Friday, March 29, 2019

Nellie Ohr's Story--Puzzlements

Reading Nellie Ohr's testimony to the House (October 19, 2018) is a bit of a frustrating experience. In the first place there's a significant amount of recurring legal wrangling over the scope of the spousal privilege that Nellie is claiming with regard to her husband, Bruce Ohr, who testified to the House on August 28, 2018. Beyond that, however, Nellie is, when compared to any of the previous witnesses, tight lipped. She volunteers virtually nothing, constantly asks for questions to be rephrased, and generally professes ignorance on most matters that she's questioned on. Nevertheless, there are possibly significant points in her testimony, so let's take a closer look.

Probably the biggest surprise in her testimony is her confirmation that Ukrainian legislator Serhiy Leshchenko was a "source" for Fusion GPS. One point of interest in this is the entire line of questioning--as of October 19, 2018, I don't think Serhiy Leshchenko was on any researchers' radar screens, but he was definitely on the House GOP's radar screen. Nellie herself states that she was quite familiar with Leshchenko as an "anti-corruption" activist in Ukraine--a George Soros connected angle that we recently explored in The Soros, Ukraine, FBI Connection and Do All Roads In The Russia Hoax Lead To Ukraine? The exchange regarding Leshchenko between Nellie and the Committee is a bit ambiguous toward the end, but there's no doubt that the questioners believe that Leshchenko was providing information about the travels of Trump family members--and area of research that Nellie was engaged in. As I say, it's somewhat unclear whether Nellie actually confirms that, although the probability is that she does--but suggests that there may have been more to Leshchenko's source information than simply Trump family travel. You decide (pp. 113-115):

Q: Regarding any of the research during this year, 10-11 month period, was any -- was any research based off of sources of theirs that you were aware of?
A: Yes.
Q: And who were the sources?
A: I recall a -- they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian.
Q: And did they give you any indication as to Leshchenko's connections with them, how they got to know him? Were they doing work for him?
A: With Fusion GPS?
Q: Correct.
A: I am not aware of how they --
Q: Were you aware of how they had a connection with him?
A: I am not aware.
Q: But you were aware that he was a source of information that was leading to information that they had, that they were then presenting to you as reasons for following up on  opposition research or what research --
A: Yes.
Q: -- that is, on President Trump or his family?
A: My understanding is that some -- yes. And -- yes, it was not necessarily on his family that Leshchenko's research was on.
Q: Are you aware of what his research, or what his source information included?
A: His source information, I am not aware.
Q: You are just aware that he was a source of --
A: Yes.
Q: -- Glenn Simpson? Or was it a source of Mr. [Jake] Berkowitz? Or both?
A: I am not aware of a differentiation between them. Just a source for Fusion GPS. 

Leshchenko as a source for Fusion GPS is obviously an interesting angle from a number of standpoints, but especially considering his connections to two major Clinton donors: Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk and George Soros (see links above). We get a picture of international connectedness and collusion that may tie in to the Ukrainian connections to the Clinton campaign in the US--Alexandra Chalupa in particular.

Beyond this exchange, however, the overall picture that Nellie paints is one of seeming ignorance. For example, with regard to the crucial July 30, 2016, breakfast meeting between the Ohrs and Christopher Steele at the Mayflower Hotel--the day before Bruce Ohr met Andy McCabe and Lisa Page and Crossfire Hurricane got opened--Nellie has little to say. She states that this was the one and only time she spoke with Chris Steele during her entire period of employment with Fusion GPS: October 2015 to September, 2016. Indeed, dutiful little wife Nellie relates that at a certain point she sensed that "it was not [her] place to be there" and that she should absent herself--and so she did (pp. 35-36):

Mr. Meadows: How long were you absent? How long did you go to the [bathroom] -- well, I don't want to ask that. How long were you absent from the conversation?
Ms. Ohr: Well, I then went elsewhere.
Mr. Meadows. So you're saying the meeting went on after you --
Ms. Ohr: Yes.
Mr. Meadows: -- after you left. Why did you excuse yourself?Ms. Ohr: I understood that they wanted to talk.Mr. Meadows: Talk about what?Ms. Ohr: I don't know.Mr. Meadows: So you excuse yourself and you're not sure what they wanted to talk about?
Ms. Ohr: I assumed it was a continuation of the conversation, that it was not my place to be there. 

In the overall context of the interview, this exchange has an interesting effect. In general, Nellie strikes the reader as seeking to be protective of hubbie Bruce, but the effect of this exchange and others regarding Bruce's relationship with Glenn Simpson and Chris Steele ends up having quite the opposite effect. The reason for this is that the Committee makes clear to Nellie that Bruce, in his testimony, has told them about repeated and frequent contacts between these men, which are also apparent from Bruce's communication records. In that light, Nellie's professed ignorance gives the strong impression the reader receives is that Bruce had an intentionally clandestine, conspiratorial, relationship with Steele and Simpson.

Moving on, Nellie testifies that she basically worked from home and that she met with Glenn Simpson only infrequently. She insists that her work, while it did involve travel on the part of the Trump children and Paul Manafort, had nothing to do with the Steele "dossier"--which she only saw long after the end of her employment at Fusion GPS.

Regarding Carter Page, the questioning resembles pulling teeth. She's quite cagey about when she heard about Page. What eventually emerges, however, is this. Nellie says that she was unfamiliar with the Carter Page "narrative" that the "dossier" developed. However, she does recall that Jake Berkowitz did ask her to do some research re Page and this is what she recalls (p. 110):

Q: And can you explain some of the results from your research concerning Carter Page?
A: I found that -- well, he went to Moscow, he spoke at this university, and he talked about better relations between Russia and the United States, and he gave interviews where he advocated better relations between Russia and the United States.
Q: And this is based off of all open-source --
A: Yeah.
Q: -- research?
A: Uh-huh.
Q: Were you ever aware previously of the name Carter Page?
A: Not before he was announced as a Trump advisor. 

Which leaves unanswered the whole question of whether or not Fusion GPS was accessing NSA databases as a contractor for the FBI. The question regarding "open-source" certainly points toward that issue, but the questioner seems reticent about pursuing that line of inquiry once Nellie states that her research was "all open-source." Was Nellie's research intended by someone at Fusion GPS as some sort of elementary subterfuge to cover for Fusion's contract access to classified databases--if that's what was going on? Tantalizing.

Finally we come to the issue of Nellie's ham radio license. It's a puzzling exchange, and once again the questioner fails to pursue what appears to be an obvious follow-up line of inquiry. I'll provide Nellie's full story of how she came to get a ham radio license, but the short version is this: In 2014 she was underemployed and became active in community emergency response team training. In the course of that training it was suggested that she get a ham radio license--the lowest level, which is termed "technician" level. She guesses that was in 2015 but, at any rate, "well before" she was employed at Fusion GPS. A license  is good for 10 years. Now here's her verbatim testimony, edited only for relevance (pp. 87-89):

Q: Okay. ... Do you have, or are you familiar with, a shortwave radio or a Ham radio?
A: I own a Ham radio.
Q: And you own it for what purpose?
A: Emergency communication in case of a storm, that sort of thing. If the cell towers go out, uh-huh.
Q: How long have you had a Ham radio?
A: Well, I bought it shortly after I got my Ham license and I got -- yeah, I -- I -- I am guessing it is 2015, but I don't remember exactly. It was -- you know, in 2014, I was underemployed, and I had some time, and I took a citizens emergency -- community emergency response team training. And, you know, it was just something sponsored by the DHS and the local fire department, you know, taught these courses and then they said, hey, if you are going to be helping with community response in case of an emergency, why don't we have -- you know, some people take Ham radio lessons in case the communications towers go out. And so I took the Ham radio class. I passed the test.
Q: So your obtaining of a radio, and your taking the class, and your sitting for the exam and ultimately passing and receiving the license, it had nothing to do with your employment at Fusion GPS?
A: It was well before.
Q: Well before?
A: Yeah. 

There are a number of problems with Nellie's testimony, which is puzzling, since this line of questioning could not have been unexpected. Nellie had a chance to prepare for this testimony and she presumably has a copy of her ham license. So here's the major problem: her story is that she obtained her license "well before" she was ever employed at Fusion GPS--in 2014 or 2015, seemingly, at the latest. The problem is that her license--publicly avaliable for one and all to view--clearly shows that she obtained her license on May 23, 2016 (valid for ten years). That's seven months after she began working for Fusion GPS and precisely when the Clinton/Fusion GPS anti-Trump oppo research was well underway. Again, Nellie had every opportunity to prepare for her testimony and must have expected to be asked about her ham radio license--it had been in the news for some time. Why would she misstate this easily ascertainable fact? Why did the questioner not follow up--beyond making sure that she gave the same answer twice?

Is it possible that someone else was using Nellie's radio? Someone like Bruce Ohr? Did Nellie obtain the license for purposes of ... cover?

It's a line of inquiry that seems worth pursuing.


  1. Nice post.Keep sharing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nellie was part of a communications chain. Brennan tasked GCHQ with digging up political opposition research on Trump via it's access to foreign (read US domestic) electronic communications (GCHQ is very good at this). This product was passed to an MI-6 operative working out of the British DC embassy, who acted as Nellie handler. He relayed this EC product to Nellie via meetings at a local safe house and occasionally via dead-drops. Nellie then used these leads in her own research and generally laundered the GCHQ product to hide it's origin. This research was then funneled to Glenn Simpson/Fusion GPS who then hired Chris Steele to massage it into the dossier. Glenn, Chris, Nellie then pushed the washed dossier into the news media, State Department, and ultimately FBI using various cutouts. What started as opposition research in 2015 evolved into an illegal campaign to prevent Trump's election in 2016, and then morphed into an actual coup in 2017. "Oh what a tangled web we weave."

    1. Unknown, I wish you'd give me more than assertions on this. I'm with you re GCHQ's involvement because we have documented facts to rely on. As for MI6 working out of the UK embassy with Nellie, I know of no documentable facts or even reporting on that score. Further, I can see alternative theories--like Glenn Simpson being the key, since he has worked with Steele, Ohr, McCabe, probably CIA, Russians and Ukrainians for many years.

      However, while I don't like to jump beyond the evidence, 1) Bruce Ohr's testimony and other reporting makes it pretty clear that he's at the center, and 2) Nellie's testimony doesn't hold up well.

  3. Nellie Ohr Caught Lying to Congress About When She Obtained Her Ham Radio License

    The article contains the following passages:

    .... Nellie Ohr, Fusion GPS contractor and wife of twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr, testified to Congress that she received her Ham radio license “well before” her employment at oppo research firm Fusion GPS — this was a lie.

    Although Nellie Ohr’s Ham radio license was publicly available prior to her testimony, the application was obtained through a FOIA request and it confirmed she applied for the license May 23, 2016 and received it the same day.

    “How long have you had a Ham radio?” a Congressional aide asked Nellie Ohr.

    Nellie Ohr responded, “Well, I bought it shortly after I got my Ham license and I got — yeah, I — I — I am guessing it is 2015, but I don’t remember exactly. It was — you know, in 2014, I was underemployed, and I had some time, and I took a citizens emergency — community response team training….”

    “So your obtaining of a radio, and your taking the class, and your sitting for the exam and ultimately passing and receiving the license, it had nothing to do with your employment at Fusion GPS?” a Congressional aide asked Nellie.

    “It was well before,” Nellie responded.

    Mrs. Ohr’s HAM radio license application dated May 23, 2016 and it was granted the same day per the FOIA doc pictured below ....

    [A picture of Ohr's HAM license application is at the link]

  4. Mark, don't post that comment I submitted a few minutes ago about the HAM license. Looking again, I see that it adds nothing new.

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