Congress continues its investigation into the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence operation against President Donald Trump’s campaign team and it seems that each new testimony from those involved contradicts what their co-conspirators had previously claimed. Bruce Ohr, the Department of Justice official who testified in a closed-door hearing Tuesday, August 28th, did not buck that trend, from what has been reported thus far.
Ohr had been a lesser-known player in the scandal but his role had, perhaps, raised more questions than any other. Although the details of his testimony have yet to be made public, Republican lawmakers have confirmed that Ohr’s statements contradict key elements of previous FBI claims about their operation.
Where Ohr Fits in
Bruce Ohr had been an associate deputy attorney general with a background in investigations of organized crime – sometimes linked to Russia. His wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for the research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to provide opposition research on Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. That research was obtained from former British spy Christopher Steel, who compiled a series of memos containing uncorroborated claims about Trump and his connections to Russia. These memos, collectively, have been dubbed ‘the Trump dossier.’
The claims themselves originated in Russia and, clearly, no such information would have been provided to a foreign intelligence agent without the knowledge of the Russian government. This fact, in itself, is the first glaring hole in the conspiracy theory regarding Trump’s alleged collusion with Russian officials.
The links between Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS, and the FBI are numerous; the Bureau had used Steele as an intelligence source in the past and considered him a credible asset. In the Trump affair, however, Steele was compromised from the beginning. As had previously been revealed by Bruce Ohr himself, The former MI6 agent “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”
The FBI officially severed ties with Steele after the latter contacted U.S. media outlets in an attempt to publicize the spurious claims made in his dossier. Bruce and Nellie Ohr continued to work with Steele, however; the DOJ official acted as a go-between, passing information from Steele to his own contacts in the Bureau. Meanwhile, the media was also fed information by numerous FBI sources.
While Republican lawmakers, who questioned Bruce Ohr, gave no details of what was said, Representatives Jim Jordan, Darrell Issa, and Mark Meadows provided some general observations during brief media interviews. Issa said Ohr had provided the committee with some “solid information,” while Jordon and Meadows both revealed the DOJ official had contradicted previous claims by those FBI officials involved in opening the Trump-Russia investigation.
No Democrats who sit on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees had attended the hearing, sending staffers in their place. According to Republicans who attended, Ohr revealed the FBI was fully aware that the Trump dossier was both unverified and had been paid for by the Clinton Campaign. The Bureau had failed to provide that information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when it sought a warrant to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
FBI’s Web of Deceit
To date, House committees have grilled numerous players in what is, almost certainly, the most serious criminal conspiracy in American history: Fusion GPS chief Glenn Simpson and former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page to name a few. There have been numerous discrepancies between the testimonies of all these individuals. Various claims about who met whom – and when – what was known about the origins of certain raw intelligence, as well as the meaning and context of text message and email conversations, have all been made by one person and then contradicted by another.
More incriminating still is the so-called “slow-walking” of documents and communications by the DOJ – vital evidence that has been demanded again and again by Congress. Justice claims, each time, that revealing the information in these documents would threaten national security sources and methods but, each time the documents are finally released, no such threats are evident; the previously withheld or redacted information invariably turns out to be embarrassing or incriminating for DOJ and FBI officials.
The common theme that does link all of the individuals involved in this scandal is a very evident dislike of Donald Trump and a collective desire to prevent him from becoming president and – after he won the election – to bring him down. This entire affair reeks of a carefully orchestrated bloodless coup and, if no-one is ever held accountable for this conspiracy against a presidential candidate and then president, the Republic will suffer deep and lasting wounds.