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May 20

Written by: Diana West
Sunday, May 20, 2018 5:48 AM 

Remember, once upon a time, when the heatedly, desperately, and futilely contested release of a House Intelligence Committee memo threatened "to rip D.C. in two"? 

That would be the four-page-memo confirming that the Department of Justice and the FBI used Hillary /DNC-funded opposition research (a.k.a, "the Steele dossier") to gain court authorization to spy on Carter Page, and, thus, the wider Trump team.  

Naturally, this same DOJ said it would be "extraordinarily reckless" to clue in the American people to the police state a-borning inside their own government. After all, exposure is the first enemy of corruption. Prosecution according to the law, however, is its only match.  

Once President Trump authorized the declassification of the bombshell-memo, the threats and warnings turned into a cacophonic booing. A Swamp-wide, cross-party-line emerged, from Sen. John McCain, who denounced the memo's release as a hostile act (It served "no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s”), to Minority Leader Pelosi, who fretted over "intelligence sources and methods" -- a non-issue -- and said that by declassifying the memo which confirmed the federal government under Barack Obama was spying on the domestic opposition party, President Trump "just sent his friend Putin a bouquet." She further demanded Speaker Ryan "remove" Rep. Devin Nunes from his chairmanship of the intelligence committee. It was now open season on "Russian bots" -- Swampspeak for Trump supporters.

Given all of this and more, it is now deflating to note that this memo and all it portended are confined to a mere appendix in the final Russia report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The frightening abuses of power the memo notes in brief seem to have been just plumb forgotten by the committee -- particularly the crucial roles played by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and "his wife" (unnamed in the memo), Nellie Ohr, both of whom, the memo reported, served as conduits for GPS Fusion opposition research to the Justice Department/FBI, from which it continued on to the FISA court.

Here are the memo's relevant points regarding the Ohrs:

Before and after Steele was terminated as a [FBI] source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ ollicial who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. ...

During this same time period, Ohr's wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBl with all of his wife's opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs' relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC."

A multitude of questions arise. Why was DOJ senior Ohr meeting with Christopher Steele in the first place -- and especially after the FBI terminated him as a source? How did they know each other? Did Ohr report on his meetings with Steele, or information gained from them, to Yates and Rosenstein? Anyone else? What was Nellie Ohr's role in the creation of the so-called Steele dossier? What was her relationship with Steele? Sen. Lindsay Graham has said Nellie "did the research" for Steele. What about Nellie's "opposition research" that Bruce "later" provided to the FBI? Did it flow on to the secret FISA court? Who exactly in the Justice Department/FBI knew of the Ohrs' relationship with Steele and GPS Fusion and concealed it from the court?

These questions still have no answers. They are part of the enduring mystery around the Ohrs, as partly explained in this essay excerpt:

As central as Nellie Ohr’s placement is, her role in the creation of the “dossier” remains undefined. ...

Still, relevant facts have emerged. These include Nellie Ohr’s study in the USSR in 1989; her fluency in Russian and Ph.D. in Russian history in 1990; a 2010 CIA affiliation, which practically makes her former MI6 agent Steele’s “opposite number”; and the extremely curious detail, harkening back to earlier eras of spycraft, that on May 23, 2016, around the time she came on board Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr applied for a ham radio operator’s license.

Notably, the “dossier” men in her life have tried to shield Ohr from public scrutiny, even at professional risk. Her husband, as the Daily Caller News Foundation reports, failed to disclose his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS and seek the appropriate conflict-of-interest waiver, which may have been an important factor in his demotion from associate deputy attorney general late last year.

Under Senate and House questioning, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson consistently failed to disclose Nellie Ohr’s existence as one of his firm’s paid Russian experts, let alone that he hired her for the red-hot DNC/Clinton campaign Trump-Russia project.

Even Christopher Steele may have tried to keep Nellie Ohr “under cover.” Steele, put forth as the “dossier” author ever since its January 2017 publication in BuzzFeed, does not appear to have let on to his many media and political contacts that he had “dossier”-assistance from at least two fellow Fusion GPS Russian experts, Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. Baumgartner, interestingly, was a Russian history major at Vassar in the 1990s when Nellie Ohr taught Russian history there.

Thus, Nellie Ohr’s exact activities inside one of the great Russian-American disinformation campaigns of all time remain opaque. What most observers don’t realize, though, is that we already have a window onto her thinking through her strongly-etched, ideological view of Soviet history. 

Much more here.

What seems especially relevant today are questions about Nellie Ohr's CIA affiliation. They strike me anew after the recent bombshell reports about longtime CIA asset Stefan Halper's role as an FBI operator in the Trump campaign. Was Nellie just a free-lance contractor for GPS Fusion with Russian fluency, favorable views about Stalin's record, unfavorable views of Donald Trump, a completely random ham radio operator's licence, and a high-ranking Justice official for a husband? If so, perfidious enough and surely due for committee questioning regarding her and her husband's role in creating and deploying the "dossier." But should we also regard Nellie Ohr, like Stefan Halper, as another longtime CIA asset deployed in this same operation, and by John Brennan? 

All we know about Nellie's CIA connection comes her biographical listing as a researcher at Open Source Works on a 2010  paper on international organized crime -- a paper she, her husband, Bruce, and also Glenn Simpson co-authored with other members of a larger "expert working group." Open Source Works is often described as "the CIA's in-house open source analysis component."         

What are the details, dates of Nellie Ohr's CIA employment? Was she staffer or contractor? Might she have had any CIA connection when she was hired as a contractor by GPS Fusion in 2016? Do Nellie and/or Bruce know John Brennan, personally or professionally? Were they involved in any way in the special task force Brennan assembled at Langley to spy on the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016? Was any such person in touch with the GPS Fusion team?

Shouldn't the House intelligence committee try to find out? Now? Please?

The same questions regarding CIA connections should be asked of Edward Baumgartner, the third Russia expert at GPS Fusion -- the "British national" who actually works on the ground in Russia -- who, bonus, may also have been Nellie Ohr's student when she taught and he majored in Russian studies at Vassar in the 1990s.  

Don't forget that it was retired CIA officers, Howard Hunt and James McCord, who deployed other former CIA assets (“the Cubans”) to conduct the infamous Watergate burglary.

A retired intelligence professional put it to me this way, even before the Halper story broke: "The possibility that a CIA asset, contractor, or former staffer might be involved in an illegal domestic political operation and/or a political scandal ought to be anathema to CIA management, and, since the establishment of the Intel oversight committees in Congress, to those committees as well."  

Yes, it should be. Is it? Not so far. Still, we twist.

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