Mark Meadows sends criminal referral targeting Nellie Ohr to DOJ

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Washington, May 1, 2019 | comments

Mark Meadows sends criminal referral targeting Nellie Ohr to DOJ

by Daniel Chaitin

 & Jerry Dunleavy

 | May 01, 2019 09:21 PM

Nellie Ohr, the wife of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, is the subject of a criminal referral sent to the Justice Department on Wednesday.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., wrote up the referral addressed to Attorney General William Barr, citing concerns that Ohr "knowingly provided false testimony" last year to a joint task force of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees that were investigating decisions made by the Justice Department and FBI surrounding the 2016 election.

The Hill reported Meadows, a member of House Oversight, has filed a referral with the Justice Department in the evening Wednesday. The Washington Examiner has not independently confirmed it has been sent and has reached out to Meadows' office.

"During her transcribed interview, Ms. Ohr testified she 'would not have any knowledge of what [was] going on in an ongoing investigation' at DOJ and would not 'have any knowledge of the Department of Justice’s investigations on Russia.' Ms. Ohr also denied she shared her research on Russian organized crime and Donald Trump with individuals outside of Fusion GPS (her employer); her husband, DOJ attorney Bruce Ohr, and Christopher Steele," Meadows wrote in the referral.

"However, documents reviewed by our committees raise concerns Ms. Ohr not only had knowledge of an ongoing DOJ investigation, but that she shared information and research on Russian organized crime to assist DOJ, in direct contradiction with her testimony," he added.

Ohr conducted research on connections between Russia and President Trump, having been contracted by Fusion GPS, the same opposition research firm behind the infamous Trump dossier. Meadows pointed to emails made public though a Freedom of Information Act lawsuitby conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch that show Ohr was in contact with Justice Department officials in 2016.

"For example, in March 2016, DOJ official Lisa Holtyn sent Bruce Ohr an email asking if Nellie would be able to speak with Ivana Nizich and Joe Wheatley to discuss her research as part of an ongoing investigation as she was told 'Nellie might be a great resource.' When Mr. Ohr checked if Nellie would feel comfortable speaking with DOJ, Nellie emailed 'Sure!'" Meadows said.

"A separate email chain indicates Ms. Ohr shared her research on Russian organized crime in contradiction to her testimony. Specifically, on a separate email chain between Nellie Ohr, Mr. Ohr, Ms. Holtyn, and DOJ officials Joe Wheatley and Ivana Nizich, Ms. Ohr provides the Department of Justice with analysis of Shakro, a Russian mafia boss, and the separatists in the Donbass war," he added.

"Taking these communications into account, in addition to other information we have reviewed, Meadows said, "Ms. Ohr misled the committees when she testified she would not have any knowledge of what was going on in an ongoing DOJ investigation, and that she had not shared her research outside of Fusion GPS, her husband, and Christopher Steele. Truthful witness testimony is crucial to the integrity of investigations conducted by the House of Representatives. Ms. Ohr violated her oath to tell the truth by making demonstrably false statements during her testimony before the Committee. Accordingly, I am referring Nellie Ohr to the Department of Justice for investigation of potential violation(s) of 18 U.S.C.§1001 et seq."

Ohr testified to the Oversight and Judiciary committees in October. The transcript was made public by Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins in March.

The testimony focused heavily on her time with Fusion GPS and its relationship with the DOJ. Nellie Ohr said she met three times with Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier that contained unverified claims about Russia having compromising information about Trump. The last of those meetings took place on July 30, 2016, a day before the FBI initiated a counterintelligence investigation into links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. It is believed that FBI agent Peter Strzok, now-infamous for exchanging anti-Trump text messages with a colleague, signed the order that launched the inquiry.

Ohr's husband, Bruce Ohr, acted as an unofficial back channel between the FBI and Steele. He was demoted when it was revealed he met with Steele and Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned Steele's work. Ohr also told lawmakers his wife shared a thumb drive with him to hand over to the FBI.

The dossier, which contained unverified claims about Trump's ties to Russia, has been a subject of concern for GOP lawmakers, particularly for how it was used by the FBI in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications to gain the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The FBI suspended its relationship with Steele in October 2016 for unauthorized contact with the media. Despite this, the FBI maintained an unofficial back channel with Steele up to at least November 2017 via Ohr

More criminal referrals from Meadows could be in the works. At an event Tuesday, the congressman said he knows of "two or three individuals" tied to Fusion GPS who could be the subject of criminal referrals for lying to Congress.

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