Bruce Ohr

Bruce Genesoke Ohr born March 16, 1962 is a United States Department of Justice official. A former associate deputy attorney general and former director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), as of February 2018 Ohr was working in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. He is an expert on transnational organized crime and has spent most of his career overseeing gang- and racketeering-related prosecutions, including Russian organized crime.

Ohr was little-known until 2018, when he became a subject of conservative conspiracy theories and Republican scrutiny over his purported involvement in starting the probe on Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was criticized by President Donald Trump. There is no evidence that Ohr was involved in the start of the Russia probe. According to a comprehensive review by ABC News, Ohr “had little impact on the FBI’s growing probe into Trump and his associates.”

Ohr worked for a law firm in San Francisco before becoming a career civil servant at the U.S. Department of Justice,ultimately rising to the rank of Associate Deputy Attorney General. He was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1991 to 1999, and was head of the office’s Violent Gangs Unit before joining the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters as the head of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Criminal Division, where Ohr managed teams investigating and prosecuting crime syndicates in Russia and eastern Europe. In 2006, Ohr was one of a number of U.S. government officials who made the decision to revoke the visa of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and Vladimir Putin ally.

In 2010, Ohr moved to a new position as counsel for international relations in DOJ’s Transnational organized crime and international affairs section. He became director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) in 2014. He later became associate deputy attorney general, but lost that position in late 2017, although he remained director of OCDETF for a time. Ohr was demoted by the Department of Justice amid the Senate Intelligence Committee’s discovery of his meetings with Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.

Ohr served as the Justice Department contact for Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent commissioned to author the Trump–Russia dossier. The dossier was prepared, under a contract to the DNC and the Clinton campaign, by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. According to a Republican-led investigation, during the 2016 election, Fusion GPS hired Bruce’s wife Nellie Ohr, an independent contractor and Russia specialist, to conduct “research and analysis” of Donald Trump. A comprehensive report done by ABC News disputes that Ohr’s wife worked on the dossier, instead stating that she “was not directly involved in the ‘dossier’ while she worked for Fusion GPS.”

Ohr was mentioned in the controversial Nunes memo, written by Devin Nunes, chair of the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, which was released in February 2018. The full committee did not sign off on the memo, and Democrats in the committee produced their own memo which largely contradicted the Nunes memo. The Nunes memo, which focused on the Justice Department’s process for obtaining a FISA warrant to wiretap Trump associate Carter Page in October 2016, said that Ohr was aware of Steele’s bias against Trump in September 2016. The memo alleged that Steele’s reported bias against Trump was not mentioned in the FISA warrant application, and that the FISA court was misled. A competing memo by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said that the FISA warrant made clear that the Steele dossier was paid opposition research likely intended to discredit the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, and that the court was therefore not misled. Ohr documented Steele’s opinions on Trump in November 2016 (several weeks after the initial FISA warrant against Page had been approved by the FISA court), saying Steele “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” Ohr was not assigned to work in counterintelligence operations and was not known to be involved in obtaining the FISA warrant. According to BBC News, the fact that Ohr recorded Steele’s opinions “somewhat [undercuts] the accusation of rampant bias within the department, given that a truly compromised individual wouldn’t jot that sort of thing down.”

In 2018, Ohr became the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories which alleged that he played an important role in starting the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The conspiracy theories allege that the origins of the Russia probe were biased and were intended to undermine then-candidate Trump. This theory assumes that the probe was started because of the Steele dossier. But in fact the July 2016 launch of the FBI investigation was triggered, not by the dossier, but by a report that Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos knew, before it became public knowledge, that the Russians possessed damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands” of stolen emails. This origin of the probe is confirmed in the Nunes memo itself. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has stated that as far as he knew, Ohr was not involved with the Russia investigation, and told the House Judiciary Committee that Ohr had “no role” in the investigation. The claim that the origins of the Russia probe were tainted is unsubstantiated. The FBI did not publicly reveal the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign during the campaign, in part so as not to hurt his electoral chances, contradicting the claim that the probe was an attempt to undermine Trump’s candidacy.

Trump called Ohr a “disgrace” in a tweet in August 2018, and suggested that he would revoke Ohr’s security clearance.There is no publicly available evidence that suggests Ohr mishandled sensitive information. Trump’s threat to strip Ohr of his security clearance came amid threats to revoke the security clearances of a number of current and former officials who had criticized Trump or been involved in Russia probe. According to The Washington Post, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her deputy Bill Shine discussed the best timing to announce the revocations as a way of distracting from unfavorable news cycles. Rep. Jim Jordan, a critic of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, called for Ohr’s firing.

On August 28, 2018, Ohr gave testimony in a closed hearing to two Republican-led House committees looking into decisions made by the DOJ ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

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