Newly released documents provide evidence of the close relationship between top Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored the Steele dossier.
Steele was terminated by the FBI as an informant in November 2016 for defying the FBI’s orders by revealing his relationship with the Bureau to the media. Fusion GPS wanted the media to write anti-Trump stories before the election. But for more than a year, Ohr continued to meet with Steele and serve as a back door into the Bureau.
The watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained 339 pages of records under the Freedom of Information Act including emails and texts between Bruce Ohr and Steele.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said “These smoking gun documents show that Christopher Steele, a Hillary Clinton operative and anti-Trump foreign national, secretly worked hand-in-glove with the Justice Department on its illicit targeting of President Trump.”
“These documents leave no doubt that for more than a year after the FBI fired Christopher Steele for leaking, and for some 10 months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Bruce Ohr continued to act as a go-between for Steele with the FBI and Justice Department. The anti-Trump Russia investigation, now run by Robert Mueller, has been thoroughly compromised by this insider corruption,” he said.
Bruce Ohr is still employed at the Department of Justice, for reasons that are unclear since he failed to disclose his wife’s Fusion GPS work despite ethics rules. He has, however, been demoted.
On July 29, 2016, for example, Steele and both of the Ohrs arranged a breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel.
On September 16, 2016, Steele wrote: “I hope you are well. I am probably going to visit Washington again in the next couple of weeks on business of mutual interest. I would like to see you again in person and therefore to coordinate diaries.”
Bruce Ohr responded: “Perfect. I’ll see you Friday at your hotel at 8 am.”
On December 11, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson sent Ohr a link to an article about supposed Russian spy Maria Butima.
On December 12, Ohr spoke with Simpson, and the next day spoke with Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Russia probe.
When acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump, Steele became anxious that Ohr would be fired too, depriving him of his “in” to the DOJ. Ohr assured Steele that he would get Steele another way in to the FBI if he was laid off.
On March 7, 2017, Steele said he was “very concerned” by a letter from Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley investigating Fusion GPS’s political activities. “We’re very concerned by the Grassley letter and it’s possible implications for our operations and our sources. We need some reassurance,” he wrote. “Thanks for that, old friend. Please do fight our cause and keep in touch. Really fundamental issues at stake here.”
Days before Jim Comey testified before Congress in March 2017, Steele told Ohr: “Obviously we’re a bit apprehensive given Comey’s scheduled appearance at Congress on Monday. Hoping that important firewalls will hold.”
Ohr replied: “I believe my earlier information is still accurate. I will let you know immediately if there is any change.”
Ohr then appears to want to work in tandem with the DOJ to strategize how to respond to questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about Fusion GPS’ efforts.
Steele wrote: “We understand an approach from the Senate Intelligence Committee to us is imminent. I would like to discuss this and our response with you.”
Ohr was willing to speak with him over a weekend: “We can chat this weekend if you are available. Would sometime on Sunday work for you? I’m pretty open.
In November 18, 2017, Steele and Ohr plan to discuss “difficulties and uncertainty:”
Steele: Dear Bruce, I hope you and the family are well. It’s been another tough week here under the media spotlight and with legal pressures bearing down on us. I am presuming [redacted]. Also, we remain in the dark as to what has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work. I know you understand the importance of all this and have done your very best to support us, but we would be grateful if you could continue to [Redacted]. Sincere thanks for everything you are doing and I hope to speak to you again soon. Best, Chris
Ohr: Chris, thanks for reaching out. I understand the difficulties and uncertainty you are experiencing. I [redacted]. Let’s plan to talk early in the week – Bruce
In order for the FBI to continued to receive information from Steele even after his ban, the FBI assigned Ohr himself a handler, an FBI agent who repeatedly interviewed the DOJ official to provide second-hand information that he had received from Steele. The FBI was aware of the ultimate source.
Steele and Simpson have avoided the spotlight and declined to speak publicly as the anatomy of the Russia probe’s origin has been examined.
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