In a surprise move Friday, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, unilaterally released the 268-page transcript of an August 2018 interview with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
Collins explained that his patience with the Justice Department “has grown thin.” He took to the House floor and asked that the full, unredacted transcript be put on the record.
In his testimony, Ohr revealed that former British spy Christopher Steele was simultaneously paid by both the FBI and the Democrat opposition research firm Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.
The transcript also shows claims conflicting with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson on several key points, including the timing of their meeting to discuss the Steele dossier.
Additionally, Ohr testified that Simpson provided false information to federal officials regarding Cleta Mitchell, a Republican campaign finance attorney who used to work for the NRA.
Simpson was expected to face the panel last October, but rejected a subpoena to testify, saying he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“Mr. Speaker, last Congress, the Judiciary Committee interviewed multiple DOJ and FBI officials about their actions regarding the 2016 elections,” Collins said. “People anticipate the Mueller report soon. Will he find any so-called ‘collusion’? Or was the only ‘collusion’ among agency personnel who hated the president and started this investigation?” he added. “Our interview transcripts were pertinent to a congressional investigation, but the 115th Congress ended, the investigation was closed, and copies were shared with certain members of Congress.”
— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) March 8, 2019
In 2016 and 2017, Ohr kept top officials at both the FBI and Department of Justice apprised of his conversations with Christopher Steele both before and after Steele was fired as an informant.
The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained Fusion GPS through lawyer Marc Elias and his firm Perkins Coie to dig up dirt about candidate Trump after he clinched the Republican nomination.
Fusion GPS hired Steele, who authored the still unverified, largely discredited dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government that the FBI used to obtain a warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Ohr testified to Congress last August that he repeatedly warned top officials at the FBI and DOJ about Steele’s bias and Fusion GPS’s conflicts of interest, yet this information was kept hidden from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked as a contractor for Fusion GPS while all of this was going on.
A task force of members from the then-Republican-led House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees interviewed Ohr on Aug. 28, 2018.
Collins said Friday that he plans to release additional transcripts from interviews conducted by the task force. Lawmakers have also interviewed Nellie Ohr and FBI and Justice Department officials such as former FBI general counsel James Baker and former FBI attorney Lisa Page.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we gave DOJ an opportunity to review them for information that would endanger national security, but after many months and little progress, our patience has grown thin,” Collins said.
“The proposed redactions have nothing to do with national security and are anathema to our goal of government transparency,” he continued, adding, “I am, therefore, today making one of these transcripts public.”
“I intend to make other transcripts public soon,” he added. “I’m willing to consider any reasonable redactions DOJ makes in a timely manner, but won’t allow these transcripts to remain shrouded in secrecy.”
In the hearing, Bruce Ohr undercut several claims made by Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, and California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Bruce Ohr testified that he met with Simpson on Aug. 22, 2016 to discuss information from the dossier. That contradicted Simpson’s testimony to House Intelligence on Nov. 14, 2017 that he did not meet with Bruce Ohr until after the election.
Bruce Ohr also told lawmakers that he told the FBI about his contacts with Steele in early August 2016, days after he and Nellie Ohr met the former British spy in Washington, D.C.
Schiff claimed in a memo released on Feb. 24, 2018 that Bruce Ohr did not tell the FBI about his contacts with Steele until after the election.
Ohr testified that he generally trusted Steele, who he first met in 2007, when Steele still worked for the British government. But Ohr had less confidence in Steele’s sources, since their information originated with Russians.
“I think — my impression is that Chris Steele believed his sources,” Ohr said in one exchange.
“What I should say in addition, though, is that whenever you are dealing with information from Russia, you have to be careful, because it is a very complicated place. And so even information from a good source has to be looked at carefully.”
The Federalist’s Sean Davis highlighted some additional revelations on Twitter: