The Hill posted an article today about Nellie Ohr’s refusal to answer questions asked by members of a congressional task force investigating the FBI’s handling of the infamous Steele dossier. The questions were asked in a closed-door session.
The article reports:
Congress faced another hurdle this week in its effort to establish the record of how, why and when the FBI was given information from Fusion GPS on its controversial investigation of President Trump.
Just last week, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson refused to answer any additional questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Now, former Fusion employee Nellie Ohr, the wife of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, has invoked spousal privilege to refuse to answer questions from the committee. The use of spousal privilege in this context, however, could prove more damaging for Congress than the underlying allegations involving Ohr. Congress needs to seriously examine of the basis and scope of this common-law privilege in the context of an oversight investigation.
Despite exaggerated claims on both sides, Congress has a legitimate interest in establishing the underlying facts concerning the work of Fusion GPS and the novel involvement of the Ohrs. The fact that a secret investigation was launched under the Obama administration targeting associates of a political opponent should concern all citizens. We now know the Clinton campaign funneled a huge amount of money through its campaign counsel to fund the report by former British spy Christopher Steele. Fusion GPS and Steele also actively tried to place negative media stories about Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.
There was an obvious attempt to block the election of President Trump and an obvious attempt to limit his ability as President to accomplish anything. It appears that Mrs. Ohr was part of that effort, along with many high-ranking members of the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ). We need to find out who did what and what happened. If we don’t hold the people involved accountable, we can expect our justice system to be used in the future for political purposes. If we don’t deal with the wrongdoing that went on during the 2016 election and beyond, we will lose the principle of ‘equal justice under the law.’
The article concludes:
Washington is a small town filled with power couples. Under Ohr’s approach, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, could refuse to answer questions on a corruption scandal due to their speaking more as spouses than officials.
Ohr may have been asked questions that inappropriately delved into marital confidences; such questions can threaten the “harmony” of marriages long protected under the rule. If, however, Ohr used the privilege to refuse to answer an array of questions, as was reported, then Congress may want to challenge the assertion or, at the very least, consider how to approach such questions in the future.
Nellie and Bruce Ohr chose to mix their marital and professional worlds. The use of the privilege outside of marital conversations would be opportunistic, obstructionist and increasingly irresistible, if allowed. None of this means that the allegations involving Nellie Ohr are true — but she needs to answer those questions in her professional, not her marital, capacity.
The American public is entitled to answers to all questions regarding the corruption in the FBI and DOJ. Congress needs to use its power to get those answers.