Attorney General William Barr revealed Tuesday that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a Special Counsel in October to continue his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, regardless of who took won the election.
Barr told the Associated Press:
Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal statute that governed special counsel Robert Mueller in the original Russia probe. He said Durham’s investigation has been narrowing to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
With the 2020 election approaching, Barr told the AP on Tuesday, “I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Mueller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election.”
A senior Justice Department official told the AP that although the order details that it is “including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III,” the Durham probe has not expanded. The official said that line specifically relates to FBI personnel who worked on the Russia investigation before the May 2017 appointment of Mueller, a critical area of scrutiny for both Durham and for the Justice Department inspector general, which identified a series of errors and omissions in surveillance applications targeting a former Trump campaign associate.
The FBI began investigating the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, suspecting that there was collusion between the campaign and the Russian government, though no evidence of collusion was found.
The investigation was extended, using a fraudulent “Russia dossier” on Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, using at least one source suspected of being a Russian spy himself. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Later, the investigation led to a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which lasted two years and found nothing.
Durham has already secured one conviction — that of former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted that he altered an email to appear as though Trump campaign aide Carter Page was not a source for the CIA. Page, a Navy veteran, had worked with the CIA in the past. But the FBI sought to portray him as a potential Russian asset, and used the deception to obtain a warrant from the secret FISA court so they could spy on him — and through him, on the Trump campaign.
In September, according to the New York Times, Durham’s probe expanded further, to the FBI’s handling of the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The Department of Justice Inspector General found no criminal wrongdoing in that inquiry, but Durham has greater powers to investigate what many on the right saw as an effort by the Obama administration to cover for Clinton’s violation of the laws surrounding the handling of classified information and government documents on a private email server.
Democrats have described Durham’s investigations as political in nature, while Republicans have argued that Durham is trying to undo the politicized investigations of the Obama years. He is considered vulnerable to being dismissed if Joe Biden takes office in January. Biden could still fire Durham, but it would be more costly, politically, to fire a Special Counsel.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.