Senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr has provided a point-by-point narrative of his actions promoting the 2016 Democratic Party-financed dossier that conflicts with Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s official version, according to a comparison of the two.
Mr. Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who has promised a wide investigation of President Trump, issued a memo last year on the FBI’s early-on investigation into the Republican’s campaign.
It was a counter to a report issued Feb. 2 by Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican who was chairing the committee. Mr. Nunes won White House approval to declassify excerpts from FBI documents to show that the bureau relied heavily on the unverified dossier to gain a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page for one year. His report included a summary of the FBI application to a judge under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
He accused the FBI of improperly relying on a partisan document compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Nunes said the FBI failed to tell judges that the dossier was basically a Democratic Party product. Mr. Steele remains on the payroll of wealthy liberal donors trying to unseat Mr. Trump.
Mr. Schiff’s rebuttal report downplayed the dossier’s role. His version was overwhelmingly accepted by the liberal media, which declared the Nunes memo “debunked.”
Nunes supporters say his assessment has survived the test of time as more information reaches daylight. In July, the FBI released a redacted copy of the FISA application to which Mr. Nunes had referred. Supporters say its information dovetailed with his report.
The most recent disclosure is Mr. Ohr’s closed-door testimony in August to a joint House judiciary-oversight task force. Parts of the transcript were first reported Jan. 14 by The Epoch Times.
Point by point
⦁ Mr. Schiff’s report downplayed Mr. Ohr’s dossier role. At the time, Mr. Ohr was an associate deputy attorney general who reported to the No. 2 official in the Justice Department.
“The majority mischaracterizes Bruce Ohr’s role, overstates the significance of his interaction with Steele. … Bruce Ohr took the initiative to inform the FBI of what he knew and the Majority does him a grave disservice by suggesting he is part of some malign conspiracy,” the Schiff report states.
Ohr testimony: For months, Mr. Ohr was the key link among the FBI, Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS, the firm that handled him as he submitted anti-Trump memos from June to December 2016.
Mr. Ohr was unclear about his motive for his self-appointed mission. His wife, Nellie, worked at Fusion as an anti-Trump researcher. She provided a thumb drive of her work, which Mr. Ohr handed to the FBI. Mr. Ohr also delivered a thumb drive from Fusion that contained dossier memos.
He met with Mr. Steele in July 2016 and had sessions with Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson. They both provided anti-Trump allegations that Mr. Ohr provided the FBI.
Mr. Ohr’s messenger job for Mr. Steele continued until November 2017.
⦁ Mr. Schiff’s report said Mr. Ohr didn’t go to the FBI with the Steele allegations until November 2016, a month after the FBI executed its first spy warrant on Carter Page. Mr. Schiff’s timeline asserts that Mr. Ohr’s feed had no effect on the FBI’s FISA application.
Ohr testimony: Mr. Schiff’s chronology is wrong. Mr. Ohr first met with Mr. Steele in July and personally conveyed the allegations at FBI headquarters in August to Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s No. 2 agent, and his legal counsel, Lisa Page.
Mr. Ohr met again with Mr. Steele in September. In October, before the FISA application, he met with Peter Strzok, the agent leading the Trump investigation, which he opened on July 31. He also spoke with Ms. Page and Andrew Weissmann, a Justice Department lawyer now on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
After the election in late November, Mr. Ohr again met with Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page. He also was introduced to agent Joe Pientka, who became his go-between.
In September, Mr. Strzok sent his counterintelligence team to London to gain more information from Mr. Steele, who provided dossier memos. At the time, the FBI knew that Russian agents had hacked Democratic Party computers and had sent stolen emails to WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy website released the emails in July, September and October, creating scores of news stories on internal Clinton campaign operations.
⦁ Mr. Schiff’s report defended the FBI against Mr. Nunes’ charge that the bureau hid the dossier’s pure partisanship. The California Democrat pointed to a FISA warrant application footnote: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate #1’s campaign.”
The “U.S. person” was Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.
Ohr testimony: When meeting with the FBI before the FISA application, Mr. Ohr knew Fusion was linked to the Clinton camp and warned Mr. McCabe that Mr. Steele was “desperate” to sink Mr. Trump.
In other words, the FBI knew firsthand of Fusion’s motives, as opposed to “speculates.”
Of the August 2016 FBI meeting, Mr. Ohr testified: “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.”
He added: “What I would say is that, in evaluating any information that I transmitted to the FBI, I wanted the FBI to be aware of any possible bias.”
Question: “So you believe there was the possibility of bias?”
Mr. Ohr: “Yes.”
He also testified: “I definitely had a very strong impression that he did not want Donald Trump to win, because he believed his information he was giving me was accurate, and that he was, as I said, very concerned, or he was desperate, which is what I then told the FBI.”
Overall, Mr. Ohr’s testimony shows he played a major role in inserting Mr. Steele’s anti-Trump allegations inside the upper echelons of FBI headquarters. What followed was Mr. Strzok’s decision to dispatch agents to London in September to receive their first dossier copies.
Mr. Ohr also gave the agency copies, as did Obama appointees at the State Department and Sen. John McCain, who hand-delivered a copy to then-FBI Director James B. Comey.
Beyond Mr. Ohr’s House testimony, Mr. Nunes’ supporters have pointed to other supposed errors in Mr. Schiff’s 2018 report.
Mr. Schiff said the FBI “independently corroborated” Mr. Steele’s allegation that Mr. Page, while on a public trip to Moscow in July 2016, met with two associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They offered Mr. Page, an energy investor who had lived in Moscow, bribes for working to ease U.S. sanctions.
Mr. Page has repeatedly denied any such meetings took place.
If Mr. Steele’s allegations were in fact confirmed, as Mr. Schiff said in 2018, they have not shown up in any Mueller court filings or charges against Mr. Page.
Overall, not one of Mr. Steele’s Russia election collusion charges against Mr. Trump and his associates has been confirmed publicly.
Mr. McCabe told the committee in December 2017 that the FBI hadn’t confirmed Mr. Steele’s charges. He also said the dossier was essential to gaining court-approved wiretaps.
In November 2016, an internal FBI report graded Mr. Steele’s dossier as only “minimally corroborated.”
Mr. McCabe was fired for allegedly lying to investigators for the Justice Department inspector general.
He opened an investigation into whether Mr. Trump was a Russian agent after the president fired Mr. Comey in May 2017, The New York Times reported.
Mr. Strzok was fired for a stream of text messages with Ms. Page denigrating Mr. Trump and discussing how to “stop” him. Ms. Page resigned.
The Ohr-Steele link continued until November 2017. Mr. Steele would call or text, and Mr. Ohr would pass along his latest charges to the FBI.
CNN reported that Mr. Steele met with Mr. Mueller’s staff in October 2017.
Meanwhile, Mr. Schiff, an active Twitter user, hasn’t responded to Mr. Ohr’s testimony.
House Democrats have said they have no interest in continuing the probe into Mr. Steele or into how the FBI investigated Mr. Trump.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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