- Bruce Ohr’s FBI interview notes contain at least four dubious allegations that Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson provided the Justice Department official.
- Ohr relayed details of his interactions with Steele and Simpson during 12 separate debriefings in 2016 and 2017.
- The Justice Department provided the notes to Judicial Watch on Aug. 8.
Justice Department official Bruce Ohr relayed at least four dubious claims to the FBI that he received from dossier architects Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, according to a review of bureau notes released on Aug. 8.
Ohr met with the FBI at least 12 times in 2016 and 2017 following his interactions with Steele, a former British spy, and Simpson, an opposition researcher working for the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC). The Justice Department released heavily redacted notes of the interviews to Judicial Watch.
The notes, known as 302s, show that Ohr told the FBI of four alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign that have either been debunked or were not supported by the special counsel’s report of the Russia probe. (RELATED: Justice Department Releases Bruce Ohr Interview Notes)
They include claims that:
- Carter Page met in Moscow with sanctioned Kremlin insiders,
- Michael Cohen visited Prague,
- A conservative attorney expressed concern that Russia was funneling money to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and
- A Belraus-born businessman named Sergei Millian used a secret email server that communicated covertly with the Trump Organization.
Steele’s accuracy has been a topic of intense debate ever since it was revealed that the FBI relied heavily on the former spy’s research to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Page. The FBI also used the dossier in its overall counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
Republicans have questioned why the FBI relied on Steele’s unverified allegations in order to obtain the Page wiretaps. Those inquiries have picked up steam following the release of the special counsel’s report, which debunked Steele’s main allegation that Trump associates took part in a “well-developed conspiracy of co-ordination” with the Kremlin.
Republicans have also raised questions about Steele’s relationship with the FBI. The bureau cut ties with the former MI6 officer on Nov. 1, 2016 because of his unauthorized contacts with the media. After President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, the FBI tapped Ohr to maintain contact with Steele and report back any information gleaned from the foreign operative.
Ohr said in a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with the FBI that in a July 30, 2016 meeting with Steele, the former spy laid out allegations against Page.
“OHR met [redacted] for breakfast where OHR was told that Carter Page had met with high level officials in Russia. Page met with Sechin and one other person,” the Ohr 302 says.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, also attended the July 2016 meeting with Steele. She worked at the time as a contractor for Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele.
The claim matches Steele’s allegations in his dossier, which the FBI would later use to obtain wiretap warrants against Page.
As part of the alleged conspiracy, Steele said that Page met in Moscow in July 2016 with Kremlin insiders Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin. Steele also alleged that during their meetings, Page and the Russians discussed the existence of compromising materials on both Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Steele also said in the dossier that it was Page’s idea to provide emails stolen from the DNC to WikiLeaks.
The special counsel’s report makes no mention of that allegation and said there was no evidence that Trump associates were involved in hacking or disseminating Democrats’ emails. Page has adamantly denied meeting either Sechin or Diveykin.
The FBI’s Bruce Ohr notes include another allegation of collusion that has been all but debunked by the special counsel’s report.
Bruce Ohr told his bureau handlers in a Dec. 12, 2016 interview that Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, had told him two days earlier that Cohen met in Prague during the campaign with Russians.
“Simpson identified Michael Cohen, a lawyer in Brooklyn, NY as having many Russian clients in the Brighton Beach, NY area. Cohen is the go-between Russia and the Trump campaign and replaced Paul Manafort and Carter Page,” the notes say. “Cohen may have attended a meeting in Prague, possibly in September, regarding the Trump Campaign and the Russians.”
The Cohen-Prague allegation was Steele’s most direct allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Cohen’s repeated denials of the story were widely dismissed because of his reputation for lying on behalf of Trump. Thus, the allegation hung like a cloud over the dossier saga until the release of the special counsel’s report.
The special counsel noted in the report Cohen’s denial that he ever visited Prague. Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 28 that the dossier’s claims about him were false. Cohen’s more recent denials have been seen as more believable given that he had a plea agreement with the special counsel.
Bruce Ohr also told the FBI of Simpson’s claim that a lawyer for the NRA had expressed concern after learning that Russians were funding the gun rights group.
“An NRA lawyer, [redacted] found out about the money pipeline and was very upset, but the election was over by the time she learned of it,” Bruce Ohr told the FBI.
Simpson also said that photos existed of Trump and Alexander Torshin, a top official with Russia’s central bank and lifetime NRA member.
“Simpson stated there are pictures or [sic] Torshin with Trump,” the Bruce Ohr notes say.
Conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell was identified in a McClatchy news report in March 2018 as the alleged NRA lawyer. But Mitchell vehemently disputed the story, saying she had not represented the NRA since 2012. She also denied having any knowledge or concerns about Russian funding for the NRA. She pressed McClatchy for a correction to the article and has accused the reporters who wrote the story of receiving false intelligence from Simpson.
The same two reporters, Greg Gordon and Peter Stone, published stories on April 13, 2018 and Dec. 27, 2018 that pushed the Cohen-Prague link.
Simpson’s claim that there are photos of Trump and Torshin are also likely false. Torshin was photographed with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. on the sidelines of the NRA convention in May 2016. He did not meet the elder Trump, despite at least two attempts to do so.
Torshin worked closely with Maria Butina, a Russian student who pleaded guilty in December to charges that she acted as an unregistered agent of Russia. Butina reported back to Torshin following her encounters with conservative activists and Republican campaigns.
Bruce Ohr’s notes also include a previously unreported allegation about a mysterious Belarusian businessman who is reported to be a major source for Steele’s dossier.
“During that meeting, [redacted] advised the Alfa server in the US is a link to the Trump campaign and Sergei Millian’s Russian/American organization in the U.S. used the Alfa server two weeks prior [redacted],” Bruce Ohr told the FBI on Nov. 22, 2016.
Millian was identified in press reports on Jan. 24, 2017 as an unwitting source for some of Steele’s most significant dossier allegations, including that the Russian government had a sex tape of Trump in Russia in 2013. Millian has denied being a source for Steele.
Allegations about Alfa Bank’s links to the Trump Organization first appeared on Oct. 31, 2016, in an article Slate published. Millian, who was chairman of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, was not mentioned in the article.
The Alfa-Trump connection has since come under intense scrutiny, and former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on July 25 that he did not believe the report to be accurate.
Millian claimed to have links to the Trump Organization. He also established a relationship with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. The pair met numerous times during and after the 2016 election.
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