Recently released documents reveal “confirmed socialist” former spy Christopher Steele “appeared to ask” former fourth-ranked Justice Department official Bruce Ohr for help on behalf of a Russian oligarch who once spent $25 million at the request of then-director Robert Mueller’s FBI.
Steele famously compiled the opposition research dossier then-FBI Director said contained “personally sensitive aspects” that were “salacious and unverified,” and was paid for by Hillary for America and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
That dossier cited information drawn from a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure,” a “former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” a “former senior intelligence officer,” a “former top-level Russian intelligence officer and Kremlin insider,” and a “former top Russian intelligence officer,” indicating Steele colluded with Russians to compile it for the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Now, in addition, the new documents suggest that Steele approached Ohr on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska “after rumors the U.S. might impose sanctions.”
Deripaska, founder of UC Rusal, a large Russian aluminum company, once the ninth richest man in the world, among the closest oligarchs to current dictator Vladimir Putin, may have been a Steele client at the time.
According to reporting by journalist John Solomon, in 2009, when Mueller led the FBI, the Bureau persuaded Deripaska to spend what ultimately amounted to $25 million of his own money underwriting an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran in 2007 while working for the CIA.
One FBI official who worked with Deripaska was Andrew McCabe, the recently fired FBI deputy director who oversaw the Clinton security breach investigation, and whose wife received $470,000 from a PAC affiliated with Clinton ally then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a transaction President Trump has criticized.
Fast-forward to two months before Trump was elected president in 2016.
Three FBI agents abruptly awakened Deripaska, in New York City, as a member of Russia’s UN delegation, in his home there.
According to David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family, at least one of those three agents had worked with Deripaska on the attempt to rescue Levinson. It is not known whether that agent was McCabe.
During the hour-long meeting that followed, the agents put forward the theory that Trump’s presidential campaign was colluding in secret with Russia to win the U.S. election.
“Deripaska laughed but realized, despite the joviality, that they were serious,” McGee said. “So he told them in his informed opinion the idea they were proposing was false. ‘You are trying to create something out of nothing,’ he told them.””
In March of this year, Deripaska penned an op ed in which he systematically dismantled the Russia collusion theme.
Regardless, according to Melanie Sloan, a former Clinton Justice Department lawyer and “longtime ethics watchdog,” a “far more significant issue” than whether the Deripaska relationship constitutes a conflict of interest for Mueller today is whether the earlier FBI operation was even legal: “It’s possible the bureau’s arrangement with Mr. Deripaska violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits the government from accepting voluntary services.”
Likewise, according to Solomon, George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley concurred that “If the operation with Deripaska contravened federal law, this figure could be viewed as a potential embarrassment for Mueller. The question is whether he could implicate Mueller in an impropriety.”
The revelation that Steele approached Ohr on Deripaska’s behalf bolsters the case that at the same time Steele compiled the Clinton- and DNC-funded dossier and fed it into the FBI, he was working for a close Putin ally – one with whom Mueller’s FBI had colluded in the past.
Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D., the Executive Vice President of the Center for Security Policy, served four tours on Capitol Hill, including most recently as the Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Steve King, (R-Iowa). He is the author of Grassroots Rules.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.