John Solomon reported in The Hill last week that then-senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr cautioned FBI and DOJ officials in July and August 2016 that former British Intelligence operative Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier was connected to the Clinton campaign and likely biased. Solomon’ s sources were from the House of Representatives, where Ohr testified last August, and where he brought contemporaneous handwritten notes to support his claims. Two key points emerge from Solomon’s expose:
First, FBI and DOJ officials made false statements to the FISA court when presenting the dossier’s allegations as a basis for wiretapping Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, claiming Steele was “reliable” and they were “unaware of any derogatory information” about him or his “motivation.” Yet Ohr had advised DOJ and FBI hierarchy working on the matter that Steele was “desperate that Trump not be elected.” (Significantly, it is not Steele’s reliability that should be evaluated. Rather, the issue is the veracity of Steele’s sources from whom he gathered derogatory information about Trump and put in the dossier. The FISA court appears to have ignored that crucial legal test.)
Second, House Democrats made false statements about Ohr’s testimony. Rep. Adam Schiff’s team, then in the minority on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement alleging that Ohr’s contacts with the FBI did not begin until “weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FISA application.” This claim was made to bolster the falsehood that the unverified dossier played no role in the decision to investigate an opposition political campaign, or in the court’s approval of the first wiretap authorization. “We started the investigations without the dossier. We were proceeding with the investigations before we ever received that information,” former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CNN in March 2018, after being fired for “lack[ing] candor.”
But for those of us who have worked in the hierarchy of the Justice Department, Solomon’s reporting reveals perplexing facts – in addition to the false statements – that contravene standard protocol.
Ohr claims he briefed a handful of officials but not his immediate boss Sally Yates. As Associate Deputy Attorney General, Ohr reported directly to Deputy AG Yates. It is inconceivable that Ohr did not include her, especially since she signed the first FISA application. Is Ohr protecting his former boss? A Grand Jury subpoena to each can clear up this question.
Ohr states that his first alert about Steele and the dossier was July 31, 2016, to McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. When I was Deputy Assistant Attorney General, I never would have taken any issue to the FBI, let alone a legal one. DOJ culture held that discussion of legal issues (which use of the dossier is) remained within the halls of Justice, not transmitted across the street to the Hoover building to an agency stacked with investigators, not lawyers.
Ohr testified that, in August 2016, McCabe directed him to brief three DOJ personnel, all of whom Ohr outranked. That’s not how it works. Higher-ups get briefed by personnel who report to them. One of the three was Andrew Weissman, who was then head of the Fraud Section. I supervised the Fraud Section. It has nothing – nada – to do with FISA or intelligence investigations. There was no basis whatsoever for Weissman to be briefed on the dossier. Even if he had high-level clearances, he would not have had the required “need to know.”
Weissman has been criticized by a federal court for suppressing evidence favorable to the defense. It was his henchmen at the Fraud Section who threatened my client, Douglas Campbell, that he would be prosecuted if he continued his Uranium One lawsuit, exposing how the Clintons, while she was Secretary of State, benefitted financially from two corrupt Russia companies being authorized to purchase 20 percent of U.S. uranium. Weissman is a well-known Clinton-ista, having contributed to Hillary’s campaign and attended her November 2016 election night “victory” party. Perhaps he was briefed on an issue alien to his portfolio because he was a Clinton plant at DOJ and McCabe, also a Clinton ally, included Weissman so he could report the status of the dossier to the campaign.
Zainab Ahmad, a terrorist specialist who was then an aide to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, was also briefed. Are we also to believe that she, a la Ohr, did not brief her boss about an issue critical to the Clintons? After Ohr briefed Ahmad and Weissman about the infirmities in the dossier, both were in a position to prevent false statements being made to the FISA court. They did not. Ahmad and Weissman now work for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the latter as the number two in that office.
Solomon’s revelation of false statements by the FBI, DOJ, and House Democrats is most disturbing. The protocols violated at the DOJ by its highest officials are of equal concern. Bill Barr, President Trump's attorney general nominee, cannot get there soon enough.