In what looks to be another embarrassing blow to the FBI’s (already dubious) credibility, Fox News reported Monday night that the senior DOJ official who was demoted last week after allegedly trying to conceal his contacts with the firm that compiled the infamous “Trump dossier” has deep ties to the firm through his wife.
As it turns out, Nellie Ohr, the wife of disgraced DOJ official Bruce Ohr, was employed at Fusion GPS last year. Her term of employment overlapped with the period when the Trump dossier was being compiled. Though Fox was unable to discern the exact nature of her role at the firm, its reporters discovered that she has done extensive research on Russia-related topics for think tanks based in the Washington, DC area.
Ohr is the second senior DOJ official involved in the DOJ’s probe into Trump’s Russia ties to be demoted this year for suspected bias pertaining to the investigation. The other official, Peter Strzok, allegedly exchanged text messages expressing anti-Trump sentiments with another DOJ official with whom he was having an affair. And as if that weren’t enough to signal a conflict of interest, Strzok, it was revealed, possibly saved then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from prosecution by making a crucial change to the language in the now-infamous letter excusing Clinton for her suspected crimes. Specifically, Strzok changed language in Comey’s letter to "extremely careless" from the original language of "grossly negligent."
House Republicans – led by Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes – have spent the better part of this year investigating how the dossier – which is loaded with salacious and unverified claims about Trump – played into the DOJ’s decision to launch the probe that eventually morphed into the Mueller investigation.
A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump “dossier” had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed, Fox News has confirmed: The official’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.
Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.
In a statement, Nunes said his committee “is looking into all facets of the connections between the Department of Justice and Fusion GPS, including Mr. Ohr,” which suggests that more details fleshing out the exact nature of his wife’s involvement with the dossier could be forthcoming in the near future.
While the DOJ has refused to release any information about Ohr’s role in the investigation, it’s notable that he was demoted shortly after Fox began asking questions about his dual responsibilities: Not only was Ohr responsible for supervising the DOJ’s organized-crime prosecutions, but he also held the position of deputy attorney general. That position came with an office on “Main Justice” – a floor in the DOJ building where many senior officials have their offices.
According to Fox, Ohr's office was situated just a few doors down from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, the official who is nominally in charge of supervising the Mueller probe. Rosenstein’s reluctance to provide information about the dossier to Nunes and his committee nearly led to him being subjected to a contempt of Congress order, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee who has nevertheless insisted that the bureau’s agents have acted fairly and professionally in carrying out their investigation into Trump and his associates’ ties to Russian entities.
Until Dec. 6, when Fox News began making inquiries about him, Bruce Ohr held two titles at DOJ. He was, and remains, director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; but his other job was far more senior. Mr. Ohr held the rank of associate deputy attorney general, a post that gave him an office four doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The day before Fox News reported that Mr. Ohr held his secret meetings last year with the founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, and with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, the Justice Department stripped Ohr of his deputy title and ousted him from his fourth floor office at the building that DOJ insiders call “Main Justice."
The Department of Justice has provided no public explanation for Ohr’s demotion. Officials inside the Department have told Fox News his wearing of two hats was “unusual,” but also confirm Ohr had withheld his contacts with the Fusion GPS men from colleagues at the DOJ.
Nellie Ohr was described as a “Russia expert” at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank where she was employed before joining Fusion.
A review of open source materials shows Mrs. Ohr was described as a Russia expert at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, when she worked there, briefly, a decade ago. The Center’s website said her project focused on the experiences of Russian farmers during Stalin’s collectivization program and following the invasion of Russia by Nazi forces in 1941. She has also reviewed a number of books about twentieth century Russia, including Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia (2000), by Gerald Easter, a political scientist at Boston College, and Bertrand M. Patenaude’s The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921 (2002).
Unsurprisingly, Adam Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the committee refused to comment about Ohr specifically. Instead, he insinuated that Nunes was trying to deliberately discredit the DOJ, which, according to Schiff, did nothing wrong.
“I think there's a hope that if they can impeach Christopher Steele, and they can impeach the FBI and DOJ, maybe they can impeach the whole Russia investigation,” Schiff told MSNBC in September.
Of course, nearly every shred of information pertaining to the dossier that’s been publicly revealed in recent months would appear to counter this claim. Back in September, it was revealed that the dossier was jointly financed by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Then it was revealed that Mueller had managed to interview Christopher Steele, the agent in charge of assembling the document. But apparently that interview did little to help the investigation verify its claims (if it had, we probably would’ve heard about it by now).
These revelations followed months of stonewalling by both the bureau and Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele, a former MI6 agent who worked in Russia for years.
All of this would seem to support the notion that the Mueller probe is hopelessly compromised, because many of the staffers who’ve worked on the investigation have anti-Trump leanings.
The only question now is: Will this be the final straw that prompts Trump to fire Mueller and put an end to his witch hunt. Though, as we pointed out, Mueller’s decision to secure a guilty plea from Michael Flynn might ultimately help salvage his investigation by providing much needed cover.
Regardless, one thing is clear: These repeated lapses in judgment have seriously damaged the bureau’s credibility, as Nunes and several of his Republican peers have suggested.