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John Durham forges ahead with investigation of Trump-Russia probe origins despite coronavirus pandemic

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Chuck Ross on April 3, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has not deterred U.S. Attorney John Durham from pushing to end his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has increasingly focused on former CIA Director John Brennan’s role in shaping an intelligence community assessment that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election explicitly to help Donald Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citing sources familiar with the inquiry, TheWSJ reported that Durham’s team began interviews at the CIA earlier this year that have focused on intelligence officers who work at the National Intelligence Council, which is a part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Durham has been looking at whether Brennan pushed for a more aggressive assessment of Russia’s motives. One issue is whether a mole who the intelligence community relied on for insight into Vladimir Putin’s motives actually had access to the Kremlin.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 19 that Durham was seeking Brennan’s emails, calendars and other documents.

Attorney General William Barr tapped Durham last year to conduct a broad review of U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering activities related to the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

Barr has said that Durham is looking into FBI and CIA activities, as well as the role that any foreign intelligence services might have played in surveilling campaign associates. Barr has also said that Durham is looking at the activities of “private actors.”

Durham’s assignment was first reported on May 13, 2019, but Justice Department emails released this week show that he was in contact with the Justice Department more than a month earlier.

The emails include correspondence between Durham, aides to Barr, and Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general. Horowitz released a scathing report on Dec. 9 that blasted the FBI for submitting inaccurate and incomplete information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to wiretap Carter Page.

The report said that FBI officials relied heavily on unverified information from former British spy Christopher Steele.

The British government has rejected Durham’s request to interview Steele, who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, according to TheWSJ.

Sir Andrew Wood, a former British diplomat who set up a November 2016 meeting between Steele and an aide to John McCain, told The Journal that he has recently been contacted by Durham’s office.

The Justice Department released records this week that show Durham convened on a nearly weekly basis last summer with officials in Washington, D.C.

The records show that Durham met in the attorney general’s office on June 26, July 11, July 16, Aug. 1, Aug. 6, Aug. 20, Sept. 3 and Sept. 12. Durham took part in conference calls with DOJ officials on July 12, Aug. 16 and Sept. 6, according to the documents.

Durham traveled with Barr during that time period to meet with foreign intelligence officials, including in Italy and Australia. The pair inquired during their trip to Italy about Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who had contact in 2016 with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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