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 TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey 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 JordanDems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe 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 KrishnamoorthiDemocrats face balancing act with Mueller report demands House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin Cummings says he needs to examine Cohen's testimony further amid GOP allegations of perjury 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 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 RaskinTop Dem: Supreme Court has 'no role' in impeachment Dems plot aggressive post-Mueller moves, beginning with McGahn House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report 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 ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst 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.