TEL AVIV — In recently released testimony, Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official, stated he informed the FBI that the infamous, largely discredited anti-Trump dossier authored by Christopher Steele was based on “hearsay” and not tangible evidence.
Ohr said that he transmitted that information in the time period before the FBI under James Comey used the controversial dossier as central evidence in a successful FISA application to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Comey signed the first or three FISA applications in late October 2016. All three applications reportedly cited the dossier.
Ohr’s closed-door testimony was delivered last year before a joint Judiciary and Oversight Committee “task force.” A transcript of the testimony was released last week by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and was reviewed in full by Breitbart News.
Addressing possible issues of bias in the dossier, Ohr testified that “when I provided it (the dossier) to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information. I don’t know how reliable it is.”
Orh said that the information contained in the dossier was “hearsay,” which means a statement offered as proof of something but that is inadmissible in the court of law.
Here is the relevant portion of Ohr’s testimony:
Mr. Ohr. This was source information.
Mr. Gowdy. I’m pretty sure it would not.
Mr. Ohr. Right.
Mr. Gowdy. Why not?
Mr. Ohr. It was source information. It was hearsay. I —
Mr. Gowdy. What’s hearsay?
Mr. Ohr. It’s something that he did not — it was something that he heard from someone else.
In further testimony, Ohr said that he informed the FBI that the dossier material was based on hearsay: “It definitely is hearsay, and it was source information, which is what I was telling the FBI.”
As Breitbart News reported, Ohr also testified that he informed the FBI that Steele’s dossier was tied to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Ohr testified that he further warned his FBI superiors that the dossier information was likely “biased” against Trump and that he thought Steele was “desperate that Trump not be elected.”
Ohr revealed that he spoke to the FBI about the role of Fusion GPS in producing the dossier, and informed the agency that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked at the time for Fusion GPS.
Ohr’s testimony raises numerous immediate issues for the FBI and separately for Comey.
Comey’s FISA application to conduct surveillance did not specifically state that the FBI had information that Steele was being paid in connection with any U.S. political party, according to House documents and the redacted FISA application itself.
The application also did not say that the FBI was provided with any information that would raise issues of bias concerning Steele. Instead, Comey’s FISA application stated generally that “the FBI speculates” that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign — a far cry from informing the court that the dossier utilized as central evidence against Page in the FISA warrant was paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The phraseology that the FBI “speculates” on possible bias is at odds with Ohr’s testimony that he directly told the FBI about several possible avenues of bias and that he had reason to believe Steele himself was biased.
In other words, Comey may have kept from the FISA court information that would at a minimum raise major questions about the dossier charges that were cited as key evidence against Page in the FISA applications.
Ohr recounted maintaining direct contact with Steele even after the former British spy was terminated as an FBI source over reports that Steele was communicating with reporters. In doing so, Ohr lent credibility to the Republican House Intelligence Committee memo alleging that Ohr served as a back-channel between the FBI and Steele.
In confirming that he told the FBI about his wife’s relationship with Fusion GPS prior to the first FISA application, Ohr also spotlights the GOP Intel memo’s assertion that Nellie Ohr’s connection to Fusion GPS, which produced the central piece of evidence in the FISA application, was “inexplicably concealed” from the FISA court.
Ohr also testified that he told the FBI about the connection between the Clinton campaign and the dossier. Those facts also were left out of the FISA applications. The dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the DNC via the Perkins Coie law firm, which in turn funded Fusion GPS.
Here is the relevant portion of the testimony:
Mr. Gowdy. So you specifically told the Bureau that the information you were passing on came from someone who was employed by the DNC, albeit in a somewhat triangulated way?
Mr. Ohr. I don’t believe I used — I didn’t know they were employed by the DNC, but I certainly said, yes, that — that they were working for — you know, they were somehow working associated with the Clinton campaign. And I also told the FBI that my wife worked for Fusion GPS or was a contractor for GPS, Fusion GPS.
Mr. Gowdy. And, again, you thought it was important to tell the Bureau that for bias
Mr. Ohr. Yes.
Ohr said he told the FBI about his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS and issues with Steele’s information in an effort to inform the agency about possible bias related to Steele’s work.
Ohr also confirmed that the information about credibility issues was provided to the FBI before Comey’s first FISA application citing the dossier in question:
Mr. Ratcliffe. We’ve talked about the relevant facts that the FBI and the Department of Justice was aware of. Were they also — one that I didn’t ask you about — they were also aware of Mr. Steele’s bias against Donald Trump, were they not?
Mr. Ohr. I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected. So, yes, of course, I provided that to the FBI.
Mr. Ratcliffe. Yes. And so were the Department of Justice and the FBI also aware of Glenn Simpson’s bias against Donald Trump?
Mr. Ohr. I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS was working with — doing opposition research on Donald Trump.
Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. So, again, so the record is clear, what the Department of Justice and the FBI was aware of prior to the first FISA application was your relationship with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, your wife’s relationship with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, Mr. Steele’s bias against Donald Trump, Mr. Simpson’s bias against Donald Trump, your wife’s compensation for work for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, correct?
Mr. Weinsheimer. Can I have a second? [Discussion off the record.]
Mr. Ohr. Right. So just, again, to reiterate, when I spoke with the FBI, I told them my wife was working for Fusion GPS. I told them Fusion GPS was doing research on Donald Trump. You know, I don’t know if I used the term opposition research, but certainly that was my — what I tried to convey to them. I told them this is the information I had gotten from Chris Steele. At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when, I don’t think it was the first conversation, I told them that Chris Steele was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected. So those are all facts that I provided to the FBI.
Mr. Ratcliffe. And you provided — you said because you wanted to make sure — first you said you thought there might be a conflict of interest and then you changed that and said, well, I didn’t mean conflict of interest, I just wanted to make sure that they were aware of the possibility of bias as it related to those facts, correct?
Mr. Ohr. In case there is any concern that there might be any kind of bias or anything like that.
A House Intelligence Committee memo released last February documented that, as FBI director, Comey signed three FISA applications to spy on Page with the dossier serving as part of the basis for the warrant requests.
“Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials,” the memo states.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a rebuttal of the House memo that confirms the key contention that the FBI and DOJ both failed to inform the FISA court that Steele’s dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The Democratic memo quotes a footnote from the FISA application, which says that Steele:
was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. person and Source #1 have a long-standing business relationship.) The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
That footnote, which does not inform the court of the dossier’s ties to the DNC, Clinton campaign or Fusion GPS was further confirmed when the Trump administration released a redacted version of the FISA applications last July.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.