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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 TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study 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 JordanJordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Republicans lash out at Twitter and Facebook over Hunter Biden article Meadows hosted wedding despite guidelines banning gatherings of more than 10 people: report 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 KrishnamoorthiCandymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrat asks intelligence director if Trump's personal debt is security problem CDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 RaskinCOVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Democrats unveil bill creating panel to gauge president's 'capacity' 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 ClintonLate night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study 10 steps toward better presidential debating Continuity is (mostly) on the menu for government contracting in the next administration 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.