National Security

Senate Judiciary mulls action amid fallout from Durham probe

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the status of special counsel John Durham’s appointment.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is pledging to review the actions of special counsel John Durham following reports of inappropriate handling of his probe into the investigation of former President Trump.

Recent reporting from The New York Times detailed ethical concerns during the probe that prompted numerous staff departures, including concerns over former Attorney General Bill Barr’s involvement in the investigation as well as the decision to proceed to trial with insufficient evidence.

The report also revealed that the Justice Department obscured the nature of the criminal aspect of the probe, failing to disclose that it concerned Trump’s financial dealings rather than misconduct related to the initial investigation into the former president’s ties to Russia.

“These reports about abuses in Special Counsel Durham’s investigation — so outrageous that even his longtime colleagues quit in protest — are but one of many instances where former President Trump and his allies weaponized the Justice Department,” committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

“The Justice Department should work on behalf of the American people, not for the personal benefit of any president. As we wait for the results of ongoing internal reviews, the Senate Judiciary Committee will do its part and take a hard look at these repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again,” he added.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to request for comment, and Durham and Barr did not respond to the Times story.

According to the report, after connecting with Italian officials who denied any involvement in relaying information for the Russian investigation, Barr expanded Durham’s authority to include criminal prosecution powers after receiving a credible tip about possible financial crimes related to Trump.

But Barr’s vague commentary left it unclear that the criminal component of the investigation was not focused on those who initiated the probe of the former president. 

In other cases, subordinates questioned Durham’s efforts to gain evidence on the leader of a George Soros-connected organization and Barr’s public comments about the investigation.

“The evidence shows that we are not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness. There is something far more troubling here,” Barr said in April of 2020.

Staff also bristled as Durham prepared to prosecute Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who represented Democrats as they met with the FBI during the probe into Trump’s Russia dealings. Two employees said Durham didn’t have enough solid evidence to bring charges, and ultimately left the team. Sussmann would later be acquitted in a court defeat for Durham.

–Updated on Jan. 31 at 1:19 p.m.

Tags Bill Barr Dick Durbin Dick Durbin Donald Trump John Durham Michael Sussmann William Barr

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