Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., obtained 34 pages of the FBI’s notes, known as “302s,” as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit after the agency declined to voluntarily hand over the requested materials. In court filings last week, DOJ attorneys said the department “decided to release the requested records in part to plaintiff.”
Ohr, who worked with Steele for years and acted as an unofficial conduit between Steele and the bureau during the Trump-Russia investigation, had a dozen such interviews with the FBI. One of them took place in November 2016, three in December 2016, three in January 2017, two in February 2017, and three in May 2017. Ohr was the fourth-ranking official at the DOJ until he was demoted after it came to light that he met with Steele and Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned Steele’s work. Ohr’s wife Nellie also worked for Fusion GPS in 2016.
Fusion GPS was hired by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and the company then hired Steele, who allegedly reached out to sources in Russia to put together his salacious and unverified dossier. That dossier was used extensively in four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications and renewals targeting Trump associate Carter Page, who was never charged with any wrongdoing.
Ohr told congressional investigators last year that Steele was desperate for Trump to lose in 2016, but neither Steele’s Democratic benefactors nor his animus against Trump were disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in redacted FISA warrant documents that have been released, which has drawn the ire of Republicans.
Simpson met extensively with Bruce Ohr as well as numerous journalists to whom he provided Fusion GPS’s anti-Trump research in 2016. When Nellie Ohr was hired by Fusion GPS to conduct research, Simpson knew her husband was working at the DOJ. Both Bruce Ohr and Nellie Ohr met with Steele at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2016. Bruce Ohr reportedly provided information stemming from that meeting to the FBI a few days later. The FBI’s Trump-Russia counterintelligence investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” was launched on July 31, 2016. It is believed that controversial FBI special agent Peter Strzok signed the order that launched the inquiry.
Other than sharing his information with Bruce Ohr, Steele also provided details from his dossier to members of the media and the government, including then-Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former State Department official Kathleen Kavalec, who raised doubts about the accuracy of some of Steele’s info.
In September 2018, Trump directed the DOJ to declassify a series of investigative documents including “all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation.” But a few days later he appeared to walk back that order in a follow-up tweet.
Earlier this year, Trump gave Attorney General William Barr “full and complete authority to declassify information” related to the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, and Barr selected U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead the review.
Barr has said he is working closely with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who launched an inquiry in March 2018 into alleged abuse of the FISA Court process, including the FBI’s use of the Steele dossier. Horowitz’s report is expected after Labor Day.