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GOP chairman readies Steele dossier subpoenas

The Hill logo The Hill 8/10/2018 Olivia Beavers
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The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is readying subpoenas for people connected to the controversial "Steele" dossier, sources tell The Hill.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is preparing subpoenas for Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, his wife Nellie Ohr and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, according to two congressional sources familiar with the matter.

The subpoenas will also go after other current and former FBI and DOJ officials including Jim Baker, Sally Moyer, Jonathan Moffa and George Toscas, the sources said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told The Hill that Goodlatte has been in touch with the DOJ about seeking testimonies from these officials.

A Republican House Judiciary Committee aide confirmed to The Hill they plan to seek such interviews: "We plan to interview the people below in the coming weeks and we will issue subpoenas to compel their attendance if necessary."

Goodlatte could issue the orders as early as this week as part of his panel's joint investigation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is examining FBI and DOJ decision-making during the 2016 presidential election.

A spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bruce Ohr has come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts with Simpson and former British spy Christopher Steele during the presidential campaign, a revelation that sparked demands from Trump allies for a special counsel investigation into the DOJ and the FBI last December.

Simpson hired Steele to help compile the controversial dossier that made a series of salacious allegations about President Trump's ties to Russia.

Ohr's wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election, which Republicans have seized on as a possible connection that links the opposition research firm and the Justice Department.

The matter became a major flashpoint among conservatives when it was revealed that the Clinton campaign had funded some of the research included in the dossier.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), when asked about the matter, broadly replied that Congress needs to "be talking to Bruce Ohr and Nellie Ohr."

Jordan said it was "crazy" that federal officials would be having contacts with individuals working at an opposition research firm that was digging up dirt on the Republican presidential nominee.

The FBI used Steele as a source in their application to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, according to the heavily redacted FISA application released by the DOJ last month.

Republicans have sought to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference by claiming that officials during the beginnings of the probe overly relied on Steele as a source, someone they say had a clear bias against Trump.

While the bureau noted in their application that Steele was likely "looking for information that could be used to discredit" Trump's campaign, they still deemed him as a "reliable" source.

The FBI continued to view Steele as reliable even after they stopped using him as a source, terminating their relationship with Steele over his improper contacts with the press.

Some of these officials, however, have already been on the radar of GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to the Justice Department in February asking the agency to "produce all documents and communications" sent from a series of officials related to the Clinton email probe. Toscas, Moffa, Baker and former FBI Director James Comey were all on Johnson's list, among others.

Moffa and Baker both played a role in drafting the memo Comey used to announce the bureau's findings in the Clinton email investigation, according to documents released by the FBI last fall.

Republicans have also linked Baker to the decision-making of the Steele dossier as well as other FBI officials.

Toscas, a top DOJ official, was also involved in the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) earlier this week seemed to tease the possibility of Bruce Ohr becoming the next major focus of GOP scrutiny, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that Ohr will become "more and more important."

"I think people should pay close attention to it," Nunes told Hannity on Monday.

Updated: 9:29 p.m.

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