Bruce Ohr, as associate attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice, was demoted in December 2017 because of contacts he allegedly had with the controversial Fusion GPS firm that hired the former British spy who developed the infamous “Trump dossier” on Russia.
Fusion GPS, a firm of former journalists, has been embroiled in national controversy since it emerged that the opposition research company hired Christopher Steele, the former spy who produced the dossier of salacious and unverified allegations about President Donald Trump. It was later revealed that Fusion GPS’ dossier funding came, in part, from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Trump has denied the allegations.
Steele shared the dossier with the FBI and, reports CNN, the Justice Department relied on parts of it to obtain a FISA warrant to “to conduct surveillance on Trump associate Carter Page.” (Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is now investigating former Trump campaign officials, and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. His investigation has been challenged with claims of bias after an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from it after it was revealed that he allegedly exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton messages with an FBI lawyer.) Top congressman are trying to figure out to what degree the FBI relied on the dossier to get a warrant to monitor Page.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ohr, Who worked on Drug Strategy, Lost His Main Title & His Office Too
According to Fox News, until the morning of December 6, 2017, Bruce G. Ohr “held two titles at DOJ: associate deputy attorney general, a post that placed him four doors down from his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; and director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a program described by the department as ‘the centerpiece of the attorney general’s drug strategy.’”
Ohr “will retain his OCDETF title but has been stripped of his higher post and ousted from his office on the fourth floor,” reported Fox. In 2015, a story in Bisnow ran a photo of Bruce Ohr and reported, “DOJ Counselor for Transnational Organized Crime and International Affairs in the Criminal Division Bruce Ohr and Nellie Ohr enjoyed the office’s beautiful view.”
The Justice Department downplayed the demotion, according to the conservative site, Breitbart. “It is unusual for anyone to wear two hats as he has done recently. This person is going to go back to a single focus — director of our organized crime and drug enforcement unit. As you know, combating transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking is a top priority for the attorney general,” DOJ said, according to the site.
2. Ohr Is Accused of Meeting with Glenn Simpson, the Founder of Fusion GPS
The House Intelligence Committee features in the story; according to The Washington Times, it “plans to compel testimony from” Ohr, “a career Justice Department attorney who met during the election campaign with the writer of the infamous unverified Trump-Russia dossier.”
The committee, reported the Times, “has learned that Bruce Ohr, an associate attorney general, not only spoke with dossier writer Christopher Steele but also met after the election with Glenn Simpson, whose Fusion GPS hired Mr. Steele with Democratic Party money.”
“Pursuant to the House Intelligence Committee’s prior subpoenas and information requests, the Department of Justice should have provided the committee with information on contacts that DOJ official Bruce Ohr had with Fusion GPS representatives and Christopher Steele.,” said committee chairman Devin Nunes of California, according to The Times. “The Committee will issue a subpoena to Bruce Ohr for information on this matter.”
The founders of Fusion GPS cut their research teeth in investigative journalism for prominent American and British publications. A Vanity Fair story on the Christopher Steele dossier reports that Fusion GPS was founded by Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter with The Wall Street Journal known for his “tenacity, meticulousness, cynicism…obsession with operational secrecy.”
The article reports that Simpson left journalism after nearly “14 years doing political and financial investigations” at the Journal and, in 2011, “along with two other former Journal reporters, launched Fusion GPS, in Washington, D.C.” Simpson also started a company called SNS Global with Journal colleague Sue Schmidt, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her Washington Post stories into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to The Hill.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to the U.S. Justice Department in March 2017 that alleged that “Fusion GPS, which was also involved in the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, was involved in the pro-Russia campaign to kill the Global Magnitsky Act around the same time.” Fusion GPS’ efforts to help defeat the act led one top Republican senator, Grassley, of Iowa, to accuse the firm of acting as an agent for Russia. Fusion GPS has denied the allegation.
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3. Ohr Is Accused of Discussing Trump with Simpson Over Coffee
According to Fox News, citing Congressional sources, “Simpson and Ohr met sometime around Thanksgiving last year, when President-elect Trump was in the process of selecting his cabinet, and discussed over coffee the anti-Trump dossier, the Russia investigation and what Simpson considered the distressing development of Trump’s victory.”
Fox reported that it’s not clear how Simpson and Ohr first came into contact. “…initial evidence collected by the House intelligence committee suggests that the two were placed in touch by Steele, a former FBI informant whose contacts with Ohr are said by senior DOJ officials to date back to 2006,” reported Fox, which broke the story of Ohr’s demotion.
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According to the schedule online, Ohr once was on a panel at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum with the topic being “Criminal Matters and Allegations of Crimes in International Arbitration.”
4. Ohr Graduated From Harvard Law School & Has a Degree in Physics
Bruce Ohr has had a long career in the U.S. Department of Justice. A biography for him from a speaking engagement described him as “an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice. He serves as the Director of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces, as well as Director of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Council.”
He started out in New York as a federal prosecutor. “Mr. Ohr was an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (1991-99), and was Chief of the Violent Gangs Unit in that office (1998-99). Mr. Ohr joined the Criminal Division in 1999 and served as Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section until 2011, when he became Counselor for Transnational Organized Crime and International Affairs in the Criminal Division, serving in that position until November 2014,” the bio says.
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He has two degrees from Harvard. “Prior to joining the department, Mr. Ohr was an associate at the San Francisco law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (1988-91). He graduated from Harvard College in 1984 with a degree in physics and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1987,” says the biography. The event he spoke at was the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. Ohr “clerked for Judge Spottswood Robinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1987 to 1988,” according to another biography for him.
5. Clinton & the DNC Were Exposed as Fusion GPS Funders
In an exclusive report, The Washington Post reported that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee allegedly “helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier” that lobbed salacious allegations about President Donald Trump, Russia, and even so-called “golden showers” into the public debate. The firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, had steadfastly refused to release details of its funding sources.
Citing anonymous people familiar with the situation, The Post exclusive reported that “Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research. After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to the people. Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”
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However, the Post added that one source said that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC may not have been aware of the Fusion GPS role although the newspaper alleges that Elias received the Steele report. The newspaper added, “At no point, these people said, did the Clinton campaign or the DNC direct Steele’s activities. They described him as a Fusion GPS subcontractor.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, shared the Post bombshell story and wrote on Twitter, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.” Republicans funded Fusion GPS until Trump won the primary (and before the dossier’s collection.)