President Trump on Friday said he is close to revoking the security clearance of a current Justice Department employee who had been in contact with the author of the controversial dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia.
“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace with his wife Nellie,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “For him to be in the Justice Department and to be doing what he did that is a disgrace.”
Bruce Ohr, the former deputy attorney general and ex-head of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, has come under fire in recent weeks for his contacts with Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier containing allegations of compromising misconduct by Trump. A former British intelligence officer, Steele had been working for the research firm Fusion GPS, which had been retained to do opposition research on Trump by the Democratic National Committee. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, is a consultant who had done work for Fusion GPS, though it’s unclear how much Ohr knew about Steele’s connection to the firm. According to the Washington Post , Ohr apparently knew Steele through international police contacts.
Earlier this week, the White House announced Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan ― a prominent critic of the president ― and review the clearances of nine other current and former officials who had served under the Obama administration, including Ohr. The others were former director of National Intelligence James Clapper; ex-FBI Director James Comey; former National Security Agency and CIA Director Michael Hayden; ex-deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; former national security adviser Susan Rice; ex-deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe; recently fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page.
“I know that I’ve gotten tremendous response from having done that,” Trump told reporters Friday. “Because security clearances are very important to me. Very, very important. And I’ve had a tremendous response for having done that.”
More than a dozen other former intelligence officials accused Trump of trying “stifle free speech” and silence his critics. Trump dismissed that assertion.“There’s no silence,” the president said. “If anything, I’m giving them a bigger voice. Many people don’t even know who [Brennan] is, and now he has a bigger voice. And that’s OK with me, because I like taking on voices like that. I’ve never respected him. I’ve never had a lot of respect. ”
When asked by reporters about the status of Ohr’s security clearance, Trump said: “I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly.”
President Trump speaks to reporters upon his departure from the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 17, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
In announcing the move Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Brennan’s “erratic” behavior was the reason Trump decided to yank his security clearance.
But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday night , Trump said he was revoking Brennan’s clearance and reviewing the others because they were the ones who gathered evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, which led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.“I call it the rigged witch hunt; [it] is a sham,” Trump said. “And these people led it!”
He added: “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
Trump continued to rail against Mueller’s probe.
“Look, I say it, I say it again, that whole situation is a rigged witch hunt,” the president said. “It’s a totally rigged deal. They should be looking at the other side. They should be looking at all the people that got fired by them. All of the people that got fired. They should be looking at Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie for dealing with, by the way, indirectly, Russians. They should be looking at Steele. They should be looking at all these FBI guys who got fired and demoted. It’s not us.”
Trump said Ohr’s contacts with Steele should be “disqualifying for Mueller.”
The president also called the special counsel “highly conflicted.”
“Comey is like his best friend,” Trump said. “I could go into conflict after conflict. And sadly, Mr. Mueller is conflicted. But let him write his report. We did nothing. There’s no collusion. But if he was doing an honest report, he’d write it on the other side. Because when you look at criminality and you look at problems, take a look at what they did, including colluding with the Russians. The other side.”
With Hunter Walker reporting from Washington
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