Nellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels

Nellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels
© Greg Nash

Nellie Ohr exercised spousal privilege and largely declined to discuss conversations she had with her husband, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, over the so-called Steele dossier during a meeting with two GOP-led House committees on Friday. 

The move prevented the Republican lawmakers from asking questions about the Ohrs’ role with the dossier, which made a series of allegations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE’s ties to Russia.

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“There were some questions she would not get into — and those were the questions we wanted to ask,” said Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power Cohen to testify before three congressional panels before going to prison MORE (R-Ohio).

Democrats attending the joint interview with congressional investigators on the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees also said they didn’t learn anything new from the interview.

“It’s been a good waste of time. I haven’t heard anything or seen anything that leads me to believe there is some conspiracy or deep state at the DOJ or FBI,” said Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiIt’s time to shut down all future government shutdowns Democrats are zeroing in on Treasury’s Mnuchin House Democrats clash with Mnuchin following sanctions briefing MORE (D-Ill.), who called it a “big nothingburger.”

House Democrats have also described the GOP-led probe as an effort to distract or undermine special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation, which is examining ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

“We understand that the whole thing is a side show, and I’m sorry that innocent people and good Americans are getting caught up in it,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGaming executive calls Justice Department's opinion on Wire Act 'perplexing' Trump's acting attorney general tells Democrat his time is up in testy hearing Dems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia MORE (D-Md.), a member of both committees. “The leaking has obviously been egregious and massive. This whole line of questioning has been made for TV and the sooner we can put an end to it the better.”

The Ohrs have come under increasing GOP scrutiny for their ties to the dossier.

Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, hired former British spy Christopher Steele to help compile the memos about Trump’s ties to Russia.

Republicans have alleged that Nellie Ohr could have passed the dossier on to her husband, then a top official with the Department of Justice, when she worked a contractor for Fusion GPS during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

It has become a particular flashpoint for Republicans that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea MORE’s campaign in part funded the dossier, leading conservatives to claim that Bruce Ohr’s ties to Fusion GPS through his wife support their claims that there was bias against Trump within the FBI and Justice Department.

It's a narrative that Trump himself has promoted on Twitter.

“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. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC,” Trump tweeted in August.

Nellie Ohr is the latest in a series of witnesses the panels have interviewed related to their connection to the dossier.

In August, the two committees interviewed Bruce Ohr, while earlier this week, Simpson pleaded the Fifth before the Judiciary and Oversight committees, despite a GOP-issued subpoena.

His lawyer, Joshua Levy, said Simpson has cooperated with three other congressional committees, but he would not with this one because he viewed this GOP-led investigation as a smear campaign against the FBI and Justice Department, and particularly against Mueller’s investigation.