The Russian Connection: Trump’s Latest Target – Bruce Ohr

On of the names that came up in Donald Trump’s latest vendetta of trying derail the Russian investigation is a man named most are not familiar with, Bruce Ohr. Ohr works in the criminal division of the Justice Department and he has been a frequent target of Trump’s tweets in August.

Before Trump started tweeting, Ohr, a former associate deputy attorney general (until December 2017), was largely anonymous to the general public. But within some conservative circles, his purported involvement in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and possible Russian interference in the 2016 election has been the stuff of a great deal of theorizing over the past few months.

That theorizing has now reached Trump himself:

Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions “Justice” Department? A total joke!

Now Ohr might lose his security clearance. He is facing a congressional hearing into what he knew about Christopher Steele and the dossier Steele helped to create. And Trump is repeatedly focusing attention on an employee within his own administration.

So who exactly is Bruce Ohr, and why are he and his wife, Nellie, at the center of a firestorm that began in conservative media and has exploded onto the president’s Twitter feed? [..]

Bruce Ohr is a longtime Department of Justice employee. Until December 2017, in fact, he had two jobs within the DOJ: associate deputy attorney general, serving under Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; and director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).

But in December, he was demoted from associate deputy attorney general. The Justice Department didn’t detail the reasoning for the demotion, telling Fox News, “It is unusual for anyone to wear two hats as he has done recently,” but observers on the right assumed the real reason had to do with Ohr’s purported connections to the Steele dossier. [..]

Ohr met and emailed multiple times with Steele, who had been on the FBI payroll in the past as a source. According to emails revealed by the Hill earlier this month, contact between Ohr and Steele went on for more than a decade, from 2002 to 2017 — including after the FBI suspended its relationship with Steele because he shared information with the media.

Also, Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie Ohr, a Russian history expert, worked as a contractor for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters in mid-2016 — a fact that Bruce Ohr didn’t share on federal disclosure forms. [..]

Ohr was also mentioned in Rep. Devin Nunes’s heavily hyped memo, which alleged that the FBI abused its power in surveilling Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. The memo details how Steele told Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

Among many on the right, the implication is clear: Ohr’s involvement, whether via his meetings with Steele or through his wife’s work for Fusion GPS, casts aspersions on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, and taints the investigation itself.

But according to Rosenstein, Ohr has never worked on the Mueller investigation or the 2016 surveillance of Carter Page, the Trump foreign policy adviser. Even the Nunes memo doesn’t imply that Ohr knew anything about surveillance applications or any of the other fine-grain pieces of the investigation itself.

Wednesday night MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explored Ohr’s history with the Justice Department.

Recently. the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump sycophant, Representative David Nunes (R-CA) made a mysterious trip to Britain seeking to meet with top British intelligence officers seeking information on former MI6 intelligence officer and author of the dossier, Christopher Steele.

According to two people familiar with his trip across the pond who requested anonymity to discuss the chairman’s travels, Devin Nunes, a California Republican, was investigating, among other things, Steele’s own service record and whether British authorities had known about his repeated contact with a U.S. Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. To that end, Nunes requested meetings with the heads of three different British agencies—MI5, MI6, and the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. (Steele was an MI6 agent until a decade ago, and GCHQ, the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, was the first foreign-intelligence agency to pick up contacts between Trump associates and Russian agents in 2015, according to The Guardian.)

A U.K. security official, speaking on background, said “it is normal for U.K. intelligence agencies to have meetings with the chairman and members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” But those meetings did not pan out—Nunes came away meeting only with the U.K.’s deputy national-security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri. The people familiar with his trip told me that officials at MI6, MI5, and GCHQ were wary of entertaining Nunes out of fear that he was “trying to stir up a controversy.” Spokespeople for Alessandri and Nunes did not return requests for comment, and neither did the press offices for MI5 and MI6. GCHQ declined to comment.

Nunes’ trip was a topic of conversation on MSNBC’s “Last Word” Tuesday night with host Lawrence O’Donnell, Mother Jones’ Washington Bureau chief David Corn and The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand.