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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 TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short 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 JordanThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Sunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home House Judiciary releases McGahn testimony on Trump 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: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents House Democrats call on Biden to do 'much more' to vaccinate the world Postal Service raises stamps to 58 cents as part of restructuring plan 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 Raskin House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters 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 ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' 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.