A former Fusion GPS employee married to Justice Department official Bruce Ohr invoked spousal privilege during congressional testimony Friday, according to lawmakers who attended the closed-door deposition.
By invoking the privilege, Nellie Ohr limited what information she would provide to members of a congressional task force investigating the FBI’s handling of the infamous Steele dossier.
Ohr, a Russia expert, was paid more than $40,000 as a contractor for Fusion GPS from late 2015 until just after the 2016 election. Fusion investigated President Donald Trump and his campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Bruce Ohr, who was demoted from his position as assistant deputy attorney general in December after his wife’s job was exposed, was in contact with both Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier.
Both Ohrs met with Steele in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2016, a day before the FBI opened its investigation into the Trump campaign.
The congressional task force, which consists of members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight & Government Reform Committees, interviewed Bruce Ohr on Aug. 28. Nellie Ohrwas scheduled to appear before the task force last month but backed out at the last-minute.
Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, pleaded the Fifth on Tuesday to avoid testifying to the task force. He was likely to face questions about inconsistencies in his and Bruce Ohr’s testimony. Simpson told the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 14, 2017, that he did not meet Ohr until after the 2016 election. But Ohr testified that he met Simpson twice, in August 2016 and December 2016.
Republicans on the task force had hoped to ask Nellie Ohr about her conversations with her husband regarding Fusion GPS and the dossier. One question that Republicans have pondered is why Fusion GPS hired Ohr in the first place. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican on the task force, has suggested that Ohr was hired to serve as a contact point to the Justice Department.
While Ohr’s decision to exercise marital privilege limits some lines of questioning, lawmakers are still likely to ask her about her interactions with Fusion GPS. At the same time that Fusion was investigating Trump, the research firm was also working on behalf of Prevezon Holdings, a Russian company with links to the Kremlin.
Fusion’s job was to investigate Bill Browder, a London-based financier who is the leading force behind the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that sanctions Russian human rights abusers. The Russian government has targeted Browder over his work on Magnitsky.
Fusion’s Glenn Simpson worked closely on the anti-Browder campaign with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who also attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016.
Simpson was with Veselnitskaya on the morning of the meeting but has denied knowing about it beforehand.
It is unclear whether Nellie Ohr worked on the anti-Browder effort for Fusion GPS. But she was likely to be one of only two Russia speakers who worked with Fusion. The firm also hired a Russia-speaking consultant named Edward Baumgartner to help with the Browder case. It is also unclear whether Bruce Ohr, an expert on Russian organized crime, worked on a Justice Department investigation of Prevezon.