(WASHINGTON) — Justice Department official Bruce Ohr appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees as part of the investigation into FBI decision-making during the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans, who have questioned the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, have honed in on Ohr and his ties to Christopher Steele, the former British Spy contracted by political research firm Fusion GPS to dig into Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia in 2016.
“We’ve seen his notes. We’ve read his notes. We realize now that it was not just a casual contact, that he was having multiple contacts with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson with Fusion GPS,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, told reporters Tuesday morning.
As ABC News has previously reported, Ohr, whose decades of work for the Justice Department focused on organized crime, had a prior relationship with Steele through professional circles.
Trump has called Ohr a “creep” and threatened to revoke his security clearance, while Republicans have also seized on the fact that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, a Russian linguist, was hired by Fusion GPS.
While the House is out of session for August recess, several Republican members of Congress — including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who is on the ballot in his state’s primary Tuesday — traveled to Washington for the interview with Ohr.
Democrats, who were represented by committee staff in the interview, have accused Republicans of targeting Ohr and the FBI’s actions in 2016 to discredit the Mueller investigation.
Republicans who participated in the interview Tuesday said Ohr’s testimony suggested that the FBI had doubts about the credibility of the dossier and its allegations about Trump when they sought surveillance of former Trump campaign official Carter Page in October 2016.
They have previously argued that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier to seek surveillance of Page, whom the FBI believed was recruited by the Russian government.
“I think that’s what we’re learning, that well into president-elect Trump’s period, they were continuing to use false evidence to maintain surveillance effectively on the president,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, told reporters.
According to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office, Ohr first met with the FBI on Nov. 22, 2016, a month after the Page surveillance request was submitted to the FISA court.
Democrats say the FISA application and the requests to renew the secret surveillance to an intelligence court –- made public earlier this summer after media outlets submitted Freedom of Information requests –-indicated that law enforcement officials followed proper procedure and had reasons to believe Page was a Russian agent.
Republicans have said the FBI didn’t adequately reveal the political nature of the dossier allegations that were referenced in the surveillance requests, though the FBI said in its application that the “U.S. person” hired to research “Candidate #1’s” links to Russia “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” the candidate’s (Donald Trump’s) campaign.
Ohr did not comment to reporters when he arrived for his interview Tuesday, or when he left for a break midday. Ohr left shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday and did not speak to reporters as he left.
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