Bruce Ohr, the career Justice Department official who is often a target of President Donald Trump’s tweets, is on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a closed-door grilling with lawmakers.
Ohr was in contact with former British spy Christopher Steele, whose unverified dossier claimed Trump was vulnerable to blackmail from the Russians, during the 2016 campaign.
That relationship is expected to be the focus of lawmakers’ inquiries as House Republicans contend that connection between Steele and Ohr has tainted special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation.
Former associate deputy U.S. attorney general Bruce Ohr arrives to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform Committees
President Trump has targeted Ohr repeatedly on Twitter
Lawmakers are also expected to ask Ohr why he continued to meet with Steele after the FBI terminated its ties with the former spymaster as they probed Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
Trump allies Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan are leading the hearing.
‘When he comes to Congress tomorrow, Bruce Ohr has explaining to do,’ tweeted Meadows tweeted Monday.
A GOP House Oversight Committee aide told The Washington Examiner that Republicans are ‘increasingly focused’ on Ohr’s role in getting the Steele dossier to the FBI, and then how it was used from there.
‘[They are] particularly curious about his contacts with [Steele],’ the aide said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, noting that there were more than 60 contacts since January 2016, ‘and when those contacts with Steele occurred.’
‘I don’t know if it’s improper but I want to know who at DOJ knew and it certainly looks like he continued to meet with Mr. Steele after the FBI had terminated their relationship with Mr. Steele,’ Jordan told Fox News.
The House Judiciary Committee and the The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform have held multiple joint sessions with the players in the saga surrounding Mueller’s investigation as part of their look into FBI and Justice Department activities related to the 2016 election.
They have heard from former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, in an open session for Strzok and a closed session for Page.
They allege the ties between the various players show a ‘deep state’ conspiracy to keep Trump from ascending to the presidency.
The FBI claimed Steele violated his confidentiality agreement by revealing to the media his work with federal agents and ended their relationship with him in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Documents show Steele and Orh continued to email and text after that occurred.
But The New York Times reported Monday Ohr’s contacts with Steele were part of the FBI’s effort to determine whether the dossier’s allegations were true. After Ohr meet with Steele, he debriefed agents.
The FBI did not have all of Steele’s reports and wanted to obtain them, The Times noted.
Ohr had contact with former British spy Christopher Steele, whose unverified dossier alleged Russia had information it could use to blackmail Trump
Ohr is speaking to lawmakers as part of their look into the FBI’s and Justice Department’s roles in the 2016 election
Ohr is an expert on the Russian mafia and organized crime, work that brought him into contact with Steele, who specialized in Russia when he worked as a spy.
The two men met in 2007, when Steele still worked for MI-6 and Ohr was investigating Russian crime syndicates.
Steele went on to investigate ties between Trump and Russia for the research firm, Fusion GPS, where Ohr’s wife Nellie worked as a contractor.
Fusion GPS commissioned Steele to write the dossier on Trump that alleged the Russians have information they could use to blackmail the president, including an allegation – which Trump has denied – that he hired ‘a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him’ when he was in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Reports indicate Nellie Ohr did not work on the dossier and her time at Fusion GPS did not influence her husband’s work at DoJ.
But Republicans want to ask Ohr if whether there was a pipeline for Fusion GPS to feed Steele’s dossier to federal agents during the campaign.
‘The relationship with Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Fusion GPS, and Christopher Steele needs to have a lot more illumination,’ Meadows told the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill.
Trump and his allies claim the Steele dossier was politically motivated by those in the government who do not want to see Trump be president.
Democrats, meanwhile, argue the Ohr testimony is another attempt to prove a conspiracy theory they say does not have merit.
Trump ally Jim Jordan is leading the questioning and wants to know about Ohr’s and Steele’s meetings
Trump ally Mark Meadow is also leading the questioning and wants to know about the two men’s relationship
It’s this tangled web of contacts and conflicts that lawmakers are seeking more knowledge of and Trump has used to tout himself the victim of a conspiracy. He’s called on Ohr to be fired.
‘Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions ‘Justice’ Department? A total joke!,’ the president tweeted on August 20th.
The president has also threatened to revoke Ohr’s security clearance, which would render him unable to do his work at the Justice Department.
Ohr’s role in the saga has long be scrutinized.
In dueling memos released earlier this year, Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee battled over Ohr’s connections to Steele and its level of importance.
Republicans argued Ohr was aware of Steele’s bias against Trump and helped conceal it from a judge when the FBI applied to get a wiretap on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
Democrats said Republicans exaggerated Ohr’s connections to Steele.
In July, the administration released documents that showed the FBI relied on more than the Steele dossier to obtain the warrant against Page.
Ohr is an former Associate Deputy Attorney General who was demoted this past year to Organized Crime Task Force Director. He was later removed from that position as well.