Judicial Watch: FBI Tells Court Transparency Not Mission-Critical
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a joint status report in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records about top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie Ohr, in which the DOJ states it has suspended electronic FOIA operations. The Ohrs were involved in the anti-Trump dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Justice Department claims it is currently unable to continue searching for documents because the employees who would conduct the search in the FBI Records / Information Dissemination Section (RIDS) are, “non-mission critical” during the COVID-19 pandemic and were ordered to stay at home beginning March 17, 2020.
Included in the joint status report is a declaration from Michael G. Seidel, the FBI’s Assistant Section Chief of RIDS, Information Management Division, in which he states:
RIDS employees have been designated as not mission-critical and sent home as of March 17, 2020. Only a limited number of managers are being permitted to report to the office, but no FOIA processing is occurring as of March 17, 2020. While RIDS currently anticipates that its staff will return to work on March 30, 2020, this situation remains fluid and will be regularly re-assessed as circumstances change. As of March 17,2020, no further production of records pursuant to FOIA will be made, whether those productions are in relation to requests in litigation or at the administrative stage.
The filing comes in a March 2018 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch after the Justice Department failed to respond a December 2017 request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00490)). FOIA request seeking:
- All records of contact or communication, including but not limited to emails, text messages, and instant chats between Bruce Ohr and any of the following individuals/entities: former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele; owner of Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson; and any other employees or representatives of Fusion GPS.
- All travel requests, authorizations and expense reports for Bruce Ohr.
- All calendar entries for Bruce Ohr.
The timeframe of this search is January 1, 2015, to December 7, 2018.
“Those responsible for Spygate get a breather while the people’s right to transparency is put on hold,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “When it came to spying on President Trump and innocent Americans, the FBI spared no expense, but coming up with a plan to fulfill their legal obligation to transparency can be put off indefinitely?”
Both Judicial Watch and the DOJ have agreed to provide another joint status report on April 8, 2020.
Judicial Watch previously uncovered that Ohr was used by the FBI as a conduit for the Clinton-funded dossier by the Clinton-DNC spy ring at Fusion GPS. His wife Nellie, who was employed by Fusion GPS, passed dossier information to the FBI through him and later deleted emails received from him.
In April 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered documents showing that Bruce Ohr knew he had “possible ethics concerns,” in his January 2018 preparation to testify to the Senate and House intelligence committees. He emailed his attorney and forwarded that information to his wife.
Bruce Ohr testified to Congress that he received Clinton-dossier information from his wife Nellie, who provided him with a memory stick that he then circulated to the FBI.
In May 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered that Nellie Ohr told Bruce that she deleted emails received from his DOJ account.
In June 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered that Bruce Ohr received a total of $42,520 in performance bonuses during the Trump/Russia investigation. Ohr’s bonus nearly doubled from $14,520 (received in November 2015) to $28,000 in November 2016.
On August 9, 2019 Judicial Watch obtained Bruce Ohr’s 302s showing that he was one of the main conduits used by Fusion GPS to spread the false information they created to smear President Trump.
On August 14, 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered even more evidence that Nellie Ohr sent Clinton-funded dossier materials to the DOJ through her husband Bruce.