House GOP prepares to grill DOJ official linked to Steele dossier

House GOP prepares to grill DOJ official linked to Steele dossier
© Anna Moneymaker

House Republicans are gearing up for a closed-door interview with Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr, which is slated to take place later this month.

Ohr, who served as the department’s associate deputy attorney general and now currently works in the criminal division, is the latest target among House conservatives who claim there is ample evidence of bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE in the DOJ and FBI during the 2016 election.

The DOJ and the committee reached an agreement for Ohr to appear before the committee on Aug. 28, DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed. 

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This means Ohr will not be under subpoena power when he interviews with congressional investigators on the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees. The two panels are conducting a joint investigation into FBI and DOJ conduct during the 2016 election.

While the committee staff are expected to do most of the questioning, several key Republican lawmakers have stated that they will return for their high profile guest.

“We're going to interview Bruce Ohr — not in a public circus setting, but in a deposition with no time limits,” House Oversight Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) told Fox News on Monday, noting that he will come back to Washington to question him.

“And we are going to get to the bottom of what he did, why he did it, who he did it in concert with, whether he had the permission of the supervisors at the Department of Justice,” Gowdy added.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty FBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Republicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr MORE (R-Ohio) also said he will not miss the interview, telling The Hill on Tuesday: “I’m definitely going to be there.”

Ohr has increasingly come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts with Simpson and former British spy Christopher Steele during the heated presidential campaign, a revelation that sparked demands from Trump allies for its own special counsel investigation into the DOJ and the FBI last December.

Glenn Simpson, co-founder of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, hired Steele to help compile the controversial dossier that made a series of salacious allegations about President Trump’s ties to Russia. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's presidential campaign funded some of the research included in the dossier, which has become a major flashpoint among conservatives.

Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election, a fact that Republicans have seized on as a possible connection that links the opposition research firm and the Justice Department.

Republicans now claim Ohr inappropriately became involved in the Russia probe, maintaining contacts with Steele even after the FBI ended its relationship with him as a source.

“Bruce Ohr worked for the Department of Justice. He had absolutely nothing to do with the Russia investigation other than he inserted himself by having contact with Christopher Steele,” Gowdy told Fox News.

“He even had contact with Chris Steele after the FBI terminated its relationship with Chris Steele. So this is one branch of the Department of Justice that says you’re not even fit to be an informant,” he continued.

The FBI used Steele as a source in their application to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, according to the heavily redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application released by the DOJ last month.

Republicans have sought to discredit special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian interference by claiming that officials during the beginnings of the probe overly relied on Steele as a source, someone they say showed clear bias towards Trump.

While the bureau noted in their application that Steele was likely “looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign, they still deemed him as a “reliable” source.

The FBI continued to view Steele as reliable even after they ended their relationship with him as a source, over his improper contacts with the press.

Trump has increasingly directed his fury towards Ohr in recent days.

“Bruce Ohr of the ‘Justice’ Department (can you believe he is still there) is accused of helping disgraced Christopher Steele ‘find dirt on Trump.’ Ohr’s wife, Nelly, was in on the act big time - worked for Fusion GPS on Fake Dossier,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

"The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly,” Trump also tweeted on Monday, noting that he has never seen anything so “rigged” in his life.

The timing of the president's tweets came just days after sources told The Hill House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGoodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers MORE (R-Va) is readying subpoenas for people connected to the controversial “Steele” dossier -- that is, if they do not agree to appear for a voluntary interview.

The committee is looking to also talk to Bruce Ohr's wife Nellie and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, two congressional sources told The Hill last week.

The committee will also go after other current and former FBI and DOJ officials including Jim Baker, Sally Moyer, Jonathan Moffa and George Toscas, the sources said. A Republican House Judiciary Committee aide confirmed to The Hill they plan to seek such interviews.

Toscas is expected to interview with committee investigators on Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told The Hill on Tuesday.