sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Slime Balls

The FBI and elements of the US Intelligence Community revealed themselves to be particularly slimy in their applications for four warrants (FISA Court not Title 3 wiretaps) to surveil candidate Trump. For a guy like me with little love for the FBI, and suspicion of government in general, I found this conduct to be unbelievably bad. Granted, the FBI is not known for ethical conduct by people who have had a lot of dealings with them (on their side, not the criminal side). There are reasons why this happens, but I am not going into it here.

I normally do not print out articles in their entirety, but I'll do it this time because I think that it's important.


What Bruce Ohr Told Congress

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL AUGUST 30, 2018

If Mr. Ohr is only now under the spotlight, it’s because it has taken so much effort to unpack his role in the FBI’s 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign. Over the past year, congressional investigators found out that Mr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that gave its infamous dossier, funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, to the FBI. They then discovered that Mr. Ohr had numerous interactions of his own with Fusion chief Glenn Simpson and dossier author Christopher Steele, and that he passed on information from these talks to the bureau. So the G-men were being fed the dossier allegations from both the outside and the inside.

This week’s news is that Mr. Ohr’s deliveries to the FBI came with a caveat. Congress already knew that Mr. Ohr had been aware of Mr. Steele’s political biases. In notes Mr. Ohr took of a September 2016 conversation with Mr. Steele, he wrote that the dossier author “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” Congressional sources tell me that Mr. Ohr revealed Tuesday that he verbally warned the FBI that its source had a credibility problem, alerting the bureau to Mr. Steele’s leanings and motives. He also informed the bureau that Mrs. Ohr was working for Fusion and contributing to the dossier project.

Mr. Ohr said, moreover, that he delivered this information before the FBI’s first application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant against Trump aide Carter Page, in October 2016. Yet the FBI made no mention of this warning in the application, instead characterizing Mr. Steele as a “reliable” source. Nor does the application note that a senior Justice Department official’s spouse was contributing to the dossier and benefiting financially from a document the FBI was using in an investigation. That matters both because the FBI failed to flag the enormous conflict and because Mr. Steele’s work product potentially wasn’t entirely his own.

No reference to Mr. Ohr—direct or cloaked—can be found in any of the four applications for Page warrants, according to those who have seen them. This despite his more than a dozen conversations with FBI agents over the course of the probe that addressed the content in and sourcing behind the surveillance applications. I’m told Mr. Ohr made clear that these conversations variously included all the heavyweights in the FBI investigation—former lead investigator Peter Strzok, former FBI senior lawyer Lisa Page, and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. So senior people were very aware of his role, information and conflict.

All this is what Republicans are referring to when they hint that the Ohr interview provided solid evidence that the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Before yesterday, we thought the FBI and DOJ had not disclosed material facts they were aware of in the FISA application. If Bruce Ohr testified truthfully, we now know that to be the case,” Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas tweeted Wednesday. (The Justice Department declined to comment, citing an inspector-general investigation.)

As for Mr. Ohr’s interaction with the FBI, he told congressional investigators this week that while initially he reached out to the FBI, the bureau also later came looking for information about Mr. Steele. That outreach happened after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a source in October 2016 for violating bureau rules about talking to media. So even after having been warned of Mr. Steele’s motivations, even after having fired him for violating the rules, the FBI continued to seek his information—using Mr. Ohr as a back channel. This surely violates the FBI manual governing interaction with confidential human sources.

That Mr. Ohr came shopping the Steele info should have on its own set off FBI alarm bells. Mr. Steele was already in direct contact with the FBI by early July. Why would Mr. Steele then go to work on a Justice Department source, and refunnel the same allegations to the bureau? The likely answer is that the Fusion crowd wanted to exert maximum pressure on the FBI to act. Had the FBI bothered to try to find out what was behind such a pressure campaign, it might have stumbled upon the obvious answer: politics.

Unless it didn’t care. The evidence continues to mount that the FBI didn’t want to know about bias, or about conflicts of interest, or about the political paymasters behind the dossier—and it certainly didn’t want the surveillance court to know. It wanted to investigate Donald Trump.

Write to kim@wsj.com.