In response to a request from House Democrats, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter on Monday describing what U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham will be doing as he investigates the origins of the Russia investigation.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr previously promised during confirmation hearings that he would “look into what happened in 2016″ regarding the investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Barr then assigned Durham that task.
We already knew that Durham was expected to review whether the government’s “intelligence collections activities” of the Trump campaign were “lawful and appropriate,” but the DOJ went into more specifics on Monday.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told the House Judiciary Committee that “The Review” would be “broad in scope and multifaceted.” He also said that the purpose of it was to “illuminate open questions regarding the activities of U.S. and foreign intelligence services as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals.”
“The purpose of the Review is to more fully understand the efficacy and propriety of those steps and to answers, to the satisfaction of the Attorney General, those open questions,” Boyd continued.
Notably, nowhere in the letter did Boyd use the word “spying.”
“It is now well established that, in 2016, the U.S. government and others undertook certain intelligence-gathering and investigate steps directed at persons associate with the Trump Campaign,” Boyd said. “As the Attorney General has stated publicly at congressional hearings and elsewhere, these remain open questions relating to the origins of this counter-intelligence investigation and the U.S. and foreign intelligence activities took place prior to and during that investigation.”
Boyd further said that the “Review Team” headed up by Durham is asking “certain intelligence community agencies” to: “preserve all relevant records”; “ensure the availability of witnesses”; “identif[y] and assemble materials that may be relevant to the review, consistent with the President’s memorandum and federal law.”
The President Donald Trump memo referred to empowered Barr to declassify intelligence related to the Russia probe.
The DOJ letter noted that Durham will not quit his day job to focus on the “Review.”
“Mr. Durham will continue to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. The Review is being conducted primary in the Washington, D.C. area by Mr. Durham and a member of U.S. Attorney’s Office personnel and other Department employees,” Boyd said, adding that the Durham investigation will be funded “out of the U.S. Attorneys Salaries and Expenses appropriation.”
In the very last paragraph letter, Boyd described this as a “critical period” of time, given that 2020 election season is on the horizon.
President Trump nominated Durham–a DOJ attorney since 1982–to be the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut back in 2017. Despite being a Trump appointee, Durham was recommended for the position by Connecticut’s Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who described Durham as having earned “immense respect as a no-nonsense, fierce and fair prosecutor.” He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote in early 2018.
Durham was first appointed as a special prosecutor by President Bill Clinton‘s Attorney General Janet Reno in 1999 to investigate law enforcement corruption in Boston centered around the F.B.I.’s treatment of notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.
In 2008, President George W. Bush‘s Attorney General Michael Mukasey tapped Durham to lead the investigation into the treatment of CIA detainees and the destruction of videotapes showing the torture of terrorism suspects. In 2009, President Barak Obama‘s Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded the scope of Durham’s inquiry into investigating whether the CIA’s abuse of detainees violated any laws.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Image via Image via Fox News screengrab/DOJ]