Public servants operating in secret to reveal the secrets of others often find their whispers put on blast. Bruce Ohr, as a result of the tenacity of Judicial Watch, finds himself in this situation.
The 339 pages of heavily-redacted material — in large part concerning communications between Christopher Steele, compiler of the Clinton campaign’s opposition research on Donald Trump dubbed an intelligence “dossier,” and Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general whose wife worked for the Fusion GPS firm that served as a conduit for Steele to receive payment without the Clinton campaign needing to note this on federal disclosures — obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that investigators do not like to be investigated.
“B, doubtless a sad and crazy day for you re:-SY,” Steele wrote Ohr upon Trump’s firing of acting attorney general Sally Yates for insubordination just days into his administration. “Just wanted to check you are OK, still in situ and able to help locally as discussed, along with your Bureau colleagues, with our guy if the need arises? Many Thanks and Best as Always, C.”
“Yes, a crazy day,” Ohr responded. “I’m still here and able to help as discussed. I’ll let you know if that changes. Thanks.”
“You have my sympathy and support,” Steele responded. “If you end up out though, I really need another (Bureau?) contact point/number who is briefed. We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous all round, though his position now looks stable.”
When Senator Charles Grassley wrote a letter to the FBI inquiring about its payments to Steele, the British operative wrote Ohr.
“We’re very concerned about the Grassley letter and it’s [sic] possible implications for us, our operations and our sources,” he texted. “We need some reassurance.” Ohr offered Skype or Whatsapp as possible venues for a conversation. He advised the man who called himself Ohr’s “old friend” to “hang in there.”
Steele further felt the heat when James Comey testified before Congress. “Obviously we’re a bit apprehensive given Comey’s scheduled appearance at Congress on Monday,” he wrote Ohr. “Hoping that important firewalls will hold.”
Steele complained to Ohr on November 18, 2017, that “we remain in the dark as to what has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.” Rather than instruct him of the impropriety of sharing the information, Ohr wrote: “Let’s plan to talk early next week.” This talk, for reasons that remain obvious, did not occur via text or email via Ohr’s Justice Department phone or computer.
The desire for secrecy and “firewalls” stemmed from the investigators seeking to thwart investigations into them. The correspondence released pertains to communication between Ohr and Steele after the FBI discontinued its relationship with the former British agent. Why did Ohr continue to rely on a figure who had run afoul of the bureau? Ohr, through his wife, knew of Steele’s relationship with the Clinton campaign. Why did he regard a paid operative of a political campaign as though an independent investigator? Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham referred Steele to the Department of Justice for a criminal probe last year. Although the released correspondence between Ohr and Steele stops in late 2017, why did Ohr carry on a relationship with someone clearly becoming the subject of an investigation given his position in the Department of Justice?
A more puzzling question: Why, long after the FBI fired Ohr’s collaborators Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, and severed its relationship with Steele, does Ohr remain, albeit in a lesser post, on the payroll at the Justice Department?