A senior Justice official whom President Donald Trump wants to lay off revealed to lawmakers that he learned during a breakfast meeting in 2016 with a British sky that Russian intelligence believed had Trump "above the barrel."
Bruce Ohr, with whom Trump protested on Twitter this week, having previously said he could suspend his security clearances, revealed the information to House of Representatives Intelligence Committee lawmakers during a closed testimony this week.
During his interview, Ohr described a July 2016 breakfast he had with the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, during the heat of the campaign.
Several people familiar with the encounter described it to The Associated Press.
Justice Department attorney Bruce Ohr also says he learned that a Trump campaign assistant, Carter Page, had met with higher-level Russian officials than the adviser had acknowledged, the people said.
Approach: Justice Department official Bruce Ohr arrives for a closed-door hearing of the committees of the House of Representatives and Supervision of the House in the Capitol on Tuesday. Now details have emerged of what he told the legislators
Trump tweeted this week that Or should be fired and also went in search of his wife, Nelly, who worked for the political intelligence firm Fusion GPS. The firm commissioned Steele to carry out the investigation that became the infamous Golden Showers dossier.
After the meeting, Ohr did not tell his boss, the DOJ's top official, Sally Yates, who was later fired by Trump for her refusal to enforce the administration's travel ban at the start of Trump's term.
Spy: Christopher Steele was a veteran British spy who became a private contractor. He told Bruce Ohr that the unnamed Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed that "they had Trump over the barrel," Ohr told lawmakers.
Ohr was roasted on the grill for eight hours this week by seven Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee. No Democrat attended, although the minority had staff in the room.
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 a potentially explosive exchange of information about Trump between two men the president has tried relentlessly to discredit.
They add to the public understanding of those crucial summer months when the FBI and the intelligence community rushed to unravel possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Bruce Ohr also says that he learned that a Trump campaign assistant, Carter Page, had met with Russian officials at a higher level than the adviser had recognized.
President Trump asked online why Ohr was not fired
And they reflect the concern of Steele, a long-time FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research on Trump's ties to Russia was compiled in a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts in the FBI and Department of Justice.
The people who discussed the Ohr interview were not authorized to publicly discuss the details of the closed session and spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Among the things that Ohr said Steele learned during breakfast was that a former unnamed Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed they "had Trump on top of a barrel," according to people familiar with the meeting.
It was not clear from the Ohr interview whether Steele had been told directly or if he had caught it through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is reflected in Steele's research file.
Steele and Or, at the time of the election, a senior official of the deputy attorney general's office, had met for the first time a decade before and united by a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a relationship that exposed men and the federal police in general to partisan criticism, including from Trump.
The Republicans argue that the FBI relied heavily on the record during its investigation and to obtain a secret application of wiretapping on Carter Page, Trump's campaign aide.
They also say that Ohr left the job description and chain of command when meeting with Steele, even after his termination as an FBI source, and then relayed information to the FBI.
Trump proposed this month to strip Ohr, who until this year had been largely anonymous during his decades in the Justice Department, from his security clearance and asked him "how the hell"? is still employed.
Trump tweeted this week: "How the heck is Bruce Orr still employed in the Justice Department? Shameful? Witch hunt! & # 39;
He also went after his wife, Nellie. "Wow, Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr's wife, is an expert in Russia who speaks Russian fluently. She worked for Fusion GPS where she was paid a lot. Collusion! & # 39;
Trump called the Russian investigation a "witch hunt" and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Enemy: Trump has gone to war with Bruce Ohr, demanding that he be stripped of security clearance and attack his wife because she worked for Fusion GPS and speaks Russian.
Trump and some of his supporters in Congress also accused the FBI of launching Russia's entire counterintelligence investigation based on the file.
But memoranda written by Republicans and Democrats and declassified this year show that the investigation was triggered by information that the US government UU He received previously about the Russian contacts of the then foreign policy adviser of the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos.
The FBI investigation was already underway when he received the Steele dossier, and Ohr was not the original source of information.
One of the meetings described to House legislators on Tuesday was a breakfast in Washington attended by Steele, an associate of his and Ohr. Or's wife, Nellie, who worked for the political research firm, Fusion GPS, who hired Steele, attended at least part of the breakfast.
Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, a Trump campaign aide who traveled to Moscow that month and whose ties to Russia attracted FBI scrutiny, had met with more senior Russian officials than he had recognized. get together.
That breakfast was held amid the current FBI concerns about the interference of Russian elections and possible communication with Trump's partners.
By then, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the president of the Clinton campaign, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, revealed that the Russians had "dirt" with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, according to court documents. That revelation caused the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after breakfast, but based on completely different information.
Ohr told lawmakers he could not answer for the accuracy of Steele's information, but said he considered him a reliable FBI informant who delivered credible and actionable intelligence, including his investigation into corruption in FIFA, the governing body of football world.
In the interview, Ohr acknowledged that he had not told his superiors in his office, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, about his meetings with Steele because he considered the information a source of raw information.
He also provided new details about the department's decision to reassign him once his Steele ties came to light.
Ohr said he met at the end of December 2017 with two senior Justice Department officials, Scott Schools and James Crowell, who told him they were not happy they had not proactively revealed their meetings with Steele. They said he was being stripped of his deputy assistant attorney as part of a planned internal reorganization, say people familiar with the Ohr account.
Shortly thereafter, he met with one of the officials, who told him that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not believe he could continue in his current position as director of a drug distribution distribution program, known as the Organized Crime and Anti-Drug Working Group.
Sessions and Rosenstein, as they told Ohr, did not want him in office because it involved meetings and interactions at the White House, people said.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.