At this writing, Nellie Ohr is scheduled to testify under oath before congressional committees on Friday (probably the day you’re reading this). I’m not sure if her deposition is to be held behind closed doors but am almost certain that it is.
Wish it weren’t, though, because this could be some of the most interesting testimony of all concerning the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s hypothetical “collusion” with the Trump campaign. They’ve been trying to get her under oath for many months as she reportedly dodged subpoenas. (Word is, though, that this appearance is voluntary.) As an expert on Russia working for “oppo research” company Fusion GPS, she might have been invaluable in helping create the anti-Trump Steele “dossier,” which we now know was used like actual, verified intelligence (it wasn’t) to get a warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
She seems to have acted as a conduit, passing information from Steele to her husband, Bruce Ohr, who was then fourth in command at the Justice Department. Ohr, who has already testified behind closed doors, had no official responsibilities regarding Trump or Russia but passed the Trump dossier to FBI officials. In doing so, he became the unofficial “backchannel” for anti-Trump information, as Steele had been let go by the FBI after being determined to be an unreliable source for talking with the media.
Nellie Ohr follows the FBI’s former top attorney, James Baker, who appeared before Congress for a second time on Thursday. Since his hearing was held behind closed doors, it’s impossible to know exactly what information he had to offer, but whatever it was, it was enough for North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to say that Rod Rosenstein should immediately step down as deputy attorney general.
“And in doing that,” Meadows said, “I think it would serve the country well.”
Rosenstein, thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, is for all practical purposes the acting attorney general when it comes to the Trump/Russia probe. He’s the one that special counsel Robert Mueller answers to, the one who essentially determines the scope of the investigation. He’s the one ultimately responsible for the slow-walking and stonewalling that congressional committees and Freedom Of Information Act petitioners have had to deal with for many long months.
And, yes, he’s also the one who has been depicted by his colleagues as talking “seriously” about wearing a wire to secretly record the President and encouraging Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. (Rosenstein has denied this.) One such discussion reportedly took place shortly after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey and just one day before Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. If Rosenstein was indeed out to get Trump, perhaps he decided that appointing Mueller was a smarter plan than spying and insurrection would have been.
Rosenstein has said he never actually authorized recording the President and that he was joking or speaking sarcastically when talking about it. No doubt he’ll stick to that story when, on October 24th, he is sworn in behind closed doors to testify before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees. Yes, the testimony is to be transcribed. This is if nothing changes; Rosenstein was supposed to testify last week but, gosh, it just never happened.
In Baker’s first hearing, on October 3, he clarified that he was not at the meeting in question but had been told by then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (who’d taken that responsibility after Comey’s firing) and attorney Lisa Page, who were there, that Rosenstein was absolutely serious. His testimony on Thursday was reportedly consistent with that. According to Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, “It was the actions and it was the words of McCabe that led Baker to believe that this was very serious, and that it was moving into an operational phase.”
It’s interesting that although Rosenstein couldn’t find time last week to keep an appointment with Congress, he did give an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal. He defended the special counsel investigation, saying, “People are entitled to be frustrated, I can accept that. But at the end of the day, the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence and that it was an appropriate use of resources.” Personally, I think a majority of the public are wise enough to see what an inappropriate and highly political game it has been.
Regarding his job security, Rosenstein said, “You serve at the pleasure of the President, and there’s never been any ambiguity about that in my mind.” Tell that to Democrats in Congress, who love to shout “Obstruction!!” to any exercise of the President’s constitutional powers. And I doubt that Trump has received any pleasure at all from having Rosenstein in that job --- the pleasure would come with firing him.
Moving on to the State Department, the very no-nonsense U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth demonstrated that he had had his fill of it (nonsense) in his opening remarks at a hearing for Judicial Watch’s lawsuit sparked by State’s failure to comply with a FOIA request...from 2014. This is the case that sought information relating to Benghazi (remember that?), and, most significantly, it’s what led directly to the discovery of Hillary Clinton’s private email server in 2015. Believe it or not, all of this litigation is still going on. Thankfully, Judicial Watch is not known for dropping the ball.
Anyway, as related in a Judicial Watch press release that is an absolute joy to read --- a great way to end the week –- Judge Lamberth magnificently dresses down the State Department lawyer for numerous transgressions, past and present: Cheryl Mills being offered immunity after she committed perjury, Mills being allowed to accompany Hillary to her FBI interview, the State Department attorney lying to him and using “doublespeak,” and more.
At a time when there is so much outright craziness on display, how refreshing it is see the outspoken reaction of someone as level-headed as Judge Lamberth, someone who has had enough of the games played by government attorneys, who can see through their tactics and lets them (and us) know he’s got their number. Likewise, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch deserves our gratitude for being like a dog with a bone. “President Trump should ask why his State Department is still refusing to answer basic questions about the Clinton email scandal,” he said. “Hillary Clinton’s and the State Department’s email cover-up abused the FOIA, the courts, and the American people’s right to know.”