Trump’s newest target is Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward. But for the last month, he focused his ire on a distinguished but relatively unknown 27-year career attorney at the Justice Department. And Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has aided and abetted the assault.
The attorney is Bruce Ohr, and this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline adds him to the Timeline’s name filter, along with a descriptive “pop-up” bubble. The Ohr filter reveals method in Trump’s apparent madness as he seeks to neutralize yet another important player in the Trump-Russia picture.
As for Nunes, clicking on his Timeline name filter produces entries that reveal why he has tried to kill the Trump-Russia investigation from the outset. With respect to Ohr, Nunes recently went to London seeking help on the Steele-Ohr front from British intelligence heads. Fortunately for the US, they didn’t oblige him.
Why Ohr? The Bottom Line
When Trump and complicit Republican members of Congress first dragged Bruce Ohr into their assault on the Justice Department and the FBI, it looked like just another distraction aimed at discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. In fact, far more could be at stake for Trump.
Ohr’s investigative experience makes him an interesting resource on the connections between the Russian mob, Vladimir Putin, and the 2016 election. And Craig Unger’s new best-seller, House of Trump, House of Putin, puts many of those connections dangerously close to Trump’s doorstep.
Roll the tape
The current Trump-GOP narrative is that Bruce Ohr’s contacts with Christopher Steele were part of a vast conspiracy to undermine Trump’s presidential candidacy. The undisputed facts now refute that narrative. They also reveal why Trump has a special interest in squelching Ohr.
1991: Ohr becomes an assistant US attorney in Manhattan. Coincidentally, the office’s jurisdiction includes the Trump Organization, which is headquartered there. In 1999, Ohr moves to the Justice Department headquarters in Washington where he specializes in combating the growing influence of the Russian mob internationally. Among Ohr’s special topics of concern: organized crime and money laundering.
2007: For the first time, Ohr meets Christopher Steele, who runs the MI6 Russia desk for British intelligence. Like Ohr, Steele is concerned about the growing international impact of the Russian mob. For years, they continue working together on that common enemy. Their common pursuit has nothing to do with Trump’s presidential campaign, which didn’t begin for another eight years.
NOVEMBER 2014: Ohr and Steele (who now heads his own private investigation firm) discuss the possibility of persuading Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to become an informant on Russian organized crime. Again, that is before Trump announces his presidential bid in June 2015.
SEPTEMBER 2015: Ohr and other American officials meet with Deripaska, who rebuffs their recruiting effort.
JULY 2016: Steele tells Ohr that his sources say Russian intelligence has Trump “over a barrel,” presumably meaning that the Russians have compromising material on Trump. But Ohr doesn’t pass along that information to his supervisors, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, because Ohr regards it as inflammatory raw source material. Meanwhile, wholly apart from anything Steele has provided, the FBI has already opened a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. George Papadopoulos’ statements to an Australian diplomat in May had started that ball rolling.
SEPTEMBER 2016: The FBi again tries unsuccessfully to persuade Deripaska to become an informant — this time on the connections between Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Putin.
AFTER THANKSGIVING 2016: On Oct. 31, 2016, The New York Times runs a story with this headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” It causes Steele to become concerned that the FBI has not taken his research seriously. After turning first to the press, which breaks the story on what would become the “Steele dossier,” Steele meets with Ohr to discuss his troublesome findings on Trump and Russia.
DEC. 9, 2016: Sen, John McCain (R-AZ) personally delivers a copy of the “Steele dossier” to FBI director James Comey.
Flash forward to August 2018:
— Deripaska is personally subject to US sanctions against Russia.
— Manafort is convicted, faces a second Mueller trial on even more charges, and Trump dangles prospect of pardoning him.
— Ohr becomes Trump’s newest target and the subject of his relentless personal attacks. Trump’s most faithful congressional servant, Nunes, is traveling to London, trying to dig up what he can on Steele and Ohr. Craig Unger releases his new book that outlines the decades-long connections among Trump, Putin’s government, the Russian mob, and Russian money laundering through US real estate.
Something worth remembering about the “Steele dossier”: Many of its most significant findings have now been corroborated. Whether, as the dossier suggests, Putin has a “pee tape” may be the least of Trump’s concerns.
One More Thing…
The biggest underreported story of the week is a line in the Aug. 31, 2018 sentencing memo that George Papadopoulos‘ attorneys submitted on his behalf. At the March 31, 2016 meeting of Trump’s national security team, Papadopoulos said he could arrange a direct meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin:
“Trump nodded with approval and deferred to [Jeff] Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.”
That’s not what Trump has been telling the country for two years. And it’s not what Sessions told the Congress. But the country needs Sessions to remain in place. His recusal put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Rosenstein is committed to protecting the probe; Trump wants to kill it.
There’s no way to overstate the perilous position of American democracy at this moment. Before things get better, they will get worse. Bigly.
Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
2007: Steele Meets Ohr
NOV. 21, 2014: Steele and Ohr Discuss Cultivating Deripaska
SUMMER 2015: Papadopoulos Seeks Position in Trump Campaign
SEPTEMBER 2015: Ohr Meets With Deripaska
JANUARY TO MARCH 2016: Carson Campaign Ends; Papadopoulos Renews Request to Work on Trump Campaign
FEBRUARY 2016: Steele Emails Ohr About Deripaska
REVISED: MARCH 31, 2016: Trump Meets With Foreign Policy Advisers (revision of previous entry)
DELETED ENTRY: SPRING 2016: Papadopoulos Presents His Trump Credentials to Foreign Leaders [Superseded by new May 4, 2016 and May 27, 2016 entries below]
MAY 4, 2016: Papadopoulos Tells British Prime Minister to Apologize
MAY 27, 2016: When Putin Arrives in Athens, Papadopoulos Is Already There (revision of previous entry)
JULY 30, 2016: Steele Tells Ohr: Russia Has Trump ‘Over a Barrel’; Carter Page Not Being Candid
SEPTEMBER 2016: FBI Agents Ask Deripaska About Manafort
SOMETIME IN AUGUST 2018: Nunes Seeks British Intelligence Info on Steele and Ohr
AUG. 16, 2018: Manafort Jury Deliberations Begin, Along with Negotiations to Resolve Charges in His Upcoming Trial
AUG. 21, 2018: Manafort Convicted; Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicates Trump, Has More to Say on Russia (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 27, 2018: Trump Continues to Raise Possibility of Pardon
AUG. 28, 2018: Manafort’s 2ndTrial Delayed
AUG. 28, 2018: Trump Attacks Brennan and Comey
AUG. 28, 2018: Ohr Testifies in Closed-Door Session
AUG. 28-29, 2018: Trump Repeats False Story About China Hacks Into Clinton’s Private Email Server; FBI Responds
AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks Clinton, Obama, DNC
AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Tweets McGahn’s Departure Without Telling McGahn
AUG. 29, 2018: Manafort Seeks to Move 2ndTrial to Roanoke, VA
AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks Ohr
AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks CNN; Bernstein Pushes Back
AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Continues to Attack Ohr, ‘Steele Dossier’
AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Blasts CNN, Launches False Accusation Against NBC’s Lester Holt
AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Responds to Reports About McGahn’s Departure, ‘Rigged Russia Witch Hunt’
AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Attacks Comey, Ohr
AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Calls Mueller’s Investigation “Illegal”; Blasts Ohr, Strzok, Lisa Page, Comey, FBI; Implies Sessions’ Days May Be Numbered
AUG. 31, 2018: Ex-Kilimnik Associate Pleads Guilty
SEPT. 1 2018: Trump Attacks DOJ, FBI , ‘Steele Dossier’, Mueller, and More