Justice (DOJ) officials on Friday expressed incredulity over reports that a top official continued to have contact with a former British spy after the FBI had cut ties with him during the Russia investigation.
The ex-spy, Christopher Steele, authored the infamous dossier of salacious but mostly unverified information regarding President Donald Trump. Justice officials used that dossier — paid for by 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — to help obtain an eavesdropping warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor possible ties between Russia and Trump campaign advisers.
The Hill reported this week on communications between Steele (pictured above right) and Bruce Ohr, who at the time was associate deputy attorney general at DOJ. Those communications took place in January 2017 — after the FBI had determined it no longer would use Steele as a source.
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Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired by Clinton and the DNC through a cutout, the law firm Perkins Coie. Fusion GPS paid Steele to produce the dossier.
“It sounds like they decommissioned this informant and fully intended to keep using him,” former federal prosecutor James Trusty said on “The Ingraham Angle.” Trusty told Fox News host Ingraham that it is deeply troubling.
“It’s a huge red flag, Laura. I mean, I was with the Justice Department 17 years, seven in D.C.,” he said. “And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out any good explanation for why Bruce, who I knew, was sitting down with a decommissioned informant.”
Ingraham asked if it is conceivable that Ohr (pictured above left) did not know what his wife was working on for Fusion GPS.
“Not at all. I mean, c’mon,” said Guy Lewis, former director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. “These guys, Ohr and his wife, they shouldn’t be touching anything on this with a 10-foot pole. It’s so clear to me that there’s conflict, that there’s an appearance of impropriety. They shouldn’t have had anything to do with this investigation, with this case, any submission to the FISA court. Any of that business. And they know this.”
“I just don’t understand how Steele could be having these meetings with Bruce, with Bruce’s connection to Fusion GPS, and not likely know that there was a Hillary Clinton campaign source for the funding of the dossier,” he said.
“I fear there’ll be a failure of memory, where people go, ‘My God, I send thousands of texts, I just can’t remember what that one’s referring to.'”
Newly discovered text messages show that Steele asked Ohr on Jan. 31, 2017, if it was OK for him to be “able to help locally as discussed.”
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Responded Ohr, “I’m still here and able to help as discussed. I’ll let you know if that changes.”
Steele asked for another FBI contact, writing, “We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous.”
Robert Driscoll, a former deputy assistant attorney general, said “our guy” appears to be a reference to another DOJ official.
“I fear there’ll be a failure of memory, where people go, ‘My God, I send thousands of texts, I just can’t remember what that one’s referring to,'” he said.
Driscoll said Ohr’s continued communications with Steele appear to be inappropriate.
“It’s one thing to say the contact continues. Some people maintain contact with colleagues even after they’re cut off or something like that,” he said. “But where his wife had an interest in the Fusion GPS research getting pushed, the fact that Ohr is the one that was involved in this is a little bit disturbing.”
Lewis praised House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) for his plans to subpoena DOJ and FBI officials, along with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.
“Congress needs to continue to beat them over the head for more transparency,” he said.