WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee's top Republican on Friday released the transcript of an interview with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who came under the GOP's scrutiny last year over his contacts with the author of a controversial dossier alleging President Trump had personal and financial ties to Russian officials.
Republicans considered Ohr a key witness in an investigation they conducted last year of how federal law enforcement officials handled investigations surrounding Trump and his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, as Ohr served as a link between the dossier's author, former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, and the FBI.
Their suspicions were amplified, however, because Steele's research was partially funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and because Ohr's wife - Nellie Ohr - worked briefly for Fusion GPS, the firm that was later linked to Steele and his work. President Donald Trump has denied the allegations in Steele's dossier, many of which have been called into question as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill argue about whether Trump was engaged in any wrongdoing, and whether witnesses alleging so should be believed.
Rep. Douglas Collins, R-Ga., the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, elected to release Ohr's transcript - the first of many interview records he is planning to put out in the coming weeks - with no redactions, over the objections of Justice Department officials who wanted to keep some information out of public view.
As such, the transcript released Friday contains new details, but few surprises about the conversation lawmakers held with Ohr behind closed doors last August. Yet the release comes as the House, now led by Democrats, is turning its investigative muscle toward members of Trump's inner circle, such as his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, and business partners that could connect him to Russian projects, such as his former associate Felix Sater.
The president has denied he ever worked closely with Sater, and has sought to discredit Cohen's testimony, calling him a liar and a "rat." Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and will begin a three-year prison sentence in May, has acknowledged that he once lied about the timeline of a Moscow tower that Trump was trying to build well into his presidential campaign to protect the president from scrutiny.
Ohr's transcript details his testimony about his contacts with Steele, which continued even after Steele's formal relationship with the FBI ended, and how he passed that information on to investigators. The transcript shows that Ohr had doubts about the reliability of Steele's information because of his Russian sources and financial sponsors, even as he was transmitting it to officials, but did not think it was improper to pass it along.
"As I saw it, I was receiving information that I passed to people who were working on the investigation," the transcript shows Ohr said. "They decided what to do with it. I don't know what they did with it."
The record also shows that when Ohr's wife gave him a memory stick of Russian history work she did for Fusion GPS to pass on to law enforcement officials, he gave it to Joe Pientka, an FBI agent who had interviewed Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Strzok and Page, both former FBI officials, were found to have been sending anti-Trump text messages to each other while working on the probes of Trump and Clinton.
This story is developing and will be updated.