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 TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense 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 JordanBolton upends Trump impeachment trial  Government privacy watchdog under pressure to recommend facial recognition ban Jordan says he thinks trial will be over by next week 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 KrishnamoorthiOvernight Health Care: WHO declines to declare Chinese virus a global emergency | Insurers to help launch nonprofit to lower drug prices | Anti-abortion group targets battleground Dems Here's how to fight the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by young people Trump suggests LBJ is in hell: 'He's probably looking down — or looking up' 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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 RaskinBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements House Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation Maryland Rep. Raskin endorses Warren ahead of Iowa caucus 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 ClintonDershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — NFL social media accounts hacked | Dem questions border chief over controversial Facebook group | Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views Clinton on Sanders comments: 'I wasn't thinking about the election' 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.