“An Aug. 28, 2018, testimony before Congress by Ohr, which was reviewed for this article, sheds new light on McCabe’s involvement in the investigation. His testimony also illustrates how Steele and Simpson passed their information targeting Trump to the FBI, using Ohr as an unofficial back-channel.
(…) In May 2017, the FBI suddenly decided to reach out to Steele through Ohr. The re-engagement attempt came six months after Steele had been formally terminated by the FBI on Nov. 1, 2016.
The matter, which was discussed at several points during Ohr’s testimony, was highlighted during a review of some text messages between Ohr and Steele:
Q: “The next page, 2 months forward, 5-15, three-quarters of the way down. ‘Having now consulted my wife and business partner about the question we discussed on Saturday, I am pleased to say yes, we should go ahead with it. Best, Chris.’”
Q: “Go ahead with what?”
Ohr: “The FBI had asked me a few days before, when I reported to them my latest conversation with Chris Steele, they had had would he—next time you talk with him, could you ask him if he would be willing to meet again.”
Q: “So this is the re-engagement?”
The texts that are being referenced were sent on May 15, 2017, and refer to a request that Ohr received from the FBI to ask Steele to re-engage with the FBI in the days after Comey had been fired on May 9.
Q: “So you have asked him will he re-engage with the FBI?”
Q: “And he says: ‘Talked with my wife; I’m in.’ You say: ‘Thanks. We’ll let them know and we will follow up.’”
Q: “‘Thanks again. I chatted with my colleagues and can give you an update when you have a minute.’ What was the update about? Was it about that subject?”
Q: “So that all happens on May 15?”
Several days prior, on May 12, 2017, Ohr and Steele exchanged a series of text messages published by John Solomon of The Hill, that appear to detail Ohr reaching out to Steele following the FBI’s request for re-engagement:
Ohr: “Thanks again for your time on Wednesday. Do you have time for a short follow up call sometime this weekend?”
Steele: “Yes, of course. Perhaps sometime tomorrow. When might suit?”
Ohr: “Would 3 pm your time work? I’m pretty open so just let me know. Thanks!”
Steele: “Fine, or possibly even at 2 pm our time if that works for you? Best”
Ohr: “2 pm your time is good. It will be quick. Thanks!”
The next text message is a response from Steele on May 15, 2017:
Steele: “B, having now consulted my wife and business partner about the question we discussed on Saturday I’m pleased to say yes, we should go ahead with it. Best C”
Ohr: “Thanks! I will let them know and we will follow up.”
Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, 2017. This appears to have been the precipitating event that led the FBI to suddenly attempt to re-establish contact with Steele through Ohr. This was the only time the FBI used Ohr to reach out to Steele.
Notably, McCabe was now the acting FBI director.
On the morning of May 16, 2017, Rosenstein reportedly suggested to Acting FBI Director McCabe that he secretly record Trump. This remark was reported in a New York Times article that was sourced from memos from the now-fired McCabe. Rosenstein immediately issued a statement denying the accusations.
An unidentified participant at the meeting, in comments to The Washington Post, framed the conversation somewhat differently, noting that Rosenstein responded sarcastically to McCabe, saying, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”
The comments by Rosenstein allegedly occurred at a meeting where McCabe was “pushing for the Justice Department to open an investigation into the president.” Note that just five days earlier, McCabe had publicly testified that there was no obstruction, stating “there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
(…) Text messages to Ohr from Steele provide some hints and highlight an abrupt pullback by the FBI. In June 2017, Steele sent Ohr the following text:
“We are frustrated with how long this re-engagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking. There are some new perishable operational opportunities we do not want to miss out on.”
Steele sent another text to Ohr on Nov. 18, 2017:
“I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC colleagues on the issue you kindly put to them for me. We have heard nothing from them either. To say this is disappointing would be an understatement.”
Ohr testified that “at some point during 2017, Chris Steele did speak with somebody from the FBI, but I don’t know who.”