John Durham Expands Investigative Team Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

U.S. Attorney John Durham has expanded his team as his review of the Trump-Russia investigators ramps up during the coronavirus pandemic, which has gripped the country and swept the globe.

The top federal prosecutor for Connecticut selected additional team members for his investigative effort in recent weeks, adding agents from the FBI as well as the chief of the Violent Crimes and Narcotics Trafficking Section for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, Anthony Scarpelli, according to sources cited by CNN. Durham, who has been running the operation out of Connecticut and D.C., drove down to Washington a few weeks ago to keep the investigation moving even as the COVID-19 virus hampered many law enforcement efforts nationwide.

The CNN report said Durham requested witness information in March and April.

Attorney General William Barr said in an interview this week that Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane operation and the conduct of associated law enforcement officers and intelligence officials is proceeding full speed ahead, and the timing of a report or possible criminal charges will not be based on the 2020 election calendar. But, he stressed, an announcement or possible indictments are not imminent.

Scarpelli has spent the last two years leading the office in charge of the fight against murder and the drug trade in Washington. Before that, he was the deputy chief of that office, according to his LinkedIn profile. Scarpelli also spent a year as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 14 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, and eight years as an assistant prosecutor for Middlesex County in New Jersey.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia declined to comment.

Few details are publicly known about the composition of Durham’s team, although it is known that he selected Sarah Karwan, who has been with the Connecticut federal office since 2007, to serve as the chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. attorney’s office back in January.

The New York Times reported in October that two former senior FBI agents were assisting Durham, including John Eckenrode, who assisted then-special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame affair in the early 2000s. Nora Dannehy, a veteran prosecutor in Durham’s Connecticut office, is also reportedly a member of Durham’s team.

Prior to nationwide coronavirus lockdown orders, CNN reported that Durham had been spending multiple days each week inside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility reviewing classified documents related to the federal government’s investigations into Russian interference and President Trump’s campaign. The report said Durham is also taking a close look at the FBI’s deeply flawed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants targeting onetime Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

It is almost certain that one of the topics being reviewed by Durham’s team is intelligence reports on Russian disinformation efforts revealed in recently declassified footnotes from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s Russia investigation. Newly public information from the watchdog report showed the bureau had been aware of warnings that Russian intelligence efforts may have compromised British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, which was relied upon to obtain FISA warrants to surveil Page.

Horowitz’s lengthy December report criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page in 2016 and 2017 and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s unverified dossier. Steele put his research together at the behest of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm.

CNN also cited a half-dozen sources confirming that Durham is scrutinizing former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, with a special focus on the 2017 intelligence community assessment of the Kremlin meddling in 2016’s presidential election.

Durham is reportedly looking into numerous highly sensitive issues, including whether Brennan took politicized actions to pressure the rest of the intelligence community to match his conclusions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations during the 2016 presidential election.

The 2017 intelligence community assessment concluded with “high confidence” that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016” and that Russia worked to “undermine public faith” in U.S. democracy, “denigrate” Clinton and “harm her electability and potential presidency,” and “developed a clear preference” for Trump. The National Security Agency diverged on one aspect, expressing only “moderate confidence” that Putin actively tried to help Trump win and Clinton lose.

A Senate Intelligence Committee report, released Tuesday, found the 2017 spy assessment “presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The Senate investigators did not find evidence of undue political pressure by Brennan or anyone else.

But the Senate investigation did shine new light on the effort by FBI leadership, including FBI Director James Comey, to include allegations from Steele’s salacious dossier in the 2017 spy assessment. The bureau is pointing to a directive by President Barack Obama to explain its failed effort to include the dossier in the main text of the 2017 report. It was instead relegated to a still-classified appendix.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: John Durham expands investigative team amid coronavirus outbreak

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