Over the past few days, President Donald Trump has been training his sights – or at least his Twitter thumbs – on Bruce Ohr, a formerly obscure assistant director at the Justice Department who is a member of Oak Ridge High School’s Class of 1980. Headed into the weekend, Ohr and his wife, Nellie, were catching the brunt of Trump’s free-flowing rage over the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The New York Times reported thusly on Friday:
“President Trump threatened on Friday to quickly revoke the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, a little-known Justice Department official, for the first time seeking to apply his power to cut access to sensitive information to a mid-level government worker rather than a prominent former national security official … the president told reporters that Mr. Ohr was “a disgrace” and said incorrectly that Mr. Ohr played a part in starting the investigation into Russian election interference and possible links to Trump associates.”
Ohr will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committees Aug. 28 to be questioned about multiple contacts with Steele.
This has come as a shock to Ohr’s childhood friends, said a former classmate who has been calling around to see what people who knew Ohr are thinking.
“He was a really nice guy – super smart, but unassuming; quiet until you got to know him a little bit,” said an Oak Ridger who went to school with Ohr for 12 years – at Linden Elementary School, Robertsville Jr. High School and Oak Ridge High School.
“He was very focused. Played the violin in the orchestra and ran cross-country. He liked to come hear my band play, which was kind of surprising, since he wasn’t the kind of guy you expected to come to a party. He was a very friendly, nice person. I didn’t have many classes with him in high school because he was taking Advanced Placement classes.
“The guy is really smart. Went straight to Harvard from Oak Ridge High School – that should tell you something.”
Ohr majored in physics at Harvard, and then went on to get a law degree there. He’s been at the Justice Department for more than two decades.
(The friend doesn’t want to see his name or the names of others with whom he has spoken in print lest they get targeted, as the Ohrs have been.)
For example, Ohr’s father, the late Dr. Sekyu Michael Ohr, was a scientist at Oak Ridge National Lab for 22 years before taking a position as chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the State University of New York, Stonybrook. Dr. Ohr died in 1988, but the Oak Ridge connection has inflamed the imaginations of the right wing Twitterverse, which has responded to Trump’s dog whistle by scouring the internet for evidence that Bruce Ohr and his wife are engaged in treasonous activities, like peddling nuclear secrets for quick cash.
Ohr’s parents were Korean immigrants, which has sent the fever swamp off on a different tangent as well.
Trump has focused on Ohr because Ohr’s wife, Nellie, works for Fusion GPS, a research firm linked to Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who penned what has come to be known as the Steele Dossier (sometimes mischaracterized as the “Pee-Pee Tapes”). Fusion GPS was hired in 2015 by a conservative newspaper, the Washington Free Beacon, to gather information on the Republican presidential candidates. When Trump emerged as the winner, the Washington Free Beacon bowed out and the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s law firm hired Fusion GPS, which then hired former M16 officer Steele, who had extensive contacts in Russia and was, by all accounts, a highly regarded spy.
Although Trump claims that the Justice Department investigation began with the Steele dossier, all available public information shows it began when a loose-lipped Trump policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, got drunk and shot his mouth off to an Australian diplomat in 2016, bragging that Russia had provided the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos has entered a guilty plea for lying to federal agents but has not been sentenced.
Anyhow, getting back to Ohr: he’s got the biggest target in America on his back. His Class of 1980 buddy says he only found one classmate who has anything bad to say about Ohr, and he figures it’s because the guy’s a staunch Republican.
“We’re not worried about the outcome,” he said. “Everybody thinks he’s straight as an arrow, even Republicans.
“With a lot of us, it’s a badge of honor to be hated by Trump. He might even be the hero of the damn reunion.”