- The FBI ended its relationship with Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele in late 2016, but the bureau kept taking information from him through DOJ official Bruce Ohr, Ohr revealed in congressional testimony.
- The FBI had renewed interest in connecting with Steele after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, according to Ohr’s testimony.
- Steele was previously paid by both the FBI and the Democratic National Committee through Fusion GPS.
The FBI wanted to reestablish contact with Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele days after President Donald Trump fired bureau Director James Comey, a top Department of Justice official revealed during a previously secret congressional testimony.
DOJ official Bruce Ohr laid out efforts to influence the DOJ by Christopher Steele, a former British spy being paid by the Democratic National Committee via the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The FBI terminated Steele as a source in late 2016, reportedly for his contacts with the media, but he continued to funnel information to the bureau through Ohr.
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey, which concerned FBI leaders. Comey has since been sharply critical of the president.
On May 15, Ohr and Steele discussed “re-engaging” with the FBI at the bureau’s request, which Steele agreed to, according to the testimony, which was obtained by The Epoch Times.
Q: “So you have asked him will he re-engage with the FBI?”
Q: “And he says: ‘Talked with my wife; I’m in.’ You say: ‘Thanks. We’ll let them know and we will follow up.’”
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?”
Q: “So that all happens on May 15?”
The FBI appeared to know that Ohr was funneling them information from a terminated source, since in May 2017, six months after he was terminated, it asked Ohr to have Steele contact the bureau directly. (RELATED: Report: FBI Emails Show Intelligence Community Had Concerns About Steele Dossier)
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—”
After the appointment of Robert Mueller, Steele apparently also used Ohr as an intermediary with the Special Counsel Office.
“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 told Ohr in a text obtained by The Hill and The Epoch Times.
He also sent a text to Ohr on Nov. 18, 2017: “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your [special counsel] 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.”
The Monday Epoch Times report unearthed the previously-concealed testimony from Ohr, a former associate deputy attorney general, given to Congress on Aug. 28, 2018.
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.”
As part of his earlier relationship with the FBI, Steele, a former British spy, gave the dossier to FBI agent Michael Gaeta in Rome in July 2016. But he was then met with silence.
Steele was funded by Fusion GPS, a firm run by former reporter Glenn Simpson that was working on behalf of the DNC. In late 2015, Fusion had begun paying Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, as a Russia analyst on a contractual basis.
But Bruce Ohr’s testimony suggests that Fusion hadn’t engaged with Nellie for a few months — until soon after the unsatisfactory meeting with the FBI agent in Rome, when Steele and Simpson also wanted to meet with the husband.
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.”
Ohr was assigned an FBI handler, agent Joe Pientka, according to his testimony. Ohr would receive materials from Steele and give them to Pientka, who would give them to Peter Strzok, the lead agent on the Russia-Trump investigation, who has since been fired for bias.
In December 2016, Ohr received a memory stick from Steele that he believed contained the dossier and gave it to the FBI. Ohr — whose official duties had little overlap with the probe — acknowledged that his inserting himself into the chain of evidence in an FBI investigation was unprecedented for him.
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.”
Ohr testified that he revealed his wife’s financial relationship with Fusion GPS to his FBI handler, acknowledging it was a source of potential bias. But records show that Ohr never obtained a conflict of interest waiver from his superiors, nor did he disclose his wife’s pay from Fusion GPS on annual ethics forms.
The FBI documented 12 meetings with Ohr in which he relayed information from Steele. But Ohr said there were also more meetings as recent as late November 2017, for which a record was absent, according to The Epoch Times.
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.”
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