Newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records of its interviews with senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr reveal that the FBI used Ohr as a conduit to “pee dossier” author British ex-spy Christopher Steele in 2016 and 2017, even after the FBI officially fired Steele for having unauthorized contacts with the media.
The questionable behavior by Ohr and the FBI during the investigation of the Trump campaign was revealed in FBI interview records known as “302s” recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“Ohr was corruptly used by the FBI as a conduit to Clinton spy Christopher Steele and the Clinton-DNC spy ring at Fusion, and we now have received 34 pages of ‘302’ report material from the FBI interviews of Ohr — documents that Congress has been seeking but have been unable to get for over a year,” Judicial Watch said in a statement.
The 302s also revealed other questionable practices by Ohr and the FBI throughout 2016 and up to the beginning of the special counsel investigation that began May 2017.
Here are the top takeaways from the records:
1. The FBI fired Steele in November 2016 for leaking to the media but continued communicating with him through Ohr at least until May 2017.
The 302s showed that after the FBI fired Steele in November 2016 for unauthorized contacts with the media, it continued through Ohr to receive information from him and sought to communicate with him through May 2017.
Ohr, who had known Steele since 2007, had a meeting with him on July 30, 2016 — right before the FBI formally launched its investigation into Donald Trump, according to the 302s. But Ohr maintained contact with Steele after the election. Between late November 2016 and May 2017, Ohr spoke with Steele nearly a dozen times, and the FBI interviewed Ohr about those contacts often just days after. The FBI documented their interviews with Ohr as 302s, or as official witness interviews.
The 302s revealed that Ohr also met with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who hired Steele to produce the dossier. On December 10, 2016, Simpson gave Ohr a thumb drive containing research he believed to be from Steele. Ohr turned over the thumb drive to the FBI as evidence two days later.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) noted the oddity of the FBI terminating Steele but continuing to keep contact with him through Ohr and then interviewing Ohr as a witness:
FBI terminated their formal relationship with Steele because he was leaking.
But DOJ official Bruce Ohr continued to meet with Steele and reported to the FBI about those meetings.
Why did top FBI officials try to hide their relationship with Steele?
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) August 9, 2019
Bruce Ohr 302s show that FBI officials were out to get the President.
The FBI formally documents witness interviews in 302s. There’s two reasons to do this:
-To build a case against the guy you’re talking to
-Or to use it to go after someone else
We know they weren’t after Ohr!
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) August 9, 2019
Steele also knew Ohr was a conduit to the U.S. government, according to the 302s. After President Trump fired then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Steele contacted Ohr to see if he was also going to be fired and who else he could use as a contact if so.
2. Ohr knew as early as July 2016 Steele wanted Trump to lose and that his dossier was opposition research going to the Clinton campaign. Despite the FBI documenting this in a 302 in late November 2016, it continued to use the dossier to apply for three more surveillance warrants on a former Trump campaign official without telling this to the court granting the warrants.
According to the 302s, the FBI interviewed Ohr in late November 2016 about his meeting with Steele on July 30, 2016. Ohr said he knew Steele was working for Fusion GPS to dig up Trump’s connections to Russia and also told them his wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS to do “open source research.” Ohr told them Fusion GPS’s research would go to the Clinton campaign.
Ohr passed on to the FBI that Steele was “desperate” that Trump not get elected and was “passionate” about him not being the U.S. president. Ohr also said Steele and Simpson could have met with Yahoo journalist Michael Isikoff jointly or separately but did not know if they did.
Despite knowing this in late November, the FBI continued to use Steele’s dossier and a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article written by Isikoff as evidence to get a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign official Carter Page without passing any of it on to the court granting the warrants. The FBI submitted applications for warrants in October 2016, January 2017, April 2017, and June 2017.
Instead, the FBI said in a footnote in its application that Steele — or “Source #1” — “was approached by an unidentified U.S. person” — or Simpson — who indicated to Steele that a “U.S.-based law firm” had hired him to conduct research on Trump’s ties to Russia.
“[Simpson] never advised [Steele] as to the motivation behind the research into [Trump]’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that [Simpson] was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” the FBI’s applications said.
The FBI also said in its FISA application that investigators did not believe Steele was a source for the story.
3. Steele maintained contact with State Department officials before and after the election.
The 302s showed that, according to Ohr, Steele’s research was going to the State Department in addition to the FBI, both before and after the election. Former Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer has admitted to passing on Steele’s work to then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.
The 302s show that Fusion GPS’s Simpson “and others” were speaking to Nuland directly.
In addition, in February 2017, Ohr told the FBI that Steele told him he would be meeting with senior State Department official Kathleen Kavalec to “discuss potential Russian influence in upcoming elections,” and that she had also spoken to Steele several times before the election, but dates were not listed.
The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross noted that it was the first time it has been revealed that Simpson was in contact with Nuland:
A lowkey revelation in the Bruce Ohr 302s — Ohr said that Glenn Simpson had been in contact with Victoria Nuland. We knew Nuland was involved in dossier-related stuff, but that's first time she was supposedly in contact with Simpson. https://t.co/WYL60cJy1y pic.twitter.com/FMRMO2qeRc
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) August 9, 2019
4. Steele met with someone in Sen. John McCain’s office before the 2016 election.
The 302s revealed for the first time that Steele met with someone from McCain’s office before the election. Ohr told the FBI that Steele told him that he met with someone in McCain’s office before October 2016 and that Steele did so “at the request” of someone whose name is redacted.
It was later publicly reported that McCain had met with a Steele associate after the election at the 2016 Halifax Security Forum to discuss the dossier and arrange for his office to get a copy of it. That copy was later reportedly leaked to BuzzFeed, who published the dossier in January 2017.
5. Steele and Fusion GPS’s Simpson pushed the idea that an Alfa Bank server in the U.S. was a link between Russia and the Trump campaign before and after the election.
The 302s said Ohr said Steele told him late September that an Alfa Bank server in the U.S. was a link to the Trump campaign and Belarusian-American real estate developer Sergei Millian’s organization.
During Ohr’s December 2016 meeting with Simpson, Simpson pushed the Alfa Bank story again and said he thought Millian oversaw transfers from Russia to the Trump campaign.
During former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony in July, Mueller debunked the idea upon questioning from Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). “I believe it’s not true,” Mueller said.
The interviews of Ohr continued through May 2017 when Mueller began his investigation. Republican members of the Judiciary Committee note the timing of the FBI’s interviews of Ohr coincide with three major events tied to the president — after the 2016 election, right after Trump’s inauguration, and right after former FBI Director James Comey was fired.
“They were out to get the President,” Jordan tweeted.
There were three major clusters of meetings between Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele:
-Right after the 2016 election
-Right after the inauguration
-Right after Comey was fired
They were out to get the President.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) August 9, 2019
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement after obtaining the records:
“These new Bruce Ohr FBI 302s show an unprecedented and irregular effort by the FBI, DOJ, and State Department to dig up dirt on President Trump using the conflicted Bruce Ohr, his wife, and the Clinton/DNC spies at Fusion GPS,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The FISA courts weren’t informed of this corrupted process when they were asked to approve and reapprove extraordinary spy warrants targeting President Trump.”
Follow Kristina Wong at @kristina_wong.