In an intriguing side story, a tiny bit of testimony from Bruce Ohr, given in an August closed door House Judiciary Committee meeting and released recently by Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, may prove that the New York Times worked overtime to make it appear Obama DOJ officials were trying to “flip” a Russian source when they were actually just working with him.
Writing at American Greatness, Julie Kelly reminds readers about a bombshell NYT report from September 2018, a few days after Ohr originally testified, that used a lot of column inches to make the case that DOJ official Bruce Ohr — married to a woman who was working with Fusion GPS — was leading a project to flip Russian oligarch (and close friend of Putin) Oleg Deripaska’s loyalties and convince him to start working on behalf of the Obama DOJ.
In the New York Times report, titled “Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread to Trump,” reporters Kenneth Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg made the case that the documented communication between Ohr and author of the Steele dossier Christopher Steele right before the counterintelligence investigation was opened into the Trump campaign was really just about trying to get Deripaska to help the DOJ find evidence of collusion by Trump and company.
The piece, largely based on anonymous sources, centered on Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate who has been in and out of trouble with the U.S. government for years. “[The Justice Department] signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems,” the Times reporters wrote. “In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign.”
The operation, according to the Times, began in 2014 and continued through the fall of 2016 when “efforts to cultivate Deripaska appear to have fizzled . . . amid worsening relations between the United States and Russia. The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes.” The details of the failed mission remain classified, according to the Times.
There’s a major problem with the story — which immediately went viral, by the way: not only does the piece, primarily using anonymous sources, barely mention Ohr’s wife Nellie and her job working with Glenn Simpson at Fusion (who hired Steele), it also glosses over the fact that Deripaska was a client of Steele’s. And most damning? Ohr, the supposed mastermind of the “flipping” project, apparently knew nothing about it according to his own testimony.
But nowhere in Ohr’s 268-page testimony does he mention an “oligarch-flipping” plan. Ohr doesn’t even try to conceal any such top-secret plot under the guise of classified information. Ohr never mentions anything that would even suggest such a scheme was in motion at the time.
In fact, Ohr told Congress he was unsure why Steele contacted him in early 2016 to notify him that Deripaska would be in the United States at some point that year. “I don’t know exactly what he was thinking,” he told Congress. “He was just letting me know in case we wanted to do something, I suppose. I think my response was basically, ‘Thank you. I’ll keep an eye on it,’ or something like that.”
Ohr also was not aware that the FBI visited Deripaska in New York in September 2016 to question him about election meddling. “That’s news to me,” he testified. Now, one would assume that the man in charge of the government’s super-secret plot to flip Russian oligarchs would have arranged the meeting, or at least have known it was happening. But Ohr told Congress he had clue about it.
For the record, as Kelly reports, both Vogel and Rosenberg stand by their reporting.