Some House Republicans are coming back to Washington a week early to conduct closed-door interviews with three current and former senior officials at the Justice Department and FBI this week, starting Tuesday morning with former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, GOP have sources confirmed.
The interviews are part of the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees’ joint probe into potential abuses of power and misdeeds within the DOJ over the course of its investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
The president has embarked on a crusade to crush Ohr's credibility in recent days, calling the longtime FBI official and his wife a “disgrace.”
Members of the House GOP have accused top DOJ officials of misleading Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act judges on applications for warrants to monitor the foreign contacts of Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Page was no longer with the campaign by the time the FBI began listening to his conversations with foreign nationals.
Republicans have accused Ohr of working with former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele to get the now-infamous dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia — yes, the one that speculates whether the Russian government has a videotape of Russian prostitutes urinating on each other as the president watched — into the hands of senior FBI officials.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the consulting firm Democrats hired to conduct opposition research on Trump. Fusion GPS enlisted Steele due to his extensive contacts as a retired intelligence agent.
The FBI ended its relationship with Steele after he leaked his dossier to Buzzfeed News in 2016.
But House Republicans have claimed they have evidence that Ohr and Steele continued discussing the dossier long after the official relationship ended.
"Conspiracy theorists" ? We have emails showing Bruce Ohr and Chris Steele, Clinton-paid dossier author, were frequently communicating. Ohr was getting info from Steele long after the FBI claimed Steele was formally 'terminated' as a source. They had 60+ contacts. https://t.co/8kWP9Vi7PB— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) August 21, 2018
“When he comes to Congress tomorrow, Bruce Ohr has explaining to do,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who will attend the Tuesday meeting.
The meetings this week will be attended mostly by staffers for Republican and Democratic committee members, but some Republican lawmakers as well.
They will also meet with former FBI general counsel James Baker on Thursday at 10 a.m. and Trisha Anderson, an adviser in the DOJ’s office of legal counsel, on Friday at the same time.
Baker was the top lawyer at the bureau for four years before he was forced out in May. He was one of three FBI officials who spoke with former FBI director James B. Comey after one of his conversations with President Donald Trump about the ongoing investigation into Trump’s campaign associates, including then-national security adviser Michael Flynn. Baker, who reviewed one of the memos Comey drafted after meeting with Trump, was one of the former FBI director’s top confidants.
The DOJ investigated whether Baker had leaked information to the press before he left the department. He was never charged.
Anderson worked closely with Lisa Page, the DOJ lawyer whose text messages with ousted FBI official Peter Strzok complaining about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency lie at the center of the House committees’ probe.
Anderson attended meetings with Baker and multiple DOJ FISA lawyers in April 2016. Republican lawmakers and staffers are keen to learn the contents of those meetings.
Democrats have denounced Republicans’ probe as an effort to deflect attention away from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia and whether Trump tried to obstruct that investigation.
“The Republican effort has been to rally around the president even when he is wrong, even when he puts down publicly our intelligence agencies, even when he disses us and sides with Putin,” Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch said at a committee hearing last month. “Are you kidding me? This is where we’re at now?”
Republicans met last Friday with FBI official Jonathan Moffa about whether he knew of any coordination between Barack Obama’s White House and the DOJ and FBI regarding the Clinton email investigation.
The meetings are taking place behind closed doors, Republicans have said, to avoid another embarrassing partisan spectacle like the public questioning of Strzok in June.