It was reported last night in The Hill that at a mid-2016 briefing Bruce Ohr actually warned both the FBI and DOJ officials that Christopher Steele’s Russian dossier was the work of Hillary Clinton and might be biased.
And who was at that briefing? The deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.
When the annals of mistakes and abuses in the FBI’s Russia investigation are finally written, Bruce Ohr almost certainly will be the No. 1 witness, according to my sources.
The then-No. 4 Department of Justice (DOJ) official briefed both senior FBI and DOJ officials in summer 2016 about Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier, explicitly cautioning that the British intelligence operative’s work was opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and might be biased.
Ohr’s briefings, in July and August 2016, included the deputy director of the FBI, a top lawyer for then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a Justice official who later would become the top deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller.
At the time, Ohr was the associate attorney general. Yet his warnings about political bias were pointedly omitted weeks later from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that the FBI obtained from a federal court, granting it permission to spy on whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the 2016 presidential election.
Ohr’s activities, chronicled in handwritten notes and congressional testimony I gleaned from sources, provide the most damning evidence to date that FBI and DOJ officials may have misled federal judges in October 2016 in their zeal to obtain the warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page just weeks before Election Day.
If you recall, the redacted FISA warrant that was released said NOTHING about the fact that this dossier was the work of Hillary Clinton and that it may be biased against Donald Trump. And what it did say, as The Hill reminds us, is that Chris Steele was a reliable source that the FBI had previously used.
Talk about pulling the wool over the eyes of the FISA court.
And the FBI has been less than forthcoming about the truth of when they learned about all of this:
The FBI claimed it was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele, that Steele was “never advised … as to the motivation behind the research” but that the FBI “speculates” that those who hired Steele were “likely looking for information to discredit” Trump’s campaign.
Oh yeah, they were speculating, despite the fact that they knew!
What Ohr said in his testimony to Congress:
Yet, in testimony last summer to congressional investigators, Ohr revealed the FBI and Justice lawyers had no need to speculate: He explicitly warned them in a series of contacts, beginning July 31, 2016, that Steele expressed biased against Trump and was working on a project connected to the Clinton campaign.
Ohr had firsthand knowledge about the motive and the client: He had just met with Steele on July 30, 2016, and Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the same firm employing Steele.
“I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS was working with, doing opposition research on Donald Trump,” Ohr told congressional investigators, adding that he warned the FBI that Steele expressed bias during their conversations.
“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” he added. “So, yes, of course I provided that to the FBI.”
When pressed why he would offer that information to the FBI, Ohr answered: “In case there might be any kind of bias or anything like that.” He added later, “So when I provided it to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information, I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware.”
Ohr went further, saying he disclosed to FBI agents that his wife and Steele were working for the same firm and that it was conducting the Trump-Russia research project at the behest of Trump’s Democratic rival, the Clinton campaign.
“These guys were hired by somebody relating to, who’s related to the Clinton campaign and be aware,” Ohr told Congress, explaining what he warned the bureau.
There was no reason to hide this information from the FISA court. Ohr had credible first-hand knowledge that this indeed opposition research on behalf of the Clinton campaign, and yet they left it out anyway.
So who all knew about this before the FISA warrant was ever issued?
Ohr divulged his first contact with the FBI was on July 31, 2016, when he reached out to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI attorney Lisa Page. He then was referred to the agents working Russia counterintelligence, including Peter Strzok, the now-fired agent who played a central role in starting the Trump collusion probe.
But Ohr’s contacts about the Steele dossier weren’t limited to the FBI. He said in August 2016 — nearly two months before the FISA warrant was issued — that he was asked to conduct a briefing for senior Justice officials.
Those he briefed included Andrew Weissmann, then the head of DOJ’s fraud section; Bruce Swartz, longtime head of DOJ’s international operations, and Zainab Ahmad, an accomplished terrorism prosecutor who, at the time, was assigned to work with Lynch as a senior counselor.
Ahmad and Weissmann would go on to work for Mueller, the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia probe.
All of this was being hatched by the FBI against a candidate running for president in 2016, and yet the media doesn’t give a flying flip about it.
And he even explains who this new information discredits what Democrats were saying about it last year. Definitely go read that portion toward the end.
Great reporting John Solomon, great reporting.