U.S. Attorney General William Barr listens to concerns raised about public safety in rural Alaska during at a roundtable discussion at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Barr did not take questions from reporters in his first public appearance after former special prosecutor Robert Mueller spoke to reporters after resigning at the completion of his report into Russian interference into the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Close observers of the “investigation into the investigators” will have already picked up on the fact that Attorney General William Barr and his appointed attorney from Connecticut John Durham were honing in on the intelligence community and their use of foreign assets in the Russia collusion probe, and now appear to be zeroing in on former CIA Director John Brennan.
But someone apparently forgot to inform the press.
As Barr and Durham get closer to completing their work, mainstream press has begun to write of the “mysterious” investigation and speculating whether or not it might be a criminal one. Again, close observers (which one would think might include the press) will have already worked that out since the presence of Durham — who can recommend indictments whereas Inspector General Michael Horowitz cannot — almost assuredly points to an investigation of potential crimes.
NBC was absolutely floored by this possibility last week when they tried diligently to get the DOJ to confirm that the probe is a criminal one.
With Barr’s approval, Durham has expanded his staff and the timeframe under scrutiny, according to a law enforcement official directly familiar with the matter. And he is now looking into conduct past Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, a Trump administration official said.
Although the probe did not begin as a criminal investigation, Justice Department officials won’t comment on whether it has morphed into one.
If Durham is conducting a criminal investigation, it’s not clear what allegations of wrongdoing are being examined. The Justice Department has not detailed any, and a spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.
“I don’t know what the legal basis for this is,” Brennan said, calling the probe “bizarre.”
Cut to Tuesday morning, and that confusion has turned to snarky righteous indignation as outlets such as Politico begin to allude to the investigation’s focus on Brennan as President Trump’s “obsession” with the former CIA head.
As part of that investigation, Barr and John Durham, the federal prosecutor he appointed to conduct it, have been probing a conspiracy theory for which there is little if any evidence, according to several people with knowledge of the matter: that a key player in the Russia probe, a professor named Joseph Mifsud, was actually a Western intelligence asset sent to discredit the Trump campaign — and that the CIA, under Brennan, was somehow involved.
Trump, meanwhile, has become “obsessed” with Brennan, who frequently gets under the president’s skin by publicly questioning his mental acuity and fitness for office, according to a former White House official. On Brennan, “it was always, ‘he’s an idiot, he’s a crook, we ought to investigate him,’” this person said, characterizing Trump’s outbursts.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has also repeatedly attacked Brennan publicly, tweeting about the former CIA director more than two dozen times. He’s questioned Brennan’s mental acuity and called him a liar, a leaker and blamed him for having “detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier,” a reference to the raw intelligence reports on Trump’s alleged Russia ties by British former MI-6 officer Christopher Steele. He also tried to unilaterally strip Brennan of his security clearance—a process the White House reportedly never went through with — and urged the House to call him in for questioning.
Politico even suggested that the focus on Brennan was somehow an offshoot of the Trump administration’s “blurring” of the lines between politics and law enforcement.
Sources within the FBI that Politico cited have begun priming the snark pump for when it’s discovered they did something wrong, sure; but nothing really wrong. Those officials also resorted to outright mocking of the probe.
“Is the IG report going to say we made mistakes? Yes,” said one of the former officials. “But it won’t say we did so for some nefarious purpose. So the report will be a dry hole for Trump and his supporters. Which is why [Barr and Durham] have now gone to this other theory, positing that the CIA was engaged in some rogue operation to overthrow Trump and therefore feeding the FBI bullshit,” he said. “It’s complete nonsense.”
“Haven’t you heard?” said another former FBI official, sarcastically. “Brennan was a puppet-master and we were just his puppets.”
All of this casual dismissal and press covering of behinds makes things fairly clear: Barr and Durham are on the right track.
My, how things have changed from the days of “All The President’s Men”.