Chuck Ross, DCNF
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sen. Kamala Harris, are calling on the Justice Department’s watchdog to investigate whether a probe led by U.S. Attorney John Durham violates Justice Department policy.
Durham, is investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe and other intelligence-gathering activities related to Donald Trump and his associates.
“We write to request that you investigate whether U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation complies with Department of Justice policies, including policies that protect criminal investigations from political influence,” a group of 10 Democratic senators wrote to Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday.
The Democrats say that statements from Attorney General William Barr and White House officials show that the Durham probe is “being misused for partisan political purposes and undermines the legitimacy of any investigative steps” the prosecutor has taken.
Barr tapped Durham in March 2019 to conduct a broad inquiry into the FBI, CIA and other agencies’ activities related to the Trump campaign. Much of Durham’s work has followed up on a report that Horowitz issued on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation on Dec. 9.
That report blasted the FBI for 17 “significant” errors and omissions in applications for surveillance warrants on Trump aide Carter Page.
On Aug. 19, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty in the Durham probe to altering an email from the CIA regarding Page.
Barr has provided some insight into areas that Durham is investigating. He has said that Durham is investigating whether the Russian government fed disinformation into the Steele dossier, as well as whether the FBI has been forthcoming about its activities before formally opening Crossfire Hurricane.
Barr has said in interviews that he is “troubled” by what Durham has uncovered so far. He also said last month that there were likely to be “significant” developments in the probe prior to the election.
Barr has dismissed Democrats’ complaints that the investigation is being driven by politics. He has said that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and President Obama are not targets of the investigation.
Committee Democrats also expressed concern about the release of any report from the Durham inquiry.
“It remains unclear what rules and authority permit the public release of a ‘report’ by U.S. Attorney Durham, raising additional concerns about the legitimacy of his appointment and work,” they wrote in the letter to Horowitz.
Barr has suggested that Durham may release a report of the investigation, but he has said that a report is not the goal of the probe.
“We therefore request that your office investigate whether the Durham investigation has operated consistent with Department rules governing the appointment of U.S. Attorneys and the Department’s rules on public statements concerning pending investigations, taking action that may impact an upcoming election, and White House-Department communications concerning pending criminal investigations.”
Biden and Harris, the vice presidential candidate, have not said whether they will allow Durham to continue his investigation if they win in November.