The Associated Press has apparently received some leaks from Bruce Ohr’s testimony this week. According to unnamed sources, Ohr told lawmakers that he had a July 30, 2016 meeting with Christopher Steele in which Steele relayed shocking claims about then-candidate Trump:
Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting. It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele had been directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s research dossier…
One of the meetings described to House lawmakers Tuesday was a Washington breakfast attended by Steele, an associate of his and Ohr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, who worked for the political research firm, Fusion GPS, that hired Steele, attended at least part of the breakfast.
Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, who traveled to Moscow in early July 2016, had met with more senior Russian officials than he had acknowledged.
That breakfast took place amid ongoing FBI concerns about Russian election interference and possible communication with Trump associates. By that point, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the Clinton campaign chairman, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, was said to have revealed that Russians had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, according to court papers. That revelation prompted the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after the breakfast but based on entirely different information.
The quote about having Trump over a barrel is clearly the main hook here, so this leak is almost certainly coming from Democrats. The Hill reports that no elected Democrats participated in the interview of Ohr this week, but Democratic staff from two committees did participate. Republicans described Ohr as cooperative but at least one GOP Rep. said, John Ratcliffe of Texas, said Ohr had, “done nothing but exacerbate my concerns that the FISA process has been abused.”
As for the accusation itself, there’s not much detail to back it up. This allegedly came from a Russian agent but is this person credible or just trying to create more discord in an American election? What specifically did this former agent claim Russia had on Trump? Was it the alleged video of him with prostitutes which would later feature in the dossier? As with everything else in the collusion investigation, it rests mostly on your ability to imagine the worst without any proof.
Wednesday, President Trump tweeted this, suggesting Ohr should be out of a job:
How the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department? Disgraceful! Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
Yesterday, Trump followed up with this:
Wow, Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr’s wife, is a Russia expert who is fluent in Russian. She worked for Fusion GPS where she was paid a lot. Collusion! Bruce was a boss at the Department of Justice and is, unbelievably, still there!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
Fox News reported last December that Ohr had been demoted over his meetings with Steele.
Until Wednesday morning, 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 of “Main Justice.”
Initially senior department officials could not provide the reason for Ohr’s demotion, but Fox News has learned that evidence collected by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., indicates that Ohr met during the 2016 campaign with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the “dossier.”
Later, a Justice Department official told Fox News: “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.”
It may be unusual for someone to wear two hats, but it’s also pretty unusual to see them settle for the lower position rather than the higher one. So it seems as if someone thought Ohr’s meetings were problematic at the time.