Justice Department official Bruce Ohr’s testimony about his meetings with FBI officials regarding dossier author Christopher Steele severely undercuts claims made last year by California Rep. Adam Schiff and his fellow Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
Ohr told lawmakers on Aug. 28 that he briefed top FBI officials Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page in early August 2016, just days after he met with Steele, a former British spy who was investigating Donald Trump.
Ohr testified that he told McCabe and Page about his interactions with Steele, who was working at the time for Fusion GPS, a Democrat-funded opposition research firm.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Republicans have focused on the Ohrs’ link to the dossier and Steele.
In a memo dated Feb. 2, 2018, House Intelligence Republicans, led by then-Chairman Devin Nunes, asserted that the FBI filed to disclose in their FISA applications that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS. They also noted in the so-called Nunes memo that the FISA applications do not reveal Steele’s anti-Trump bias. Ohr claimed that Steele told him during a meeting on Sept. 23, 2016 that he was “desperate” that Trump not win election.
Ohr testified that he had shared details of his contacts with Steele with the FBI prior to the election.
In addition to the meeting in early August 2016, Ohr met in late September 2016 or early the next month with Page, FBI counterintelligence deputy chief Peter Strzok, and Justice Department officials Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissmann. Ahmad and Weissmann are currently working on the special counsel’s investigation.
The FBI obtained its first FISA against Page weeks after that meeting, on Oct. 21, 2016.
Ohr’s testimony conflicts with House Intelligence Democrats’ claim in a memo released on Feb. 24, 2018 that served as a rebuttal to the Nunes memo.
That document sought to defend the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier and its applications for the first FISA warrant.
Democrats asserted that Ohr did not meet with the FBI until after the 2016 election and thus had no opportunity to tell the FBI that his wife worked for Fusion GPS. He was also unable to relay that Steele had communicated anti-Trump bias to him.
“[Republicans] mischaracterize[s] Bruce Ohr’s role, overstates the significance of his interactions with Steele, and misleads about the timeframe of Ohr’s communication with the FBI,” the so-called Schiff memo reads.
Democrats claimed that only in “late November 2016” did Ohr inform the FBI “his prior professional relationship with Steele and information that Steele shared with him.”
“This occurred weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FISA application,” reads the memo, which included the emphasis on “after.”
“The Majority’s reference to Bruce Ohr is misleading,” Democrats asserted.
The revelations in Ohr’s testimony create a bit of a dilemma for Schiff, who is now chairman of the House Intelligence panel.
In a Feb. 6, 2018 interview with The Atlantic, Schiff remarked on “how flawed the Nunes memo is.”
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