U.S. Attorney John Durham will soon interview former CIA Director John Brennan, another sign that the investigation of the Trump-Russia investigators is ready to wrap up by the end of the summer.
Durham, the federal prosecutor from Connecticut appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane inquiry and to scrutinize the conduct of the law enforcement leaders and intelligence officials involved in it, has asked to interview Brennan, according to “people familiar with the request” cited by NBC News, and the former top spy and vociferous Trump critic has reportedly agreed to the sit-down. The same report cites sources who suggest Durham’s inquiry may be nearing the finish line.
Brennan has acknowledged that he is in the “crosshairs” of the criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation led by Durham. He recently claimed, and the White House acknowledged, that he asked the CIA for his official records, including his personal notes and any classified CIA documents that he had signed to help him write his upcoming memoir, but the agency denied his request.
Last year, the New York Times reported that Durham asked for Brennan’s electronic communications, phone records, and other documents from the CIA, something NBC News confirmed on Wednesday.
Durham is looking into whether Brennan took politicized actions to pressure the rest of the intelligence community to match his conclusions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. These sources said Durham has been interviewing CIA officials this year, focusing on the National Intelligence Council, a center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversaw the collaboration between the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency in putting together the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian meddling. Barr confirmed Durham is scrutinizing the assessment.
“There was definitely Russian, uh, interference,” Barr said in June. “I think Durham is looking at the intelligence community’s ICA — the report that they did in December . And he’s sort of examining all the information that was based on, the basis for their conclusions. So to that extent, I still have an open mind, depending on what he finds.”
The 2017 assessment concluded with “high confidence” that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016,” and Russia worked to “undermine public faith” in U.S. democracy, “denigrate” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “harm her electability and potential presidency,” and “developed a clear preference” for Donald Trump. The NSA diverged on one aspect, expressing only “moderate confidence” that Putin actively tried to help Trump win and Clinton lose.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in April defending the intelligence community assessment, saying that Senate investigators found no evidence of political pressure to reach a specific conclusion and determining that the assessments by the CIA, FBI, and NSA present “a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Those findings clash with a 2018 report from the House Intelligence Committee, led at the time by Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican. That assessment, which was not bipartisan, concluded that “the majority of the Intelligence Community Assessment judgments on Russia’s election activities employed proper analytic tradecraft” but found the “judgments on Putin’s strategic intentions did not.”
Durham is also reportedly scrutinizing Brennan in relation to British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s deeply flawed dossier. In particular, the prosecutor is looking for answers concerning how it was used in the 2017 assessment, why former FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, insisted on it being part of the assessment, how allegations from the dossier ended up in the assessment’s appendix, and whether Brennan misled about the dossier’s use. The prosecutor is also reportedly reviewing Brennan’s handling of a secret source said to be close to the Kremlin, and Durham sought to find out what role that person’s information played in the assessment.
Barr has said that he expects “developments” and a public report from Durham by the end of the summer, and he declined to commit to holding off on releasing a report from Durham until after the 2020 election during a congressional testimony last week.
The NBC News report also cited sources who claimed Durham has not interviewed Comey or McCabe, and another source claimed that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has been told by Durham that he will not be interviewed.
Brennan regularly attacks Trump on Twitter, variously calling him “our nation’s premier ultracrepidarian;” “thoroughly, irredeemably, & dangerously broken;” and “increasingly desperate despot.” In turn, the president has often castigated Brennan, labeling him a “political hack” and “the worst CIA Director in our nation’s history.”
Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but his team “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign.