Monday, March 11, 2019

More Thoughts On Bruce Ohr's Testimony

My overall impression, derived from reading the recently released full transcript of Bruce Ohr's House testimony rather than just excerpts, is this: I didn't find Bruce Ohr to be a terribly credible witness, and the GOP Representatives who questioned him--most of them former prosecutors themselves--clearly did not trust him.

Margot Cleveland has an article today in which she discusses 11 Key Things Inside The House Interview With Spygate Figure Bruce Ohr. Most of these items have been discussed already, but I want to point out at least one issue that is worth keeping in the conscious part of our minds.

In #2 on her list, Cleveland discusses an issue that clearly troubled the GOP Reps. Just as clearly, they remained unsatisfied and unconvinced by Ohr's attempted explanation. This issue was the fact that during Ohr's one and a half years of serving as the cutout between Chris Steele and the FBI--including after Steele had been "fired" by the FBI--he claimed that he never informed his superior (DAG Sally Yates) of the highly irregular role he was playing. But he did inform other DoJ officials who were somewhat beneath him in rank--people like Andrew Weissmann, Zainab Ahmad, and Bruce Swartz. Weissmann and Ahmad, of course, later became key members of Team Mueller or, from another possible point of view, were key players in recruiting Mueller to serve as the figurehead of their team--since their well known connections to Hillary precluded them from fronting for the lawfare coup attempt.

The GOP Reps grilled Ohr on all aspects of his role, beginning with the fact that he--a DoJ lawyer--agreed to serve as the go between for source information from Steele and Glenn Simpson that was flowing to the FBI. This, despite the fact that he knew that Steele was in regular contact with the FBI, and he knew that there was no apparent reason that Simpson could not have contacted the FBI on his own. In the case of Simpson, we can understand that Simpson probably wished to mask any relationship with the FBI--and maybe that desire was mutual: maybe the FBI preferred to appear to have an arm's length relationship with Simpson's operation. Given that Steele certainly maintained a continuing professional relationship with British intelligence, the desire to minimize their relationship with Steele--in this case--may have also played a role in the FBI's apparent and very unusual willingness to continue this odd three way relationship. The GOP Reps were clearly skeptical of Ohr's obliging, no-questions-asked attitude toward his role, and were just as clearly distrustful and dissatisfied with his just-doing-my-duty explanation. (As an aside, I was highly amused by Ohr's claim that he never had any curiosity regarding exactly who in the FBI was receiving the information he provided--he just thought it "disappeared into the FBI.") They came very close to asking Ohr point blank: Are you really that stupid?

The frustration of the GOP Reps continued as Ohr attempted to offer a plausible explanation for why he never mentioned any of this to the DAG, Sally Yates, but did tell Weissman and Ahmad. To put this in context, remember that during this period Ohr was the highest non-political appointee at DoJ and, as Associate DAG, worked closely with Yates. In fact, he admitted that the reason given when he was demoted from that position was precisely his failure to inform Yates of what he was up to. He had to have been aware of the possible consequences of his chosen line of conduct, but nevertheless was willing to discuss the whole Russia op with lower level officials and risk, as he admitted, that Yates would learn about it all secondhand. The whole story is, to me, utterly unconvincing--and especially because, if the investigation of the Trump campaign was going to proceed, Yates would need to be involved. As indeed she was (cf. Trisha Anderson: Andy McCabe and Sally Yates Read The FISA Application "Line By Line"). To fail to inform Yates would be a gross dereliction, and Ohr's seeming nonchalance regarding the possibility of Yates learning about his involvement secondhand suggests that the principle of deniability--plausible or not--was in play. Or, to put it the way Chris Steele put it in a text to Bruce Ohr in March, 2017: it was all part of a system of "firewalls."

Interestingly, the GOP Reps did not question Ohr very closely regarding how much information he shared with Weissmann and Ahmad. This reticence may have been intentional, but they were clearly skeptical regarding Ohr's professed attitude that he was simply passing on information with no interest in the substance. In that regard they did confront him with the fact that he apparently asked the FBI "whether they had a prosecutor [i.e., assigned to the Trump investigation]." A question he certainly could have asked his DoJ colleagues, who were in fact closely involved in the runup to the Carter Page FISA application in late October, 2016 (cf. The FBI: Working Hand In Glove With Clinton Operatives). Indeed, the talkative Chris Steele might well have informed Ohr of that.

One comes away from Ohr's testimony with the definite impression that he was holding back the full truth, partly to protect the Mueller probe's supposed integrity and partly to cover himself with regard to 1) his failure to inform DoJ about his wife's job with Fusion GPS, and 2) his knowledge that he was, in fact, closely involved in a political dirty tricks operation against the Trump campaign. And, after the election, in an attempted lawfare coup.


  1. My impression was exactly the same- Yates was involved the entire time, but Ohr wasn't willing to implicate her.......yet.

    Yates will probably refuse to testify, but I hope the Senate at least subpoenas her.

    1. Agreed, Yancey. She should be in serious trouble.