Department official Bruce Ohr did not disclose Fusion GPS was paying
was demoted from his post after the information emerged
falsifying government ethics documents can result in jail time
Ohr, the Department of Justice official who brought opposition research
on President Donald Trump to the FBI, did not disclose that Fusion GPS,
which performed that research at the Democratic National Committee’s
behest, was paying his wife, and did not obtain a conflict of interest
waiver from his superiors at the Justice Department, documents
obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation show.
omission may explain why Ohr was demoted from his post as associate
deputy attorney general after the relationship between Fusion GPS and
his wife emerged and Fusion founder Glenn Simpson acknowledged meeting
with Ohr. Willfully falsifying government ethics forms can carry a
penalty of jail time, if convicted.
Democratic National Committee (DNC) hired Fusion GPS to gather and
disseminate damning info about Trump, and they in turn paid Nellie
Ohr, a former CIA employee with expertise in Russia, for an unknown
role related to the “dossier.” Bruce Ohr then brought the information to
the FBI, kicking off a probe and a media firestorm.
DOJ used it to obtain a warrant to wiretap a Trump adviser, but didn’t
disclose to the judge that the DNC and former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton’s campaign had funded the research and that Ohr had a financial
relationship with the firm that performed it — which could be, it turns
out, because Ohr doesn’t appear to have told his supervisors. Some have
suggested that the financial payments motivated Bruce
Ohr to actively push the case.
2014 and 2015, Bruce Ohr disclosed on ethics forms that his wife was an
“independent contractor” earning consulting fees. In 2016, she added a
new employer who paid her a “salary,” but listed it vaguely as
“cyberthreat analyst,” and did not say the name of the company.
The instructions require
officials to “Provide the name of your spouse’s employer. In addition,
if your spouse’s employer is a privately held business, provide the
employer’s line of business.” As examples, it gives “Xylophone
Technologies Corporation” and “DSLK Financial Techniques, Inc.
(financial services).” The dollar amount does not need to be disclosed.
“Report each source, whether a natural person or an organization or
entity, that provided your spouse more than $1,000 of earned income
during the reporting period,” they say.
DOJ says, “Financial disclosure reports are used to identify
potential or actual conflicts of interest. If the person charged
with reviewing an employee’s report finds a conflict, he should impose a
remedy immediately.” Its guidance says, “Employees should always
seek the advice of an ethics official when contemplating any action that
may be covered by the rules.”
Kamenar, a Washington, D.C., public policy lawyer experienced in
executive branch ethics and disclosure laws, said, “Based on my reading
of the regulations and disclosure guide accompanying the form, he failed
to disclose the source of his wife’s income on line 4 by not including
the ‘name of the employer.'”
law provides that whoever ‘knowingly and willfully’ fails to file
information required to be filed on this report faces civil penalties up
to $50,000 and possible criminal penalties up to one year in prison
under the disclosure law and possibly up to five years in prison under
18 USC 1001,”
he said. “Since he lists her income type as ‘salary’ as opposed to line
1 where he describes her other income as ‘consulting fees’ as an
‘independent contractor’ it’s clear that she was employed by a company
that should have been identified by name.”
even with respect to her ‘independent contractor’ listing, it appears
incomplete by not describing what kind of services were provided. Both
these omissions do not give the reviewing official sufficient
information to determine whether there is a conflict,” Kamenar added.
Ohr spouse financial disclosure (DOJ)
also did not get a conflict of interest waiver from his supervisors,
suggesting that he may not have explained to anyone the true source of
the income and how it intersected with his official involvement in the
case, nor did he have approval.
a potential conflict is disclosed and explained to supervisors, a
government agency can grant a conflict of interest waiver, known as
a 208(b) waiver. In response to a records request, officials told
TheDCNF, “There are no … waivers for this filer.”
Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, said “he
couldn’t get a waiver for that. That would have required outright
refusal.” Making it potentially even worse than failing to recuse, Ohr’s
pressing the Trump case appears to be something he decided to do on his
own, rather than something assigned to him.
Ohr was demoted from his DOJ position shortly after the company’s
founder acknowledged in a Nov.
14, 2017, interview with the House Intelligence
Committee that he had met with him. Fox News reported in December that
Ohr had concealed
his meetings with the firm from his supervisors.
form says, “[F]alsification of information required to be filed by
section 102 of the [Ethics in Government Act of 1978] may also subject
you to criminal
prosecution” as well as “civil monetary penalty and to
disciplinary action by your employing agency.”
lack of disclosure is the latest of several examples of people
apparently trying to conceal the financial relationship that Fusion GPS,
which was funded by the DNC, had with the family of the DOJ official.
Fusion GPS founder Simpson’s November House interview, he conspicuously
omitted his relationship with Nellie Ohr, painting Bruce Ohr as someone
who he was connected to independently. Investigators said, “You’ve never
heard from anyone in the U.S. Government in relation to those matters,
either the FBI or the Department of Justice?”
was asked to provide some information … by a prosecutor named Bruce
Ohr,” he said.
said, “Did Mr. Ohr reach out to you?”
was someone that Chris Steele knows … and I met Bruce too through
organized crime conferences or something like that … Chris told me that
he had been talking to Bruce … and that Bruce wanted more information,
and suggested that I speak with Bruce,” Simpson said.
also said his firm was not affiliated with any Russian speakers, even
though Nellie Ohr appears
to speak the language.
addition to meeting with Simpson, Ohr also met with Steele before the
an earlier Aug. 22, 2017, interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee,
mention either of the Ohrs by name. He said he
had not met with any FBI officials about the matter, without noting his
contact with the DOJ official.
suggested in court
records on Dec. 12, 2017, that the only way government
investigators could have found out about Nellie Ohr’s relationship with
the company was through its bank records. “Bank records reflect that
Fusion contracted with Nellie Ohr, a former government official expert
in Russian matters, to help our company with its research and analysis
of Mr. Trump. I am not aware of any other sources from which the
committee or the media could have learned of this information,” he said.
Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has
been critical of the department’s handling of the Trump investigation,
said, “This document ought to trigger an immediate criminal
investigation if one isn’t already ongoing.”
Clark, an ethics expert and law professor at Washington University in
St. Louis, said beyond the disclosure issue, as far as the legal
definition of conflict of interest requiring a recusal, it could depend
on whether Ohr’s actions would have had a “direct and predictable”
effect on his wife’s income from Fusion GPS.
said what is known as the frequently used “catch-all” provision clearly
applies, saying “Circumstances… would cause a reasonable person with
knowledge of the facts to question an employee’s impartiality” require
said, “As a lawyer and a top Justice official, Ohr should know that he
can’t participate in anything related to his wife’s work … Ohr should
have been upfront about his wife’s employment and not touched anything
related to Steele, the dossier, and Fusion GPS.” The DOJ’s judgment is
only as good as the information volunteered to them by Ohr, he said, and
because he didn’t list the name of his wife’s employer, they likely had
no reason to suspect it might have impacted his work.
Schaub, a former government ethics czar who is an expert on the forms
and resigned after offering sharp criticisms of Trump, declined
repeated requests to weigh in on Ohr.
Ohr did not return a request for comment, nor did the DOJ.
Luke on Twitter. Send tips to email@example.com. PGP