President Trump on Wednesday escalated his criticism of a Justice Department official whose connection to a controversial dossier of allegations about the Trump campaign had sparked a review of the President and his Congressional allies, in a sharply worded tweet that the career officials should be dismissed.
"How the hell is Bruce Ohr still working in the Justice Department? Disgusting! Witch Hunt!" Trump wrote to his 54 million Twitter followers.
Ear, who has spent more than 25 years in the Ministry of Justice in relative anonymity, has in recent months attracted Trump's anger over his interactions with Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent whose investigation examined the alleged ties between Trump's election campaign and Russian officials
The president's recent blow in Ear follows a threat earlier this month to reverse Ear's security clearance.
Ear was interviewed by seven republican legislators, members of the domestic justice and supervisory bodies, for about eight hours on Tuesday. Much of the interview focused on Ear's association with Steele as members sought to substantiate their claim that Ear and Steele, along with high-ranking officials from the FBI and the Justice Department, had attempted to derail the 201
Members inquired about his relationship with Fusion GPS, a research consultancy that Steele discontinued in 2016. The company also employed Ear's wife, Nellie Ear, as a contractor.
Steele produced a series of Memos for Fusion GPS as a "dossier" outlining allegations of Trump's activities in Moscow, including an unproven claim that the Kremlin and Trump election officials plotted to help trump them out.
Special Adviser Robert S. Muller III examines this claim as part of his investigation of Russian interference in the election.
Ear provided information to the FBI at the end of 2016 that matched the content of the dossier, although counterintelligence agents had already received much from Steele. The dossier was a source of irritation for Trump and the congressional Republicans, who in an interview on Tuesday wished to uncover doubts about the credibility of Steele's work.
"The dossier has always been the key," said MP Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). "That's what they got," a wiretapping operation for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, in October 2016. "It was clear after yesterday's hearing that they knew Christopher Stele's extreme bias against the president, but they still needed the dossier
Although Steele's information was used, it was not the only evidence board cited to receive Page's warrant, according to an edited copy of the July order.
Rep. Mark Meadows (RN.C.) said he told them that he had informed the Ministry of Justice and FBI colleagues at the time about the record's reliance on hearsay and some testimonial of Trump, prompting Peter Strzok, an FBI counterintelligence agent , alerted; Andrew McCabe, then Deputy Director of Intelligence; and Andrew Weissmann, then Chief of the Criminal Department of the Ministry of Justice.
But other people familiar with the Tuesday interview stated that Steele's "bias" stemmed from his concern that Trump had been compromised by the Russians.
"Contrary to the allegations made by several Republican members, Mr. Ohr's statement does not cast doubt on the credibility of the dossier," said the leaders of the Democratic Party Justice and Supervision Commission, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY) and Elijah E Cummings (Md.) Said in a statement.
"Like the four other interviews scheduled by the Republican majority during the August break, yesterday's interview seems to have been a total waste of time to prove what has already been thoroughly exposed," the statement goes on to say , "We did not know much about Mr. Ohr, which we did not know, Mr. Ohr did not violate any law, regulation or ministry of justice, and much of his career at the department focused on his work on organized crime in Russia – which raises the question why the Republicans of the House of Representatives have joined President Trump to focus on dismissing Mr. Ohr for no reason. "
Trump's Tweet Alignment with Ear is a clear signal," that ear is someone the President likes Donald Kettl, professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said. The attack appears to be linked to Steele's connection to Steele and the dossier, a topic that politically embarrasses Trump, Kettl said.
"That's a very big deal," he said, "not just because it suggests political retaliation casts a cool and a shadow over this principle of merit, which has been at the center of government for more than a century."  The Ministry of Justice declined to comment.
Ear, 56, began his career in 1991 as a federal attorney in Manhattan and moved to Washington in 1999 as head of the Department of Organized Crime and Blackmail of the Ministry of Justice. In 2014, he was elected head of the Drug Enforcement Task Force on Organized Crime, which grants law enforcement agencies money to fight organized crime.
In December, when questions arose about his relationship with Steele, Ear was less moved to prominent position than Senior Counsel in the Office of International Affairs, a task in the department's criminal department that involves no interaction with the White House. Earlier, lawmakers said that one reason for his reassignment was his failure to inform leadership, including – Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about his interaction with Steele
Ear said he had kept FBI officials as high as McCabe about his business with Steele reported. He had a dozen messages with Steele between late 2016 and May 2017.
Legislators listened to why he stayed in contact with Steele after Steele was dropped as an FBI source. Ear told the committee staff that there were cases where a former source was reintegrated into an investigation, as the persons familiar with the session know.
Ear and Steele have known each other since at least 2007, when Steele was a top Russian expert working for the British intelligence community. When Steele began gathering information about Trump in 2016, which he believed the FBI should know, he contacted a clerk who brought him into contact with superiors. The FBI assigned Steele this summer information about Russian efforts to interfere in the US election .
But months later, Steele, frustrated that the FBI did not seem to be acting on his tips, shared his findings with the media. The FBI broke his relationship with Steele.
During this time, Steele also became concerned that Republican lawmakers wanted to issue his sources and asked Ear to convey his concerns to the office.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.