Dossier author Christopher Steele told Justice Department official Bruce Ohr after James Comey’s firing last year that he was “afraid they will be exposed.”
What exactly Steele was concerned about having exposed after Comey’s May 9, 2017 firing is not made clear in Ohr’s notes, which were reported by Fox News.
The text message is part of a trove of emails, text messages and handwritten notes that the Justice Department has provided to Congress as part of an investigation into the government’s handling of the Steele dossier.
Steele told Ohr in a May 10, 2017 phone call that he was “very concerned abt Comey’s firing — afraid they will be exposed,” according to Fox.
Steele’s interactions with Ohr have been a focal point for congressional Republicans in their investigation into the government’s possible abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The dossier, which Steele wrote on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, was used to obtain FISA warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Republicans say that the dossier was not verified when the FBI used it to obtain the spy warrants.
Page, an energy consultant who joined the Trump team in March 2016, has vehemently denied the dossier’s allegations about him. In the 35-page report, Steele alleges that Page was the Trump campaign’s main contact to the Kremlin.
Justice Department documents given to Congress show that Steele and Ohr were in contact all throughout 2016 and 2017, though Ohr’s involvement was not revealed until December. Following a report from Fox News on Ohr’s contacts with Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, he was demoted as assistant deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was Ohr’s boss, has told Congress that he was not aware of Ohr’s contacts with Steele or Simpson. It is unclear if Rosenstein’s predecessor, Sally Yates, knew what Ohr was up to.
Steele first reached out to Ohr in January 2016 seeking help for a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. Text messages and emails suggest that the former MI6 officer lobbied Ohr to keep an eye on the status of negotiations between Deripasksa and the U.S. government for the billionaire’s visa. Deripaska is a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s. He has also worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Ohr also corresponded with Steele after the 2016 election about the Russia investigation. By that time, the FBI had ended its relationship with Steele because he made unauthorized disclosures to the media. Steele met with numerous reporters in September and October 2016 about his Trump-Russia findings.
Ohr provided a dozen briefings to the FBI from November 2016 to May 2017 about his interactions with Steele.
An added wrinkle is that Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie, was directly involved in the anti-Trump investigation. She worked as a researcher for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele.