Posts Tagged ‘Sally Yates’

Congress waits, waits, waits for Sally Yates documents

September 3, 2018

Obama appointee Sally Yates was acting attorney general under President Trump for just 10 days — from January 20, 2017 until January 30, 2017 — but by any measure they were consequential days. Even now, two issues from Yates’ brief tenure are still of interest to congressional investigators. One was the series of events that led Yates, in charge of the Justice Department, to reject the president’s executive order temporarily suspending the admittance into the United States of people from some Muslim nations. The second is Yate’s role in the FBI’s questioning, apparently on dubious premises, the president’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, four days into the new administration — questioning that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea in the Trump-Russia investigation.

Both are matters of great public significance and interest — and on both, the Justice Department is refusing to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee access to documents from Yates’ time in office.

On Feb. 23, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for “all emails to, from, copying, or blind-copying Ms. Yates from Jan. 20, 2017, through Jan. 31, 2017.” Grassley also asked for all of Yates’ other correspondence from that period, plus records of her calls and meetings.

By Byron York

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Sally Yates was acting attorney general under President Trump for just 10 days. Credit J. David Ake

The reason Grassley cited — his committee has direct oversight authority over the Justice Department — was that Yates’ order to the Justice Department not to defend the president’s executive order cost the administration precious time as it prepared to fight the inevitable legal challenges. The Department did not have its facts together when a federal judge in Washington State demanded them, setting the stage for the judge to issue a temporary restraining order.

“It looks like Ms. Yates’ action may have substantially harmed the Justice Department’s initial ability to defend the executive order,” Grassley wrote. “It is important to determine the extent to which Ms. Yates’ actions may have sabotaged the government’s defense in that litigation.”

“Even commentators who took issue with the executive order believed her directive to stop the entire Justice Department from defending the order in the middle of frenetic ongoing litigation was improper,” Grassley added.

It is hard to imagine a matter of more public importance than that. But the executive order question was not the only issue involving Yates that fell under Grassley’s oversight.

Also covered by the committee’s request was any documentation of Yates’ role in the Flynn case. A number of press accounts at the time the FBI interviewed Flynn cited an official “familiar with [Yates’] thinking” who said she was concerned that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act by talking to Russia’s then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Of course, many scholars view the Logan Act as a dead letter, and it is a fact that no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the Logan Act at any time in its 200-year history. For Yates to use that particular law as a pretense for the FBI to interview Flynn was certainly a questionable decision — and a decision that Congress might reasonably want to review.

Grassley’s request, covering all of Yates’ communications, electronic and otherwise, would likely have given Congress some insight into Yates’ thinking on the Logan Act and Flynn, as well as, of course, on the travel executive order. All were legitimate areas of congressional oversight. Yet the Justice Department turned the senator down flat.

“These records would implicate important executive branch confidentiality interests, including deliberations about the many sensitive law enforcement, national security, and policy matters that require an Attorney General’s attention,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer wrote to Grassley in May of last year. Turning such records over to Congress would “substantially inhibit the robust exchange of views and advice” inside the Justice Department, Ramer said. It would also, he argued, “set an unacceptable precedent” of Congress mucking around in executive branch emails any time lawmakers “question an Attorney General’s intent or motivation for a decision.”

Of course, it had been done before. In November 2014, some of then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s emails were turned over to Congress as part of its Fast & Furious investigation. And in December of last year the Justice Department turned over at least some of Yates’ own emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a private outside party, Judicial Watch. For example, on January 30, 2017, Yates forwarded to someone — name redacted — an email from Andrew Weissmann, a top Justice Department official who later joined special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. With the subject line, “I am so proud,” Weissmann wrote ‘And in awe. Thank you so much,” for Yates’ decision to block the president’s executive order.

But now, the Justice Department refuses to hand over any of Yates’ emails to the Senate committee with direct oversight authority. If the Department were serious about complying, it might ask for some limits on what has to be produced, and it’s likely the Senate would have gone along, or at least negotiated about what should be turned over. But the Department just gave a flat no.

Grassley, unhappy, moved on. But he reminded the Justice Department that actions like Yates’, on the executive order and other matters, have real consequences. “Having political appointees from a prior administration stay on during the early days of a new administration encourages stable transitions between administrations while new appointees are in the confirmation process,” Grassley wrote. “When a holdover appointee uses that position to sabotage the incoming administration over policy differences, future administrations will be more likely to fire previous political appointees on day one, potentially leading to more dangerously rocky transitions. These stunts have consequences.”


Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr was told Russia had ‘Trump over a barrel’ — report

September 1, 2018

Trump-Russia dossier author also said to tell Bruce Ohr that campaign aide Carter Page met with more-senior Russian officials than he’d acknowledged


In this photo from August 28, 2018, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr arrives for a closed hearing of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In this photo from August 28, 2018, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr arrives for a closed hearing of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Justice Department lawyer says a former British spy told him at a breakfast meeting two years ago that Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump “over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the encounter.

The lawyer, Bruce Ohr, also says he learned that a Trump campaign aide had met with higher-level Russian officials than the aide had acknowledged, the people said.

The previously unreported details of the July 30, 2016, breakfast with Christopher Steele, which Ohr described to lawmakers this week in a private interview, reveal an exchange of potentially explosive information about Trump between two men the president has relentlessly sought to discredit.

They add to the public understanding of those pivotal summer months as the FBI and intelligence community scrambled to untangle possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they reflect the concern of Steele, a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts at the FBI and Justice Department.

The people who discussed Ohr’s interview were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the closed session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters upon arriving at the White House on August 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had communicated that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting.

It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele was directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s dossier.

Steele and Ohr, at the time of the election a senior official in the deputy attorney general’s office, had first met a decade earlier and bonded over a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a relationship that has exposed both men and federal law enforcement more generally to partisan criticism, including from Trump.

Republicans contend the FBI relied excessively on the dossier during its investigation and to obtain a secret wiretap application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. They also say Ohr went outside his job description and chain of command by meeting with Steele, including after his termination as a FBI source, and then relaying information to the FBI.

Trump this month proposed stripping Ohr, who until this year had been largely anonymous during his decades-long Justice Department career, of his security clearance and has asked “how the hell” he remains employed. He has called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

The president and some of his supporters in Congress have also accused the FBI of launching the entire Russia counterintelligence investigation based on the dossier. But memos authored by Republicans and Democrats and declassified this year show the probe was triggered by information the US government earlier received about the Russian contacts of then-Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The FBI’s investigation was already under way by the time it received Steele’s dossier. The investigation’s lead agent, Peter Strzok, told lawmakers last month that “it was not Mr. Ohr who provided the initial documents that I became aware of in mid-September.”

Ohr described his relationship with Steele during a House interview Tuesday.

This photo from March 7, 2017, shows Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who set up Orbis Business Intelligence and compiled a dossier on Donald Trump, in London. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

One of the meetings he recounted was a Washington breakfast attended by Steele, a Steele associate and Ohr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, who worked for Fusion GPS, the political research firm that hired Steele, attended at least part of it.

Beside the “over a barrel” remark, Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, a Trump campaign aide who traveled to Moscow that same month and whose ties to Russia attracted FBI scrutiny, had met with more-senior Russian officials than he had acknowledged.

The breakfast took place amid ongoing FBI concerns about Russian election interference and possible communication with Trump associates.

By that point, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the Clinton campaign chairman, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, was said to have revealed that Russians had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, court papers say.

That revelation prompted the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after the breakfast but based on entirely different information.

Ohr told lawmakers he could not vouch for the accuracy of Steele’s information but has said he considered him a reliable FBI informant who delivered credible and actionable intelligence, including about corruption at FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

In the interview, Ohr acknowledged that he had not told superiors in his office, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, about his meetings with Steele because he considered the information inflammatory raw source material.

He also provided new details about the department’s move to reassign him once his Steele ties were brought to light.

Ohr said he met in late 2017 with two senior Justice Department officials, Scott Schools and James Crowell, who told him they were unhappy he had not proactively disclosed his meetings with Steele. They said he was being stripped of his associate deputy attorney post as part of an internal reorganization that would have occurred anyway, people familiar with Ohr’s account say.

He met again soon after with one of the officials, who told him Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein didn’t believe he could remain in his current position as director of a law enforcement grant-distribution initiative known as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces program because the position entailed White House meetings and interactions.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment.

Trump: Mueller probe is perjury trap — Even Ronald Reagan faced Democrats wanting to hang him

August 21, 2018

In a broad interview, the US president has said he doesn’t trust the impartiality of those investigating him. ” A fervent critic of Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling, Trump has said he “could run it if I want.”

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump expressed concerns on Monday that any statement made to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a probe into Russian election meddling, could be used to charge him with perjury.

In a wide-ranging interview to Reuters news agency, Trump echoed similar concerns from his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is negotiating terms for a possible interview and warned it could be a “perjury trap.”

Trump said that his statements could be used against him if they are contrasted to others who have testified to investigators, including former FBI Director James Comey, who the president fired.

“So if I say something and he [Comey] says somethings, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” Trump said.

Trump: ‘I could run’ the probe

During the interview, Trump said he had the power to intervene in the probe, but had decided against doing so for the moment.

“I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” Trump said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

The president has repeatedly attacked Mueller and his probe into whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential elections.

On Monday, he described Mueller in a tweet as “disgraced and discredited,” accusing the former FBI director of “enjoying ruining people’s lives.”

Trump’s comments come as a jury deliberates on whether Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort is guilty of banking fraud and failure to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned while consulting Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.

If Manafort is found guilty, he would be the first campaign official to do so as a result of the probe. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has also been targeted by the probe. Although Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, observers believe he is likely to collaborate with Mueller’s probe.

The full interview with Trump touched on a range of other topics, including North Korea, Turkey, China, Russia, and the US Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates.

ls/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)


Democrats in 1987, as today, along with the media—led by the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN—with Democrats in Congress hoped to bring about the impeachment of a Republican president.

Did Sally Yates enable DOJ official tied to dossier? GOP investigators want to know — Comey, Brennan, Strzok, Ohr, Steele, Yates, Others involved?

August 20, 2018

Ex-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is poised to become the next top Justice Department official of the Obama administration scrutinized by GOP lawmakers for evidence of a biased campaign by the DOJ and FBI to undermine President Trump’s 2016 election effort.

Key to reaching that next phase in the inquiry will be demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr, who has ties to ex-British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump dossier, and Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier.

Image result for sally Yates, photos

Sally Yates

“The real question that we need to find out from Mr. Ohr: Was he just a rogue employee acting improperly on his own or did he have some authority from within the Department of Justice and was Sally Yates aware of what he was doing?” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, said Sunday on Fox News, alluding to Ohr’s forthcoming testimony before the Oversight and Judiciary Committees behind closed doors on Aug. 28.

Ohr, formerly the associate deputy attorney general, was demoted after it came to light he met with Steele and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. He still has a role in the DOJ working in the Organized Crime Task Force.

GOP lawmakers are eager to learn more about the government’s reliance on the Trump dossier, which contains a number of salacious claims about the president’s ties to Russia. That dossier was used by the FBI in their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications to secure the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. They are also interested in reports of Ohr feeding the FBI information from Steele even after he was cut as a source for providing confidential information to the media and his connection to Fusion GPS, which retained and paid his wife, Nellie Ohr, to investigate Trump.

Of particular concern to Republican lawmakers is a recently revealed text Ohr sent to Steele, saying, “very concerned (abt) about [former FBI Director James] Comey’s firing — afraid they will be exposed.”

President Trump himself seized on this text, saying it helps make his case that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is a “witch hunt.”

Ratcliffe, who will lead the line of questioning against Ohr, said there are other “equally troubling” texts that “relate to the firing of Sally Yates and the impact that that may have and that leads to some questions.”

Yates was fired by Trump while serving as acting attorney general in late January of last year after she refused to defend his initial travel ban, but not before she signed off on at least one of the FISA warrant applications to spy on Page.

Ratcliffe noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who succeeded Yates and is overseeing Mueller’s investigation, testified under oath that he had no knowledge that Ohr was involved in the Russia investigation. “So it begs the question whether or not Sally Yates, who held that position before Rod Rosenstein, was aware of that fact,” Ratcliffe said.

After Ohr’s testimony, Ratcliffe said lawmakers will turn their attention to Yates, as well as Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to find out whether a possible bias campaign against Trump leads even further up the power chain in the Obama administration.

He couldn’t say whether Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte are ready to ask Yates and the other ex-officials to appear again before Congress, but he acknowledged that “those conversations are taking place,” which could amount to subpoenas if they don’t voluntarily testify.

Both Yates and Ohr are among those officials under review by the Trump administration regarding whether they should keep their security clearances. Last week the White House announced Trump had stripped former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, a move which critics say was politically motivated because Brennan has repeatedly spoken out against Trump on social media on and MSNBC where he is a contributor.

Yates has also been critical of Trump. Earlier this month she warned that the rule of law in the U.S. could dissipate after Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to put an immediate end to the federal Russia investigation. “Today our president called on his (recused) AG to shut down the investigation of his own campaign,” Yates wrote on Twitter. “As shocking as that is, what’s even more dangerous is that we’ve gotten used to it. The rule of law won’t evaporate overnight, but it can slip away—if we let it.”

The Ohr interview, which will happen amid an August recess, comes a month after now-ex FBI agent Peter Strzok testified before lawmakers in a public setting. Strzok, who was fired by the FBI, has come under fire for text messages he exchanged with a fellow FBI employee with whom he was having an affair that were critical of Trump.

Since it will take place in private, Gowdy said last week that the Ohr interview will not be a “public circus” and will be devoid of time limits.

“I’m going to come back to Washington,” Gowdy said on Fox News. “I will leave my beloved South Carolina and I will go back and I’m sure others will too. We are going to be back and we are going to interview Bruce Ohr, not in a public circus setting, but in a deposition with no time limits. And we are going to get to the bottom of what he did, why he did it, who he did it in concert with, whether he had the permission of the supervisors at the Department of Justice.”


DiGenova: Who Plotted To Destroy Duly Elected President? Comey, Brennan, Strzok, Ohr, Steele, Yates, Others

August 19, 2018


Joe diGenova told Sean Hannity on Thursday that it was so important for Donald Trump to win because we wouldn’t have found out about the ‘deep state’ otherwise. DiGenova also called the Manafort trial an “absolute embarrassment” to the Department of Justice as the case should have never been brought to a courtroom.

DiGenova also accused the ‘deep state’ of being determined to destroy a president after he was duly elected. Mueller “realized” that the collusion case was worthless and the big case is “the case to frame the president.”

“There was a brazen plot to exonerate Hillary Clinton. And if she lost – to frame Donald Trump. Part of that plot involved the conspiracy with Bruce Ohr, Steele, Sally Yates, John Brennan, James Comey, Peter Strozk and other senior FBI and the DOJ Officials who determined that they were going to destroy a president after he was duly elected,” he said of the plot to deny Trump the presidency.

By Ian Schwartz

Image result for sally Yates, photos

Sally yates

“What’s happened here now goes so far beyond what the Mueller case and the Manafort case, the Manafort case is a joke,” DiGenova told Hannity. “It is an absolute embarrassment to the Department of Justice. It should never have been brought.”

“And you know, I just, what I think happened to Bob Mueller is, he realized that everything he’s done is worthless. It means nothing. That the big case is the case to frame the president of the United States,” he added.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: And joining us now with more reaction, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Joe diGenova. Full disclosure, Joe once did some legal work for me and I would hire him again in a heartbeat and Pam, and he was at my Christmas party.

But, you know, here’s what we have. We’ve got Mueller’s team looking at a 2005 tax case, nothing to do with the election, Trump, the campaign, nothing, Russia, nothing. But here, we do have Russian lies being fed by Christopher Steele who didn’t even believe them, through Fusion GPS, propagandizing and misinforming purposely the American people to steal an election.

And then we have Russian lies, literally, you know, handed to our gullible news media by these people, then you’ve got, you know, Steele, the dossier, Fusion GPS, Brennan, all leaking it, Joe diGenova, all of them. They all know it’s total B.S.

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Remember, Sean, if Hillary Clinton had won, we would know none of this. And that’s why the Trump victory is so important to the rule of law, notwithstanding what the press says about the president.

There was a brazen plot to exonerate Hillary Clinton. And if she lost – to frame Donald Trump. Part of that plot involved the conspiracy with Bruce Ohr, Steele, Sally Yates, John Brennan, James Comey, Peter Strozk and other senior FBI and the DOJ Officials who determined that they were going to destroy a president after he was duly elected.

It is absolutely essential that notwithstanding anything that Robert Mueller is doing that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general ensure that there is a federal grand jury to investigate all of the things surrounding Ohr and Steele and Yates and everybody else.

This is so obvious, a junior lawyer in any prosecutor’s office would want this case and run with it.



DIGENOVA: And if the attorney general and the deputy attorney general don’t do it, the president should fire them.

HANNITY: If Hillary Rodham Clinton pays for these Russian lies, Pam Bondi- –


DIGENOVA: Yes. She did.

HANNITY: — and Fusion GPS and Brennan, the CIA director at that time, and Christopher Steele, a foreign national. No, it’s not true. Because we know under oath he said I don’t know if it’s true, maybe it’s 50/50. It’s raw intelligence.

They are peddling this to the American people in a lead up to the election. And Robert Mueller is focused on a tax case from how many years ago? How did it come up? How did this, how do we involve into this when there is real evidence of real Russian paid information to lie to the American people in the election?

BONDI: Sean, our entire justice system right now is inverted. This is the kind of the corruption that you see in third world countries. Look at McCabe. They moved him. They were going to let him retire until everyone came out publicly calling for him to be fired so he didn’t get his retirement.

Look at Strozk, look at — he fired. Look at Page resigned. Ohr should have been fired yesterday or much earlier now that we know this. It’s absurd. And again, the bottom line, the crux of all of this is that FISA warrant that was obtained. And we all keep talking about that because none of this — the Manafort trial–


HANNITY: No, the crux of it was the dossier. Because they lied–


POMBI: Right.

HANNITY: — to the FISA court judges and committed a fraud on the court and they said they stood up for it but they never verified it. And then they literally conspired to spread unverified Russian lies that Hillary Clinton paid for to influence the American people.

BONDI: And that’s why all of this since taking place.


HANNITY: I’m sorry. That’s a lot bigger than Paul Manafort’s stupid tax case.

BONDI: Right. Right. And none of that would be taking place but for a FISA warrant obtained with false information.

HANNITY: Where’s, you know, if I’m Robert Mueller I would be humiliated. Al this evidence is out there, it’s on a tee. Is it that political, is that he hired all these Democrats because he is that much of a hack and he doesn’t care about our constitutional republic, Joe?

DIGENOVA: I think what has happened here is Bob Mueller has lost his way. And he has been hit in the face with an outrageous set of facts which show that what he is doing is legally irrelevant to what actually happened during the campaign.

There was no Russian collusion. There was no communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. That’s all nonsense and fake and was purposefully put out by the people in the FBI and John Brennan to blow back in the United States to get FISA warrants so they could spy on the Trump campaign.

What’s happened here now goes so far beyond what the Mueller case and the Manafort case, the Manafort case is a joke. It is an absolute embarrassment to the Department of Justice. It should never have been brought.

And you know, I just, what I think happened to Bob Mueller is, he realized that everything he’s done is worthless. It means nothing. That the big case is the case to frame the president of the United States. And he won’t — he won’t touch it–


HANNITY: And that’s why he’s done–

DIGENOVA: — he doesn’t give a rip — absolutely.

HANNITY: — on what happens in the next 18 months to the country.

DIGENOVA: Absolutely.

HANNITY: Because look at the people he has hired. You hire Andrew Weissmann. You are going to go for broke. You hire the biggest hack in the country. Not many people have the distinction of putting innocent people in jail and losing tens of thousands of jobs.

DIGENOVA: Absolutely correct.


DIGENOVA: Absolutely correct.


Five things to know about Bruce Ohr, and the “afraid we’ll be exposed” email

August 19, 2018

President Donald Trump has recently attacked Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, linking the figure to his allegations of bias in the federal Russia probe.

Ohr has long drawn intense scrutiny from figures on the right, but he received broad attention after Trump said Friday that he is planning to revoke his security clearance following the president’s controversial decision to revoke the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.

The Hill

Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010.
Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010. PHOTO: C-SPAN

While it’s unclear in what full capacity the official is currently serving at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Ohr and his wife have caught the attention of Republican lawmakers, who are now seeking to interview the couple, among other figures.

From Ohr’s ties to intelligence firm Fusion GPS to the president’s threats, here are five things to know about the Justice Department official.

Trump is threatening to take away Ohr’s security clearance

The president told reporters Fridaythat he is planning on revoking Ohr’s security clearance “very quickly,” calling the official “a disgrace.”

“For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace,” Trump said.

If Trump follows through on the promise, it would be the first time he pulled a security clearance from a current DOJ staffer, a move that would likely inflame tensions between the president and the intelligence community.

Trump pulled the security clearance for Brennan, a vocal critic who served as CIA chief under former President Obama, earlier in the week and the White House has reportedly drafted documents for the president to revoke several other former officials’ clearances.

Image result for nellie ohr

Nellie Ohr and Bruce Ohr

It’s unclear how revoking Ohr’s clearance might affect his ability to do parts of his job. Those who have maintained their clearances after leaving government have mostly done so to preserve current officials’ ability to ask them questions about particular issues.

Ohr was demoted over his ties to Steele

Ohr, who previously served as associate deputy attorney general, was demoted late last year over his contacts with former British spy Christopher Steele, who assembled the controversial dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia.

The longtime government prosecutor was demoted in December 2017 after the DOJ learned he had been in touch with Steele. Ohr also worked as the head of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces before being removed from that position as well.

While the agency has not commented recently on Ohr’s current role at the DOJ, a source familiar with his position told CNN this week that Ohr is serving as an attorney in the DOJ’s criminal division.

The agency pointed The Washington Post to a June statement from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the DOJ.

“Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn’t working on the Russia matter,” Rosenstein told the House Intelligence Committee at the time. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.”

The FBI interviewed Ohr about his contacts with Steele. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked that the reports that include the interviews be declassified.

Ohr’s wife worked for the firm behind the Steele dossier

Much of the scrutiny on Ohr has surrounded his ties to Steele, whose dossier made salacious and unverified claims on the relationship between Trump and Russia.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, has worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that funded Steele’s research behind the document.

The Post reported that Bruce Ohr’s financial disclosure form listed his wife’s occupation as an “independent contractor.”

However, it’s unknown how large or small of a role Nellie Ohr played in the research that went into the dossier.

court filing from the co-founder of Fusion GPS said the firm contracted with Nellie Ohr to help “with its research and analysis of Mr. Trump.”

Ohr knew both Steele and the head of Fusion GPS

The Hill’s John Solomon reported earlier this month that Bruce Ohr and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson had met shortly after Trump won the 2016 election, and that Ohr wrote in handwritten notes that it was believed that Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer Micahel Cohen was the “go-between from Russia to the Trump campaign.”

“Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr also wrote in the notes.

The Post reported that Simpson and Ohr knew each other from organized crime conferences, and that Steele also knew the DOJ official from their work in the same field.

Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Steele had recommended he talk to Ohr after Trump’s election victory.

And emails obtained by The Hill also showed that Steele had contacted Ohr ahead of the 2016 election, with the British intelligence officer writing that he wanted to discuss “our favorite business tycoon!”

It’s unclear who Steele was referring to in the email. The two men had previously discussed Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, but it also may have referred to Trump.

Conservative lawmakers will question Ohr

The Hill reported earlier this month that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is preparing subpoenas for Ohr, his wife and Simpson.

“We plan to interview the people [mentioned] in the coming weeks and we will issue subpoenas to compel their attendance if necessary,” a GOP House Judiciary aide told The Hill.

Lawmakers are now set to question Ohr during a closed-door interview on Aug. 28.

Conservative lawmakers have pointed to Ohr’s ties to Steele and Simpson as evidence of bias against Trump in the DOJ and in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Those Republicans have previously seized on the inclusion of information provided by Steele to the FBI in an application to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The warrant application, released last month, showed that the FBI cut off ties with Steele after discovering he was sharing information with the media.




Chuck Ross | Reporter

Dossier author Christopher Steele told Justice Department official Bruce Ohr after James Comey’s firing last year that he was “afraid they will be exposed.”

What exactly Steele was concerned about having exposed after Comey’s May 9, 2017 firing is not made clear in Ohr’s notes, which were reported by Fox News.

The text message is part of a trove of emails, text messages and handwritten notes that the Justice Department has provided to Congress as part of an investigation into the government’s handling of the Steele dossier.

Steele told Ohr in a May 10, 2017 phone call that he was “very concerned abt Comey’s firing — afraid they will be exposed,” according to Fox.

Steele’s interactions with Ohr have been a focal point for congressional Republicans in their investigation into the government’s possible abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The dossier, which Steele wrote on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, was used to obtain FISA warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Republicans say that the dossier was not verified when the FBI used it to obtain the spy warrants.

Page, an energy consultant who joined the Trump team in March 2016, has vehemently denied the dossier’s allegations about him. In the 35-page report, Steele alleges that Page was the Trump campaign’s main contact to the Kremlin.

Justice Department documents given to Congress show that Steele and Ohr were in contact all throughout 2016 and 2017, though Ohr’s involvement was not revealed until December. Following a report from Fox News on Ohr’s contacts with Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, he was demoted as assistant deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. (RELATED: Glenn Simpson’s Claims About His Interactions With Bruce Ohr Don’t Add Up)

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was Ohr’s boss, has told Congress that he was not aware of Ohr’s contacts with Steele or Simpson. It is unclear if Rosenstein’s predecessor, Sally Yates, knew what Ohr was up to.

Steele first reached out to Ohr in January 2016 seeking help for a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. Text messages and emails suggest that the former MI6 officer lobbied Ohr to keep an eye on the status of negotiations between Deripasksa and the U.S. government for the billionaire’s visa. Deripaska is a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s. He has also worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (RELATED: Emails Show Christopher Steele Lobbied DOJ Official On Behalf Of Putin-Linked Oligarch)

Ohr also corresponded with Steele after the 2016 election about the Russia investigation. By that time, the FBI had ended its relationship with Steele because he made unauthorized disclosures to the media. Steele met with numerous reporters in September and October 2016 about his Trump-Russia findings.

Ohr provided a dozen briefings to the FBI from November 2016 to May 2017 about his interactions with Steele.

An added wrinkle is that Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie, was directly involved in the anti-Trump investigation. She worked as a researcher for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele.

What Was Bruce Ohr Doing?

August 17, 2018

Justice releases some damning documents, but much of the truth is still classified.

Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010.
Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010. PHOTO: C-SPAN

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department have continued to insist they did nothing wrong in their Trump-Russia investigation. This week should finally bring an end to that claim, given the clear evidence of malfeasance via the use of Bruce Ohr.

Mr. Ohr was until last year associate deputy attorney general. He began feeding information to the FBI from dossier author Christopher Steele in late 2016—after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a confidential informant for violating the bureau’s rules. He also collected dirt from Glenn Simpson, cofounder of Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and employed Mr. Steele. Altogether, the FBI pumped Mr. Ohr for information at least a dozen times, debriefs that remain in classified 302 forms.

All the while, Mr. Ohr failed to disclose on financial forms that his wife, Nellie, worked alongside Mr. Steele in 2016, getting paid by Mr. Simpson for anti-Trump research. The Justice Department has now turned over Ohr documents to Congress that show how deeply tied up he was with the Clinton crew—with dozens of emails, calls, meetings and notes that describe his interactions and what he collected.

Mr. Ohr’s conduct is itself deeply troubling. He was acting as a witness (via FBI interviews) in a case being overseen by a Justice Department in which he held a very senior position. He appears to have concealed this role from at least some superiors, since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified that he’d been unaware of Mr. Ohr’s intermediary status.

Lawyers meanwhile note that it is a crime for a federal official to participate in any government matter in which he has a financial interest. Fusion’s bank records presumably show Nellie Ohr, and by extension her husband, benefiting from the Trump opposition research that Mr. Ohr continued to pass to the FBI. The Justice Department declined to comment.

But for all Mr. Ohr’s misdeeds, the worse misconduct is by the FBI and Justice Department. It’s bad enough that the bureau relied on a dossier crafted by a man in the employ of the rival presidential campaign. Bad enough that it never informed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of that dossier’s provenance. And bad enough that the FBI didn’t fire Mr. Steele as a confidential human source in September 2016 when it should have been obvious he was leaking FBI details to the press to harm Donald Trump’s electoral chances. It terminated him only when it was absolutely forced to, after Mr. Steele gave an on-the-record interview on Oct. 31, 2016.

But now we discover the FBI continued to go to this discredited informant in its investigation after the firing—by funneling his information via a Justice Department cutout. The FBI has an entire manual governing the use of confidential sources, with elaborate rules on validations, standards and documentation. Mr. Steele failed these standards. The FBI then evaded its own program to get at his info anyway.

And it did so even though we have evidence that lead FBI investigators may have suspected Mr. Ohr was a problem. An Oct. 7, 2016, text message from now-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok to his colleague Lisa Page reads: “Jesus. More BO leaks in the NYT,” which could be a reference to Mr. Ohr.

The FBI may also have been obtaining, via Mr. Ohr, information that came from a man the FBI had never even vetted as a source—Mr. Simpson. Mr. Steele had at least worked with the FBI before; Mr. Simpson was a paid political operative. And the Ohr notes raise further doubts about Mr. Simpson’s forthrightness. In House testimony in November 2017, Mr. Simpson said only that he reached out to Mr. Ohr after the election, and at Mr. Steele’s suggestion. But Mr. Ohr’s inbox shows an email from Mr. Simpson dated Aug. 22, 2016 that reads, in full: “Can u ring.”

The Justice Department hasn’t tried to justify any of this; in fact, last year it quietly demoted Mr. Ohr. In what smells of a further admission of impropriety, it didn’t initially turn over the Ohr documents; Congress had to fight to get them.

But it raises at least two further crucial questions. First, who authorized or knew about this improper procedure? Mr. Strzok seems to be in the thick of it, having admitted to Congress interactions with Mr. Ohr at the end of 2016. While Mr. Rosenstein disclaims knowledge, Mr. Ohr’s direct supervisor at the time was the previous deputy attorney general, Sally Yates. Who else in former FBI Director Jim Comey’s inner circle and at the Obama Justice Department nodded at the FBI’s back-door interaction with a sacked source and a Clinton operative?

Second, did the FBI continue to submit Steele- or Simpson-sourced information to the FISA court? Having informed the court in later applications that it had fired Mr. Steele, the FBI would have had no business continuing to use any Steele information laundered through an intermediary.

We could have these answers pronto; they rest in part in those Ohr 302 forms. And so once again: a call for President Trump to declassify.


The Disgrace of Comey’s FBI

June 15, 2018

The damning IG report shows the urgent need to restore public trust.

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The long-awaited Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation makes for depressing reading for anyone who cares about American democracy. Self-government depends on public trust in its institutions, especially law enforcement. The IG’s 568-page report makes clear that the FBI under former director James Comey betrayed that public trust in a way not seen since J. Edgar Hoover.

We use the Hoover analogy advisedly, realizing that the problem in this case was not rampant illegal spying. Though IG Michael Horowitz’s conclusions are measured, his facts are damning. They show that Mr. Comey abused his authority, broke with long-established Justice Department norms, and deceived his superiors and the public.

While the IG says Mr. Comey’s decisions were not the result of “political bias,” he presided over an investigating team that included agents who clearly were biased against Donald Trump. The damage to the bureau’s reputation—and to thousands of honest agents—will take years to repair.

The issue of political bias is almost beside the point. The IG scores Mr. Comey for “ad hoc decisionmaking based on his personal views.” Like Hoover, Mr. Comey believed that he alone could protect the public trust. And like Hoover, this hubris led him to make egregious mistakes of judgment that the IG says “negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice.”


The report scores Mr. Comey in particular for his “conscious decision not to tell [Justice] Department leadership about his plans to independently announce” an end to the investigation at his July 5 press conference in which he exonerated but criticized Mrs. Clinton. And the IG also scores his action 11 days before the 2016 presidential election, on October 28, to send a letter to Congress saying the investigation had been reopened.

The decision to prosecute belongs to the Attorney General and Justice, not the FBI. And the FBI does not release derogatory information on someone against whom it is not bringing charges. Regarding the October letter informing Congress that the FBI was renewing the investigation, FBI policy is not to announce investigations. “We found unpersuasive Comey’s explanation,” deadpans the IG.

“We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same,” says the report.

“Comey waited until the morning of his press conference to inform [Attorney General Loretta] Lynch and [Deputy Attorney General Sally ] Yates of his plans to hold one without them, and did so only after first notifying the press. As a result, Lynch’s office learned about Comey’s plans via press inquiries rather than from Comey. Moreover, when Comey spoke with Lynch he did not tell her what he intended to say in his statement.”

All of this underscores the case that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made when he advised President Trump in May 2017 that he should fire Mr. Comey. The President’s mistake was not firing Mr. Comey immediately upon taking office on Jan. 20, 2017, as some of us advised at the time.

As for political bias, the IG devotes a chapter to the highly partisan texts exchanged over FBI phones between FBI personnel. The IG says he found no evidence that political bias affected investigative decisions, but the details will be fodder for those who think otherwise.

For one thing, the political opinions ran in only one direction—against Mr. Trump. Then there is the case of FBI agent Peter Strzok and his decision to prioritize the Russian investigation over following up on Mrs. Clinton’s emails. The IG concludes that Mr. Strzok’s “text messages led us to conclude that we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision was free from bias.”

The specific Strzok message the IG cites is one in which he responded to a text from his paramour, Lisa Page, asking for reassurance that Mr. Trump was “not ever going to become president, right?” Mr. Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Senator Ron Johnson’s office reports that his committee had received the first part of this exchange— Ms. Page’s question—from Justice. But somehow Mr. Strzok’s astonishing reply wasn’t included. If this was deliberate, the official who ordered this exclusion should be publicly identified and fired.

The report also chronicles a long list of other questionable judgments by the FBI and Justice. These include waiting until late October to announce that the FBI was seeking a search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop, though “virtually every fact that was cited” to justify the move had been known a month before.

And the report criticizes the decision to let Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, attend the FBI’s interview with Mrs. Clinton when they were potential witnesses to her possible offenses. This was “inconsistent with typical investigative strategy and gave rise to accusations of bias and preferential treatment,” the IG says.


The unavoidable conclusion is that Mr. Comey’s FBI became a law unto itself, accountable to no one but the former director’s self-righteous conscience. His refusal to follow proper guidelines interfered with a presidential election campaign in a way that has caused millions of Americans in both parties to justifiably cry foul.

This should never happen in a democracy, and steps must be taken so that it never does again. Mr. Horowitz deserves credit for an investigation that was thorough, informative and unplagued by leaks. But it is not the final word. Next week he will be testifying before Congress to flesh out and clarify his findings. Congress should also call FBI agents as witnesses.

The larger damage here is to trust in institutions that are vital to self-government. Mr. Trump will use the facts to attack the FBI, but most agents are honest and nonpartisan. Christopher Wray, the new FBI director, promised Thursday to implement the IG’s recommendations, but his cleanup task is larger. He can start by ending the FBI’s stonewall of Congress on document requests.

Mr. Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have to understand that radical measures are needed to restore public trust in both the FBI and Justice Department. If they won’t do it, someone else must.

Appeared in the June 15, 2018, print edition.

Obama’s spying scandal is starting to look a lot like Watergate

May 28, 2018

F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Op-Ed By Michael Barone
New York Post

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

In both cases, the incumbent administration regarded the opposition’s unorthodox nominee as undermining the nation’s long-standing foreign policy and therefore dangerous to the country. McGovern renounced the Democrats’ traditional Cold War policy. Trump expressed skepticism about George W. Bush and Obama administration policies on NATO, Mexico, Iran and (forgetting Barack Obama’s ridicule of Mitt Romney on the subject) Russia.

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The incumbents’ qualms had some rational basis. But their attempts at surveillance were misbegotten. Back in 1972, my brief experience in campaigns left me skeptical that you could learn anything useful by wiretapping the opposition. If you were reasonably smart, you should be able to figure out what a reasonably smart opposition would do and respond accordingly. Subsequent experience has confirmed that view. It’s a different story if you face irrational opposition. It’s hard to figure out what stupid people are going to do.

Similarly, it’s hard to figure out what the Obama law enforcement and intelligence folks had to gain by spying. Candidate Trump’s bizarre refusals to criticize Vladimir Putin and Russia were already a political liability, criticized aptly and often by Hillary Clinton and mainstream media.

But neither the Obama informant/spy nor Robert Mueller’s investigation has presented additional evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. None of Mueller’s indictments points in that direction, and Trump’s foreign policy over 16 months has been far less favorable to Russia than Obama’s.

Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.

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Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the postelection cover-up.

That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

FILED UNDER         

James Comey Was E-Mailing Lisa Page and Peter Strzok Just Before Deciding Not To Charge Hillay Clinton — Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy wants more investigation…

April 18, 2018

The head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus has asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to take a closer look at emails and texts between demoted FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that previously had been given to Congress.

In a letter to Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., claimed recently uncovered documents “suggest a concerning level of coordination between the Department of Justice and the FBI throughout crucial moments of the investigation into [Hillary] Clinton’s private email server.”

Meadows’ claim contradicts repeated statements by former FBI Director James Comey, who has said the bureau and the DOJ did not coordinate on his July 2016 statement recommending Clinton not be charged for keeping classified information on her personal email server.

“Given the tone of Director Comey’s sworn testimony, and his stated intention to continue to publicly speaking about the investigation in support of his new book,” Meadows wrote, “we believe it is important to further examine whether his previous statements before Congress and the American people were misleading.”

Meadows quoted a July 1, 2016 text exchange between Strzok and Page about then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s pledge to accept Comey’s recommendations in the email case.

“Timing looks like hell,” Strzok wrote. “Will appear choreographed. All major news networks literally leading with ‘AG to accept FBI [Director’s] recommendation.’”

“Yeah, that is awful timing,” Page answered. “Nothing we can do about it.”

“What I meant was,” Strzok said, “did DOJ tell us yesterday they were doing this, so [Comey] added that language.”

Page texted back: “I think we had some warning of it. I know they sent some statement to [Comey chief of staff James] Rybicki bc he called andy [Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe].”

The DOJ and FBI have tapped a federal prosecutor to oversee a subpoena by Bob Goodlatte for more than one million documents; Catherine Herridge has the latest from Washington DC.

Meadows said the cryptic conversation “raises concerns the FBI learned former Attorney General Lynch would accept Director Comey’s recommendation, leading him to add the ‘no coordination’ language to his public comments on July 5th 2016.”

He added, “These texts exchanged between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok also raise concerns DOJ sent remarks related to the ‘no coordination’ language to James Rybicki, Director Comey’s former Chief of Staff.”

According to Meadows, another document indicated that McCabe “reached out to ask that we set up another DOJ/FBI meeting to discuss developments in MYE (midyear exam).” MYE is the code for the Clinton email case.

“It is very possible former Director Comey did not coordinate specifics of his statement with the Deputy Attorney General [Sally Yates]. However, the documents suggest that at the staff-level, coordination on the Clinton MYE investigation was frequent,” Meadows wrote.

Gowdy told Fox News’ “The Story” Tuesday night that he had read Meadows’ letter and planned to forward it to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“I think it fits most neatly within what Horowitz is doing now, which is looking at just how unprecedented this investigation was in 2016,” Gowdy said.

The FBI and Justice Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.

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