Byron York joined me on the program this morning:
HH: Right now, I’m pleased to welcome from the Washington Examiner and Fox News an old friend, Byron York. Good morning, Byron, how are you, friend?
BY: Good morning, Hugh. Thanks for having me.
HH: You know, I’ve been trying to cover with you and Kim and Andrew McCarthy, you’re the only people who are working seriously, as Fred Barnes pointed out yesterday, on one side of the Russia story, which is the Steele-Ohr-Strzok side. And I want to begin with the players. Christopher Steele is a much-underestimated person. I went back and reviewed his biography after I read your story yesterday. Not just MI6, not just head of Russia desk, but the Cambridge Union debating president, the born in Aden, grew up in the Shetlands, very smart guy, operated with MI6 in some of the toughest places in the world undercover. He’s a very competent guy. Tell us about his relationship with Bruce Ohr, because that is what you wrote about yesterday. It’s just a stunner.
BY: Well, we’re trying to find the origins of the dossier, when they first, when Steele first started working on it and what he was doing immediately before then. And we’ve gotten a, or Congress has gotten, and some of us have received through that way, have received a bunch of new emails from early 2016 through the rest of 2016 between Christopher Steele and Bruce Ohr. Now Bruce Ohr was the Justice Department official who had links with Steele going back several years. They had known each other a long time. And remember, there was what’s called the FIFA investigation, the world soccer investigation of corruption in the world soccer organization. Steele was an informant for the U.S., for the FBI, did work with them. And they trusted him from that experience. So they were still in touch, what’s interesting is starting in January, 2016, right at the beginning of the year, Steele sends Bruce Ohr emails, and he says basically two things – hey, we’ve got to talk, you coming over to London anytime soon, or anywhere in Western Europe, I’ll come meet you. And then he talks about Oleg Deripaska, who is a big Russian oligarch close to Putin.
HH: Now pause there for a second. He is a Putin guy, because there are, there’s this constantly-changing carousel near Putin. People are demoted all the time. They vanish, they come back up. So he is, he’s on good terms with Putin.
BY: At this time, certainly, I think. And basically, Deripaska had had his visa to enter the United States revoked a few years earlier. And at the time of this email, January 2016, Deripaska wants to come to the United States to take part in an economic meeting. And basically, Steele is keeping Ohr up on this process, and basically saying this would be a really good idea. This would be a good development for all if Deripaska were to get this visa, which he does, by the way. And it almost seems as if Christopher Steele is advocating on behalf of Oleg Deripaska. And I do not pretend to know exactly what is going on here, but it does appear that at the time that Steele is ramping up in the middle of the year his effort to have his Russian collectors look for dirt on Donald Trump, he’s also talking up this Russia billionaire. And it’s not entirely clear what the connection is, but we do know from it that Christopher Steele seemed to have more complex relationships in Russia than we previously knew.
HH: So if we, if I’m trying to do a flow chart like you see in all the old gangster pictures, they have the top, the capo at the top, and then they have the lines going out to different people, this isn’t a flow chart of organized crime. It’s of very, very competent people – Bruce Ohr, Harvard undergrad, Harvard Law School, physics grad, has been at DOJ for 20 years and rose to the position of associate deputy attorney general. So for the Steelers fans, there’s the AG, there’s the deputy AG, and then there are four associate deputy attorney generals. And he was in charge of organized crime. So he is a very competent lawyer. He’s married to Nellie Ohr. Nellie Ohr is a Russian specialist. She has a PhD in Russian history. She has been previously affiliated with the CIA in 2010. She had a CIA affiliation. She works for Fusion GPS, and they are both tied in to Christopher Steele. So Byron, why is there, why are you the only guy on this? What is going on here?
BY: And by the way, Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, he pops up in this conversation, because at key times in the year, he’s saying to Bruce Ohr, hey, can you give me a call. And by the way, I should say that a lot of these communications via email are can you call me, let’s set up a Skype, I need to talk to you, can we meet in person. So I mean, that’s what you do when you don’t want to put your whatever your concerns are on email.
BY: So Bruce Ohr, we also know, after the election when Christopher Steele was terminated by the FBI, because as you know, the FBI began investigating the Trump Russia affair, but they were not actually going to the press about it, but Christopher Steele desperately wanted to get it out before the election so it would have a chance to hurt Trump. That was the huge thing. He briefed a lot of reporters on it, and then when that didn’t really work, he did what Bruce Ohr called a Hail Mary pass at the end of October and briefed a Mother Jones reporter about it so he could, he was hoping to get this out. The FBI actually terminated him for having these unauthorized contacts with the press. But they stayed in touch with Christopher Steele through Bruce Ohr. The deal was Bruce Ohr would talk to Christopher Steele, and then he would tell the FBI what Christopher Steele had just told him.
HH: And what do you know of the relationship between Steele and Nellie Ohr, who’s this Russian specialist. Her PhD is on Russian collective farming, right? She’s a, I mean, it’s just the weirdest thing in the world. What is the Steele-Nellie Ohr relationship? Have you got any reporting on that?
BY: Well, they’re clearly friends, and they, when Bruce, excuse me, when Christopher Steele comes to Washington, hey, I’m going to be there tonight, he would actually send an email on Friday morning saying I will be in Washington tonight, could you and Nellie have breakfast. So it was clearly, actually, including her in his conversations whenever he’s in Washington. So she is, as you noted, you know, a very credentialed Russian specialist herself, and with Glenn Simpson. And he’s working with Simpson to compile this information on Donald Trump. By the way, the first appearance of Trump, we think, in these emails comes on July 1st, where Steele writes to Ohr that he wants to see him, he wants to get together, and he said I’m going to see somebody in London, the name is redacted, to discuss ongoing business. But there is something separate I want to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favorite business tycoon.
HH: Tycoon. I read that, and I said of course, they’re talking about Trump. And you went to great lengths to say we don’t know that for sure, but a reasonable inference here is that they’re talking about Trump. So let’s go up to 30,000 feet, Byron York. Who is Christopher Steele, and has he ever been under oath in the United States?
BY: Well, one of the advantages of using foreign sources like this is that they’re sometimes beyond the reach of, if not American law enforcement, then certainly American political Congressional investigators. And we believe that Steele has actually talked to Robert Mueller. And by the way, there are indications in some of these documents that he, because he had been kind of kicked out of the FBI relationship, he was desperately wanting to get in touch with the Mueller people hoping that Bruce Ohr could help him do that. And so it’s clear he told Ohr that he desperately wanted to prevent Trump from being president. And this does seem to be, before the election, an effort to prevent Trump from becoming president, and then after…
HH: Is there a connection between Stefan Halper and Christopher Steele and the Ohrs? I don’t know any of these answers. It’s just they’re the obvious questions.
BY: No, no, you’re raising an excellent, you’re raising an excellent question. We know that Halper was used as an informant, and that he approached some people in the Trump team, Sam Clovis as well as Page and Papadopoulos. So we know he was part of that, and what we have to kind of infer is you just mentioned that the highest levels of British academic and intelligence world that Steele is part of…
BY: Well, Halper is part of that, too.
BY: And it’s a pretty small place. And just as here in Washington, people will say well, it’s a small town and everybody knows each other, you kind of have to assume that they do know each other.
HH: And so the picture that is emerging is of an almost unbelievable spy thriller that no one would actually buy at a publishing house, because it’s too crazy, right? You have to be much more plausible than this. It’s very disturbing, and I want to close with this, Byron. You’re doing great work. Please keep it up. You ought to get a Pulitzer for this. Where does it lead? I mean, do we think this Utah U.S. Attorney is looking into this? Is this, do we trust the Special Counsel to dive deep into this? Where does the government go with this?
BY: No, we do not trust the Special Counsel to look into this, because all the indications are he doesn’t think this is his charge. He doesn’t think it’s his area of responsibility. John Huber, the Utah U.S. Attorney you mentioned who Jeff Sessions has specially appointed to look into this may indeed be looking into it. But I think the biggest, biggest 30,000 foot view that you can have of this is that we know a lot about Russian efforts to interfere with the election. We know about their content farm and their Facebook ads. We know about the hacks of the DNC and John Podesta. That gets almost 24/7 attention. But you do have to wonder what the Russians are doing on this other side. Are they trying to spread some sort of disinformation about Donald Trump by being sources? Remember, the sources of the dossier who are not named in the dossier, some of them are current Russian government officials or former Russian government officials, all of them in the power structure in Moscow. And sort of the 30,000 foot level is was there something on, while they were trying to hack and discredit the Democratic candidate, was there some effort to spread disinformation on the Republican candidate as well?
HH: And of course, the question then becomes, and we do now know the answer, I don’t want to get sued in British courts, Steele is one removed from Putin, because he’s doing advocacy on the basis, on behalf of a Putin buddy. That means you’re one removed from Putin, and he’s a killer. Has anyone looked into this as to whether or not Christopher Steeles’ on the up and up with us?
BY: The question that Congressional investigators have always had is what was the relationship between Steele and the FBI, and I’ll tell you, they were appalled when it was originally reported, I believe in the Washington Post fairly early in 2017, maybe in February, that Steele had taken some of his dossier information, and he was very excited about the Moscow sex scene. That’s the thing that really got them excited to begin with, the whole…
BY: …so-called golden showers routine, that they were really thrilled about that. He takes it to the FBI, and the FBI offers to pay him, to hire him to continue this work. And that is the thing that really caught Congressional investigators’ eyes, saying wait a minute.
BY: The FBI was going to hire this guy to continue doing oppo in the middle of a presidential campaign? That was really something.
HH: Much more work to be done. Byron York is doing it at the Washington Examiner and on Fox News. Byron, thank you. Follow him, @ByronYork. If you’re not, you’re not up to speed with the other half of the Russia investigation. Thank you, Byron.
BY: Thank you, Hugh.
End of interview.