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June 13, 2019

Eric Felten: Bruce Ohr Deliberately Concealed His Wife's Work for Fusion GPS from Federal Ethics Disclosures; Got No Punishment

I'm sure this was just a careless oversight.

Bruce Ohr states of his wife's work that she is an "Independent contractor." But look high and low on the form, you won’t find any information describing who Nellie Ohr did her contract work for, or how much she was paid. The Office of Government Ethics explicitly requires those details. When it comes to a spouse’s income, the filer is instructed to: "Provide the name of the source and, for privately held companies, the nature of the business." Not only should Bruce Ohr have listed Fusion GPS as the source of his wife's income, he should have revealed her income and included a description of the Fusion enterprise.

Failure to file accurately can be punished with either civil or criminal charges. Why take that risk if the employment is innocent and unobjectionable? Perhaps because the "certifying officer" charged with policing filings for accuracy and completeness isn’t always vigilant: Ohr's certifying officer, an associate deputy attorney general named Scott Schools, may have had too much on his plate to devote much time to mundane chores such as checking ethics reports.

RealClearInvestigations reached out to Schools for comment, including through media relations at Uber, where Schools is now director of compliance. He did not respond.


What we know now is that Ohr recognized his wife’s work for Fusion GPS created a conflict of interest. He was interviewed last year by the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Lawmakers asked whether the bureau knew that the information Ohr was offering was compromised by having come from his spouse's paymaster. Ohr testified that in his August 2016 meeting with Andrew McCabe "I warned them that my wife worked for Fusion GPS." Ohr said he wanted McCabe, "in evaluating any information that I transmitted to the FBI... to be aware of any possible bias."

But when asked, "Did you ever file financial disclosures reflecting that you received financial benefits as it pertained to your wife Nellie Ohr on a matter before the Department of Justice?" Ohr claimed to be in compliance: "I filed the public financial disclosure reports regularly," he said. But "I did not report that I was receiving money in connection with a matter I was working on because, in my mind, I'm not."


The fundamental federal ethics statute resists such attempts at hair-splitting. Title 18 of the U.S. Code, section 208, prohibits any "officer or employee of the executive branch" from participating in any matter in which he or his spouse "has a financial interest."

And participate Bruce Ohr did, acting as Fusion GPS' inside man in getting Chrisopher Steel's (Sydney Blumenthal's) rumors and conspiracy theories to the Assistant Deputy of the FBI, among others.

And Flashback: On May 1, John Solomon reported that false testimony charges are being weighted against Nellie Ohr.

"At any point prior to fall of 2016, did you discuss your research on organized crime and Donald Trump with individuals outside of Fusion GPS, outside of this Mayflower breakfast meeting?" Nellie Ohr was asked during her congressional testimony last fall. "No," she testified.

But the DOJ emails show that Nellie Ohr frequently forwarded open-source research on Russian organized crime figures, Trump, Manafort and developments in Ukraine with implications for the Trump campaign....

Those documents eventually led Manafort to resign from the Trump campaign and face criminal prosecution by Mueller’s team for improper foreign lobbying.


On more than one occasion, Nellie Ohr forwarded articles about Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminum magnate and former Manafort business partner. She testified that Deripaska was one of the focal points of her research.


Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of those who questioned Nellie Ohr last fall, said he is reviewing the accuracy of her testimony given the recent emergence of the emails.

"If Ms. Ohr used her time at the opposition research firm to place information directly in the hands of investigators, it would be a severe conflict of interest," Meadows told me. "Contrary to Ms. Ohr's congressional testimony, it appears that she funneled research gathered during her time at Fusion GPS directly to the DOJ. A draft of a criminal referral for giving false testimony to Congress is currently being reviewed."

Joshua Berman, a lawyer for Nellie Ohr, did not immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 03:58 PM

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