Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees conducted a joint interview with Bruce Ohr, a senior career attorney at the Department of Justice, for nearly eight hours. The interview was part of the Majority’s continuing investigation of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. Republicans have alleged that Mr. Ohr’s testimony casts doubt on the early stages of the investigation into links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. In response to these allegations, Ranking Members Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) of the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, respectively, released the following statement:
“With Paul Manafort in jail, Michael Cohen in court, and a host of longtime Trump confidants cooperating with federal prosecutors, we can understand why Republicans are increasingly desperate to create a distraction and undermine the Department of Justice as a hedge against what the investigators may find. Mr. Ohr has already been forced to endure President Trump’s baseless Twitter attacks. Yesterday’s interview was merely a doubling down of that strategy.
“Like the four other interviews scheduled by the Republican Majority over the August break, yesterday’s interview seems to have been a complete waste of time in trying to prove what has already been thoroughly debunked. We learned little about Mr. Ohr that we did not already know. Mr. Ohr violated no law, regulation, or Department of Justice policy. Much of his career with the Department has focused on his work fighting Russian organized crime—which makes us wonder why House Republicans have now joined President Trump in focusing their energies on trying to fire Mr. Ohr without just cause.
“We once again call on our Republican colleagues to help our committees address any number of issues more pressing than stirring up flimsy, right-wing conspiracy theories.”
Following yesterday’s joint interview with Bruce Ohr, House Judiciary and Oversight Democrats released the following fact-check on what was learned:
- Bruce Ohr has spent almost 30 years at the Department of Justice. He has proven himself to be a tireless fighter against organized crime at home and abroad. He has developed particular expertise in bringing cases against Russian oligarchs and other figures involved in Russian organized crime.
- Mr. Ohr was not involved in any aspect of the Clinton email investigation. He was not involved in any aspect of the investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged connections to Russia. He had no role in developing the “dossier” or the government’s FISA application for surveillance on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
- Long before Christopher Steele authored the “dossier” on President Trump, he was one of the British government’s foremost experts on Russian organized crime—and a professional acquaintance of Mr. Ohr’s. Their professional relationship had nothing to do with the fact Mr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked at Fusion GPS, the company that eventually hired Mr. Steele to investigate Donald Trump’s connections to the Russian government.
- Over the years, when Mr. Steele had information he felt he needed to provide to the FBI, he often reached out to Mr. Ohr, a trusted contact. In 2016, Mr. Steele again reached out to Mr. Ohr with information, who immediately reported this overture to the FBI. Mr. Ohr also made other officials at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division aware of these contacts. He continued the conversation with Mr. Steele with the full knowledge and encouragement of federal investigators.
- In fall 2016, the FBI ended their formal relationship with Mr. Steele as a confidential human source due to his unauthorized disclosures to the press —not because of any factual issues with the “dossier” or other information Mr. Steele had provided. When Mr. Steele subsequently reached out to Mr. Ohr with additional information, Mr. Ohr appropriately handed it off to FBI investigators to assess its credibility and potentially corroborate with other evidence. At the time, Mr. Ohr was the Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and it was not his job to vet the accuracy of this information himself.
- Contrary to the allegations of several Republican members, Mr. Ohr’s testimony does not: (1) cast doubt on the credibility of the dossier; (2) cast doubt on the validity of any representation made to the FISA court; (3) suggest that Bruce or Nellie Ohr had any direct role in the Russia investigation; (4) suggest that he had anything other than a passing professional relationship with Peter Strzok or Lisa Page; or (5) suggest that Mr. Ohr was part of an imaginary cabal at the Department of Justice aimed at defeating President Trump.