Supporters of President Donald Trump are seizing on newly released FBI reports to argue that the law enforcement agency had clear warnings within weeks after the election that a former British intelligence officer who authored a disputed dossier about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia was intent on preventing the real estate mogul from becoming president.
The FBI on Thursday released its notes — known as 302 reports — detailing a dozen interviews agents had with senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr as they investigated potential ties between the incoming president and Russia. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for the private investigation firm Fusion GPS and relayed research the former British spy, Christopher Steele, was conducting for the company.
A code name for Steele appears to have been redacted from the earliest reports on Bruce Ohr’s meetings with FBI agents, but one from a Nov. 22, 2016, interview says the unnamed source whose information Ohr was passing on “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not becoming the U.S. president.”
In the same interview, Ohr said the source of the dossier was hired by “a lawyer who does opposition research” and the information about Trump and Russia was being relayed to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a close aide to then-Secretary of State John Kerry and the FBI.
Many of Trump’s backers have expressed deep suspicion of Ohr and suggested he acted improperly by relaying his wife’s research to the FBI. And after the 21 pages of reports emerged Thursday, the president’s supporters said they show Ohr’s candor about Steele’s motivations wasn’t adequately considered by the FBI or disclosed to judges who approved a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for communications of a former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page.
“These new Bruce Ohr FBI 302s show an unprecedented and irregular effort by the FBI, DOJ, and State Department to dig up dirt on President Trump using the conflicted Bruce Ohr, his wife, and the Clinton/DNC spies at Fusion GPS,” said Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, the conservative group that obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. “The FISA courts weren’t informed of this corrupted process when they were asked to approve and reapprove extraordinary spy warrants targeting President Trump.”
However, the first interview with Ohr — at least in the files released Thursday — was more than a month after the FBI asked a judge to approve surveillance on Page on Oct. 21, 2016.
That application makes clear that the FBI was already dealing with Steele directly and includes a cautionary footnote disclosing that “a U.S.-based law firm” hired Fusion owner Glenn Simpson to conduct research on Trump. Steele, Simpson and Trump were not mentioned by name.
“The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign,” the application said.
An updated version of that application submitted in January, after Ohr’s initial interviews, contains the same disclosure, but the publicly released version of that document does not appear to add further detail about Steele’s alleged animus toward Trump nor a direct mention of the Clinton campaign.