Newly appointed special counsel John Durham is expanding his team as he continues his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and the conduct of law enforcement and intelligence officials involved in it.
A federal law enforcement official confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Durham, a Connecticut federal prosecutor who has been looking into the Trump-Russia investigators since 2019 and was quietly tapped by Attorney General William Barr to serve as special counsel in October, has expanded his investigative team and is adding new prosecutors. The same official said that Durham is making “excellent progress” in his inquiry. Fox News first reported the development.
Durham’s investigation has netted one guilty plea so far. Kevin Clinesmith, who worked on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and on the FBI’s Trump-Russia inquiry as well as special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, admitted in August that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority to wiretap Carter Page, who had been a foreign policy adviser to now-President Trump's 2016 campaign. Clinesmith fraudulently edited a CIA email in 2017 to state that Page was “not a source” for the agency when the CIA had told the bureau on multiple occasions that Page had been an “operational contact” for them.
Barr revealed this month that, days before the November election, he elevated Durham to special counsel status, tasked with investigating any further violations of law related to the inquiries conducted by the FBI and Mueller’s team.
Durham pointed out in a December court filing that Clinesmith's deception “fueled public distrust of the FBI and of the entire FISA program itself” as he asked the judge to sentence Clinesmith to up to six months behind bars.
The news comes amid reports that Trump also wants a special counsel appointed to look into the 2020 presidential election and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, although special counsel regulations indicate Barr would need to make such an appointment. Trump has expressed frustration with Barr not making public either Durham’s special counsel appointment or the existence of federal investigations into Hunter Biden prior to the election.
Biden has not said one way or the other if he or his yet-to-be-named pick for attorney general will let Durham continue his inquiry.
Barr said he only notified the congressional leaders recently, instead of in October, because he “previously determined that it was in the public interest to toll notification given the proximity to the presidential election.”
The attorney general also said that Durham should submit interim reports as he deems appropriate, as well as a final report once he has concluded his investigation so that the public can learn what he has uncovered. Despite rampant speculation that Durham might release a report prior to the November election, that didn’t happen.
Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe urged Durham to release an interim report detailing his findings thus far, amid fears that Biden might cut the prosecutor’s work short.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report a year ago criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page and for the bureau's reliance on the Democrat-funded discredited dossier by British ex-spy Christopher Steele. Horowitz concluded the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation was adequately predicated, but Barr and Durham disagreed last year.
Horowitz concluded Steele's discredited dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI's effort to surveil Page. Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation, and FBI interviews show Steele’s primary subsource undercut the credibility of the dossier.
Barr told the Associated Press this month that Durham’s inquiry had started broadly but has now “narrowed considerably” and “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI.”
Mueller’s investigation concluded the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”
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