FILE – In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington. On May 17, 2017, the Justice Department said it is appointing Mueller as special counsel to oversee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
CBS investigative journalist Catherine Herridge reported on Friday that, based on a “strong paper trail” of documents, investigators from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s team are now focusing on the period between January and May 2017. Herridge specifically addressed last Thursday’s report in The New York Times about a leak possibly made by James Comey during this time frame.
Unlike the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the Mueller investigation and prior to that, the FBI counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign, where selected bits of information were strategically leaked in the hope of setting up a desired narrative in the press. This doesn’t happen much with the Durham team, and when it does, the leak usually comes from another agency Durham has encountered during the course of his investigation. For example, Durham’s request for the CIA to turn over all of former CIA Director John Brennan’s communications records, emails, phone logs and texts, was leaked to and reported by The New York Times on December 19th. And in October, the information that Durham was expanding his inquiry and that it had shifted into a criminal investigation was leaked to and reported by NBC.
It is to Durham’s credit that his team does not leak, however, it leaves us clueless as to their progress.
The period between January and May 2017 was a pivotal time in Washington. Here are a few things that were happening at that time.
1. The Obama Administration reluctantly turned over the keys to the White House to President Trump, a man whom they despised and had worked against.
2. The Obama Administration’s Intelligence Community Assessment was released in January which concluded that the Russians had “aspired to help” Trump win the presidency by damaging Hillary Clinton.
3. In January, the FBI held their first meeting with Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source and learned that the dossier was bogus. Two additional meetings were to follow in March and in May, but suffice it to say that after the first meeting, they had a pretty good idea the intelligence had been made-up.
4. During this time, then-FBI Director James Comey was trying to build an obstruction of justice case against the new President. After each meeting or phone call Comey had with the President, he write a memo to himself about everything they had discussed.
5. After Trump fired Comey on May 9, using the talking points from a memo he had asked then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to prepare, a tumultuous eight day period began. Rosenstein, reeling from the disapproval of his deep state colleagues who were angry over his part in Comey’s firing, was said to have been beside himself. It’s been reported that he had spoken to then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe about removing Trump via the 25th Amendment, although he claims he had been sarcastic.
6. Comey gave several of his memos to his law professor friend with instructions to leak them to The New York Times hoping that the outrage would trigger Rosenstein to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate President Trump for collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice because he had asked Comey to lay off General Michael Flynn.
7. Rosenstein obliged and on May 17, he appointed Robert Mueller to the Special Counsel.
Herridge reported, “A single source confirmed the broad outlines of the investigation and said that investigators are looking at a classified leak in 2017 .” And they were trying to determine if Comey or a member of his close circle are responsible.
Herridge played a clip of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) questioning Comey at a May 3, 2017 Senate Judiciary hearing. The document, provided to the FBI by a Dutch source, is thought to be fake. It was allegedly an email from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who was the DNC Chairwoman at the time, reassuring a George Soros connected operative that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch would protect Hillary Clinton and “would make sure the FBI investigation didn’t go too far.” Comey said he could not discuss it in that setting. Grassley assured him he would follow up.
(Note: The names on the email and the source comes from Dan Bongino’s 1/20/20 podcast (#1162). I will be reporting on his take tomorrow.)
Herridge said, “There’s always been questions about whether this document was legitimate, or whether this Russian record was part of a disinformation campaign to further confuse and interfere in the 2016 election.”
Herridge was asked if Grassley did indeed follow up and she said that he and a group of other Senators had, but they received pushback and stonewalling.
She said the reason this is important is that the laws don’t appear to be applied equally. “We’ve seen a number of prosecutions here in Washington over a much lesser degree, so the question is, if they identify the source of the leak, will it be held to the full standard under the law?”
The CBS host asked Herridge if it was appropriate to be investigating a leak that is “years-old,” as The New York Times referred to it. Herridge assured her that it was entirely appropriate.
During an interview with NBC in December, the day after IG Michael Horowitz had released his report, Attorney General William Barr offered some clues. He said Durham was looking “at the whole waterfront.” Barr was asked when he thought Durham’s work might be completed, he estimated late spring or early summer.
Investigative journalist Sara Carter reported on Sunday, that according to numerous former and current government sources, “the documents already uncovered by Horowitz and the alleged new documents discovered by Durham are significant. Those documents will expose the intent of those involved in the malfeasance at the FBI and the continued operation to spy on Carter Page, a short term Trump campaign volunteer. Further, Durham’s probe is focused on actions of former senior Obama Administration officials that targeted Trump and his team.”