Congress’ Trump-Russia Task Force Gears Up For Interviews With Two Key Witnesses
- A congressional task force is set to interview the wife of DOJ official Bruce Ohr and the FBI’s former general counsel, James Baker.
- Republicans fret that they are running out of time to question witnesses who might shed light on the government’s handling of the infamous Steele dossier. If Democrats take over the House, ongoing investigations into the dossier are likely to dry up.
- Ohr worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier.
As the midterm elections grow closer, House Republicans fret that their window of opportunity to gain answers about the government’s investigation into the Trump campaign is quickly closing. If Democrats take over the House, congressional sources predict, the GOP-led probes into the government’s reliance on the unverified Steele dossier will come to a screeching halt.
But with three weeks left until the midterms, Republicans have a final shot this week to question two witnesses with direct knowledge of the FBI’s and Department of Justice’s handling of the dossier.
The congressional task force, which consists of members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Committees, will conduct the second leg of an interview Thursday with James Baker, the FBI’s former general counsel.
And on Friday, the task force will finally get a shot at interviewing Nellie Ohr, the wife of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and a former employee of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier. (RELATED: Fusion GPS Confirms Hiring DOJ Official’s Wife)
Nellie Ohr’s interview is likely to yield the most new information.
An expert on Russia, Nellie Ohr worked for Fusion GPS from late 2015 through the 2016 election.
During that timeframe, Fusion GPS was working on two Russia-related projects. The first was the investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible links to Russia. Perkins Coie, the law firm for the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion GPS in spring 2016 to carry out that probe. Fusion in turn hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy who would go on to compile 17 memos alleging a massive conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin.
The memos, known as the Steele dossier, were used by the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Fusion GPS was also working at the time for Prevezon Holdings, a company controlled by Russian businessmen that was battling Bill Browder, an international financier who was the leading force behind the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 bill that sanctioned Russian human rights abusers.
Prevezon hired Fusion GPS to investigate Browder.
As part of the project, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who is most well-known for attending a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016.
It is still not known whether Nellie Ohr, who speaks Russian, worked on the Prevezon project. It is also not clear if Bruce Ohr worked on the Justice Department’s investigation into Prevezon.
The government investigated the Cyprus-based company for money laundering. As director of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force until his demotion earlier this year, Bruce Ohr was one of the government’s top experts on Russian organized crime and money laundering.
In the upcoming interview with Nellie Ohr, Republicans are likely to question why, out of all of the Russia experts in Washington, D.C., Fusion GPS picked her to work for the firm.
“Was it because your husband was a top DOJ official? And what information did you pass to your husband who then passed it to the FBI?” GOP Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said in an interview on Fox News Tuesday, signaling the questions he plans to ask Nellie Ohr on Friday.
As for Baker, who resigned from the FBI in May, his interview will likely pick up where his Oct. 3 deposition left off. That session, which was conducted behind closed doors, yielded “explosive” information, Republicans said. (RELATED: Top FBI Official Told Congress About Interactions With DNC Lawyer)
Sources told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Baker revealed that he met before the election with Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Perkins Coie, the firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC. Baker said that Sussmann provided him documents related to Russian hacking.
Baker also testified that in May 2017, then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told him of a meeting in which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire during meetings with Trump. Rosenstein also allegedly spoke of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Republicans plan to ask Baker what steps the FBI took in response to Rosenstein’s statements. Did McCabe and other FBI officials take the comments seriously? Did the bureau consider supporting Rosenstein’s idea?
Rosenstein considered resigning from office after his remarks were first reported by The New York Times on Sept. 21. But he has since met with Trump, who has said he has no plans to fire Rosenstein.
The congressional task force has pressed for an interview with Rosenstein, especially in the wake of Baker’s first deposition. But Rosenstein has so far failed to appear before the lawmakers, perhaps because he is emboldened by Trump’s support.
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