The Justice Department gave Bruce Ohr a $28,000 bonus in 2016, the same year he began serving as a middleman between the FBI and dossier author Christopher Steele.
The payment was nearly double Ohr’s 2015 payout, according to documents the watchdog group Judicial Watch released Friday.
Ohr received the $28,000 on Nov. 13, 2016, in addition to his $187,000 annual salary, the documents show. His 2015 bonus, which was paid on Nov. 29, 2015, was $14,520.
Ohr, a former associate deputy attorney general, was in frequent contact with Steele in 2016. His wife, Nellie Ohr, also worked as a contractor for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele to investigate President Donald Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee.
Republicans have focused squarely on the Ohrs’ links to Steele and Fusion GPS. They’ve alleged that Steele and Fusion GPS used Ohr to push anti-Trump opposition research to the Justice Department and FBI in hopes that investigators would give it attention.
Republicans have also faulted the FBI for failing to tell federal surveillance court judges about Steele’s remarks to Ohr that he was “desperate” to see Trump lose the 2016 election. The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s dossier to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who is a prominent figure in the dossier.
The documents released on Friday do not say why Ohr was given the increased bonus, and there is no indication the sizable payment is linked to his work with Steele. The Justice Department did not respond to a request seeking comment.
But Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said that the payments show that Ohr was rewarded for his work handling Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
“These documents will raise questions as to whether the conflicted Bruce Ohr, who the FBI used to launder information from Christopher Steele was rewarded for his role in the illicit targeting of President Trump,” Fitton said in a statement.
Other documents that have been made public show that Ohr and Steele often discussed Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who had hired Steele in the past. Deripaska is also a close associate of Vladimir Putin.
Text messages and emails show that Steele asked Ohr throughout 2016 to help Deripaska with issues he was having with visas to the U.S.
The pair first met to discuss Steele’s investigation of Trump on July 30, 2016. Ohr and his wife met with Steele and another associate in Washington, D.C. The Ohrs have both testified that Steele relayed information he had collected about Trump and members of his campaign.
Ohr testified that Steele said a former Russian intelligence chief claimed that the Kremlin had Trump “over a barrel” with compromising information.
Despite the bombastic claim, Steele’s dossier has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the special counsel’s report. Steele alleged that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of co-ordination” between the Trump team and Russia, but special counsel Robert Mueller said that prosecutors were unable to establish that a conspiracy occurred.
There is also no evidence to support Steele’s claim that Russia had compromising information on Trump. After the meeting with Steele, Ohr briefed Andrew McCabe, who then served as deputy director of the FBI. Ohr also briefed other FBI and Justice Department officials, including Peter Strzok and Andrew Weissmann, in August and September 2016 about his contacts with Steele.
The bureau relied on Steele’s reporting to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page.
The FBI relied more on Ohr after the 2016 election. On Nov. 21, 2016, FBI officials handling the Russia probe asked Ohr to maintain contact with Steele and report back on what he said. The FBI had cut ties with Steele on Oct. 31, 2016, after a news article came out that quoted the dossier author. Ohr and Steele remained in close contact through 2017. Ohr was interviewed at least a dozen times by the FBI about the interactions.
Republicans have pressed Trump to declassify the FBI’s interview notes with Ohr, as well as portions of one of the FBI’s FISA applications to spy on Page.
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