More information to follow. Will update with full story momentarily.
Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, was interviewed for 16 hours in June by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The interview is part of an ongoing investigation that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been conducting for the past year. Specifically, Horowitz has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser based in part on information from Steele, an ex-British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010.
Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. But Steele was initially reluctant to speak with the American investigators because of the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal DOJ probe as a foreign national and retired British intelligence agent.
Steele’s allies have also repeatedly noted that the dossier was not the original basis for the FBI’s probe into Trump and Russia.
The extensive, two-day interview took place in London while Trump was in Britain for a state visit, the sources said, and delved into Steele’s extensive work on Russian interference efforts globally, his intelligence-collection methods and his findings about Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who the FBI ultimately surveilled. The FBI’s decision to seek a surveillance warrant against Page — a warrant they applied for and obtained after Page had already left the campaign — is the chief focus of the probe by Horowitz.
The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016. Steele’s American lawyer was present for the conversation.
During the 2016 election, Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to research Trump’s Russia ties. His work was funded in part by a law firm that represented the Democratic National Committee.
Since then, Steele has become a villain to Trump allies who claim that anti-Trump DOJ officials conspired to undo the results of the 2016 election. Conservatives have also seized on Mueller’s conclusion that no criminal conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as evidence that Steele’s sensational dossier was a fraud.
But the extensive interview with Steele, and the investigators’ sense that he offered new and important information, may dampen expectations among the president’s allies who’ve claimed that Steele’s sensational dossier was used improperly by the bureau to “spy” on the campaign.
Page had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when he interacted with undercover Russian intelligence agents in New York City. A trip to Moscow in the summer of 2016 further aroused the bureau’s suspicions, according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant the FBI got approved in October 2016, allowing the bureau to intercept his electronic communications.
Steele’s defenders have noted that the information he provided which made it into the FISA warrant application to monitor Page was not far off. According to Steele’s sources, Page met with high-level Russian officials while in Moscow in July 2016, including the CEO of Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft.
Page denied the claim publicly until pressed under oath by lawmakers in 2017, when he acknowledged meeting “senior members of the presidential administration” during his trip, as well as the head of investor relations at Rosneft. Page had originally claimed only that he went to Moscow to give the commencement address at the New Economic School.
>Well, the Kavanaugh fight is over. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh survived a vicious character assassination campaign executed by the Left. The scars will remain indefinitely, which is tragic, but in the end—we won. Conservatives won a generational victory. We have a solid majority on the Supreme Court. Now, back to matters that you might have missed due to all the left-wing histrionics over this Supreme Court fight.
>We learned from The Hill’s John Solomon that prior to a spy warrant being issued that targeted the Trump campaign, a top Federal Bureau of Investigation official met with Democratic National Committee lawyers. The point is, and what some have already alleged, is that the FBI knew that the so-called Trump dossier was still largely unverified, but it was still used to secure a FISA warrant against former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
>The attorneys in question were part of Perkins Coie, a Democratic law firm the Hillary Clinton campaign used to solicit the services of Fusion GPS, who then hired former British spook Christopher Steele to compile dirt on Trump:
>Congressional investigators have confirmed that a top FBI official met with Democratic Party lawyers to talk about allegations of Donald Trump-Russia collusion weeks before the 2016 election, and before the bureau secured a search warrant targeting Trump’s campaign.
>Former FBI general counsel James Baker met during the 2016 season with at least one attorney from Perkins Coie, the Democratic National Committee’s private law firm.
>That’s the firm used by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to secretly pay research firm Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence operative, to compile a dossier of uncorroborated raw intelligence alleging Trump and Moscow were colluding to hijack the presidential election.
>The dossier, though mostly unverified, was then used by the FBI as the main evidence seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the campaign.
>The revelation was confirmed both in contemporaneous evidence and testimony secured by a joint investigation by Republicans on the House Judiciary and Government Oversight committees, my source tells me.
>“This is a bombshell that unequivocally shows the real collusion was between the FBI and Donald Trump’s opposition — the DNC, Hillary and a Trump-hating British intel officer — to hijack the election, rather than some conspiracy between Putin and Trump,” a knowledgeable source told me.
>It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the Department of Justice and the FBI these past few months. There were credible allegations of bias emanating from within the agency, specifically from former top counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, whose extramarital affair with lawyer Lisa Page caused much embarrassment to the bureau. They exchanged tens of thousands of texts, all anti-Trump and pro-Clinton.
>Strzok was a key point person in the Hillary Clinton email probe and the counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians, which is now being quarterbacked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Strzok was removed last summer once Mueller found out about the texts. He was later reassigned to human resources and then fired after his testimony before Congress over these texts.
Bruce Ohr, the Department of Justice official who brought opposition research on President Donald Trump to the FBI, did not disclose that Fusion GPS, which performed that research at the Democratic National Committee’s behest, was paying his wife, and did not obtain a conflict of interest waiver from his superiors at the Justice Department, documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation show.
The omission may explain why Ohr was demoted from his post as associate deputy attorney general after the relationship between Fusion GPS and his wife emerged and Fusion founder Glenn Simpson acknowledged meeting with Ohr. Willfully falsifying government ethics forms can carry a penalty of jail time, if convicted.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) hired Fusion GPS to gather and disseminate damning info about Trump, and they in turn paid Nellie Ohr, a former CIA employee with expertise in Russia, for an unknown role related to the “dossier.” Bruce Ohr then brought the information to the FBI, kicking off a probe and a media firestorm.
The DOJ used it to obtain a warrant to wiretap a Trump adviser, but didn’t disclose to the judge that the DNC and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign had funded the research and that Ohr had a financial relationship with the firm that performed it — which could be, it turns out, because Ohr doesn’t appear to have told his supervisors. Some have suggested that the financial payments motivated Bruce Ohr to actively push the case.
For 2014 and 2015, Bruce Ohr disclosed on ethics forms that his wife was an “independent contractor” earning consulting fees. In 2016, she added a new employer who paid her a “salary,” but listed it vaguely as “cyberthreat analyst,” and did not say the name of the company.
The instructions require officials to “Provide the name of your spouse’s employer. In addition, if your spouse’s employer is a privately held business, provide the employer’s line of business.” As examples, it gives “Xylophone Technologies Corporation” and “DSLK Financial Techniques, Inc. (financial services).” The dollar amount does not need to be disclosed. “Report each source, whether a natural person or an organization or entity, that provided your spouse more than $1,000 of earned income during the reporting period,” they say.
The DOJ says, “Financial disclosure reports are used to identify potential or actual conflicts of interest. If the person charged with reviewing an employee’s report finds a conflict, he should impose a remedy immediately.” Its guidance says, “Employees should always seek the advice of an ethics official when contemplating any action that may be covered by the rules.”
Paul Kamenar, a Washington, D.C., public policy lawyer experienced in executive branch ethics and disclosure laws, said, “Based on my reading of the regulations and disclosure guide accompanying the form, he failed to disclose the source of his wife’s income on line 4 by not including the ‘name of the employer.’”
“The law provides that whoever ‘knowingly and willfully’ fails to file information required to be filed on this report faces civil penalties up to $50,000 and possible criminal penalties up to one year in prison under the disclosure law and possibly up to five years in prison under 18 USC 1001,” he said. “Since he lists her income type as ‘salary’ as opposed to line 1 where he describes her other income as ‘consulting fees’ as an ‘independent contractor’ it’s clear that she was employed by a company that should have been identified by name.”
“And even with respect to her ‘independent contractor’ listing, it appears incomplete by not describing what kind of services were provided. Both these omissions do not give the reviewing official sufficient information to determine whether there is a conflict,” Kamenar added.
Ohr also did not get a conflict of interest waiver from his supervisors, suggesting that he may not have explained to anyone the true source of the income and how it intersected with his official involvement in the case, nor did he have approval.
If a potential conflict is disclosed and explained to supervisors, a government agency can grant a conflict of interest waiver, known as a 208(b) waiver. In response to a records request, officials told TheDCNF, “There are no … waivers for this filer.”
Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, said “he couldn’t get a waiver for that. That would have required outright refusal.” Making it potentially even worse than failing to recuse, Ohr’s pressing the Trump case appears to be something he decided to do on his own, rather than something assigned to him.
Bruce Ohr was demoted from his DOJ position shortly after the company’s founder acknowledged in a Nov. 14, 2017, interview with the House Intelligence Committee that he had met with him. Fox News reported in December that Ohr had concealed his meetings with the firm from his supervisors.
The form says, “[F]alsification of information required to be filed by section 102 of the [Ethics in Government Act of 1978] may also subject you to criminal prosecution” as well as “civil monetary penalty and to disciplinary action by your employing agency.”
The lack of disclosure is the latest of several examples of people apparently trying to conceal the financial relationship that Fusion GPS, which was funded by the DNC, had with the family of the DOJ official.
In Fusion GPS founder Simpson’s November House interview, he conspicuously omitted his relationship with Nellie Ohr, painting Bruce Ohr as someone who he was connected to independently. Investigators said, “You’ve never heard from anyone in the U.S. Government in relation to those matters, either the FBI or the Department of Justice?”
“I was asked to provide some information … by a prosecutor named Bruce Ohr,” he said.
Investigators said, “Did Mr. Ohr reach out to you?”
“It was someone that Chris Steele knows … and I met Bruce too through organized crime conferences or something like that … Chris told me that he had been talking to Bruce … and that Bruce wanted more information, and suggested that I speak with Bruce,” Simpson said.
Simpson also said his firm was not affiliated with any Russian speakers, even though Nellie Ohr appears to speak the language.
In addition to meeting with Simpson, Ohr also met with Steele before the election.
In an earlier Aug. 22, 2017, interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson didn’t mention either of the Ohrs by name. He said he had not met with any FBI officials about the matter, without noting his contact with the DOJ official.
Simpson suggested in court records on Dec. 12, 2017, that the only way government investigators could have found out about Nellie Ohr’s relationship with the company was through its bank records. “Bank records reflect that Fusion contracted with Nellie Ohr, a former government official expert in Russian matters, to help our company with its research and analysis of Mr. Trump. I am not aware of any other sources from which the committee or the media could have learned of this information,” he said.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has been critical of the department’s handling of the Trump investigation, said, “This document ought to trigger an immediate criminal investigation if one isn’t already ongoing.”
Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said beyond the disclosure issue, as far as the legal definition of conflict of interest requiring a recusal, it could depend on whether Ohr’s actions would have had a “direct and predictable” effect on his wife’s income from Fusion GPS.
Kamenar said what is known as the frequently used “catch-all” provision clearly applies, saying “Circumstances… would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the facts to question an employee’s impartiality” require recusal.
Amey said, “As a lawyer and a top Justice official, Ohr should know that he can’t participate in anything related to his wife’s work … Ohr should have been upfront about his wife’s employment and not touched anything related to Steele, the dossier, and Fusion GPS.” The DOJ’s judgment is only as good as the information volunteered to them by Ohr, he said, and because he didn’t list the name of his wife’s employer, they likely had no reason to suspect it might have impacted his work.
Walter Schaub, a former government ethics czar who is an expert on the forms and resigned after offering sharp criticisms of Trump, declined repeated requests to weigh in on Ohr.
Bruce Ohr did not return a request for comment, nor did the DOJ.
Investigation into alleged collusion between 2016 GOP presidential nominee and Russia is fatally flawed, ‘The Ingraham Angle’ is told
It’s likely that all four sources the FBI used to start spying on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign have connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton, according to a top investigative journalist.
Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal, both longtime political hit men for the couple, are tied to a “pipeline of Clinton-related information” that led into the Department of State, forming a second “dossier” of dirt on that was used to get spy warrants.
Another source of information to the FBI was Fusion GPS, which was being paid by a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm, using funds from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
“When that is all put together … four out of four things the FBI used to start listening in on the Trump campaign comes back to the Clinton family,” said John Solomon, an award-winning investigative journalist and executive vice president of The Hill.
The FBI may be guilty of some politics in the so-called Trump-Russia collusion case, said former Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, sitting in Friday night for host Laura Ingraham on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller in May 2017 as special counsel to investigate the collusion allegations. Rosenstein made the appointment after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case as a result of his having met, as a U.S. senator, with a Russian diplomat.
Chaffetz asked Solomon where the latest intrigue in the Trump-Russia investigation will go. Solomon said the very first report on so-called collusion, by an Australian ambassador in mid-2016, could show he had loyalties to the Clintons.
Last week, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a four-page summary of classified information obtained by the panel. It claimed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI relied almost entirely on a dubious dossier alleging Russian influence.
The dossier was produced by Christopher Steele, a former British spy and a long-time FBI resource, based mainly on material provided to him by sources linked to Russian government and business interests.
The government used the dossier to persuade the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to issue warrants for wiretapping Carter Page, a former volunteer Trump campaign aide who worked briefly on the election effort.
Solomon said another thing to watch for is the forthcoming report on the issue from the DOJ inspector general.
Solomon said another thing to watch for is the forthcoming report on the issue from the DOJ inspector general (IG). The IG previously embarrassed the FBI by releasing thousands of damaging text messages between two FBI employees involved in the collusion investigation. Many of the texts included outright partisan bias against Trump.
“It will be one of the most seminal moments in this whole thing,” said Solomon. “It will help to resolve how much politics was involved, and how much legitimate law enforcement [was involved]. When we see the full breadth of what the independent IG does, I think we’re going to see a more complete picture, and this debate may take an entirely different tack. It will.”
Minority House Intelligence Schiff Memo Reveals Sources and Methods. Memo includes classified information intentionally so that redactions occur.
Preserve FAKE talking points at ALL cost.
Liberals keeping up their lies to brainwash.