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Senate Democrats Demand Investigation of the John Durham Investigation’s Investigation

Image via Fox News screengrab/DOJ

In a sign of the times, Senate Democrats on Thursday demanded an investigation of John Durham’s investigation of the Russia investigation. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s choice for vice president Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), asked Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to examine whether Durham’s probe has run afoul of DOJ policies meant to insulate criminal investigations from partisan whims and aims.

Sens. Harris, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). signed the letter.

The letter cited the recent resignation of Durham’s top aide Nora Dannehy from the investigation. Dannehy reportedly resigned out of concern that the investigation was being pressured by Attorney General Bill Barr to come up with results before the election, ostensibly so investigative findings—regardless of their completeness—can be used for maximum political impact.

“The Department’s mission to ‘ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans’ requires that its prosecutorial decisions be insulated from political influence. To that end, longstanding rules restrain Department personnel from publicly commenting on pending investigations, taking actions that may affect an upcoming election, and communicating with the White House about ongoing criminal investigations,” the letter began, before shifting attention to what “[r]ecent reports suggest.”.

“Nora Dannehy, a respected career prosecutor and Durham’s former top assistant, reportedly resigned from the Department out of concern that Durham ‘is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done’ and before the 2020 election,” the letter said.

Next, Democrats called foul on Bill Barr teasing “significant developments” before the election, even though a criminal investigation is ongoing.

“Attorney General Barr has repeatedly commented on the Durham investigation and recently promised that ‘there are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election,'” the letter said.

The senators then cited White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s comments about having seen documents that do not portend well for the Peter Strzoks, Andrew McCabes and James Comeys of the world.

“Additional documents that I’ve been able to review say that a number of the players – the Peter Strzoks, the Andy McCabes, the James Comeys, and even others in the administration previously – are in real trouble because of their willingness to participate in an unlawful act. And I use the word ‘unlawful’ – at best it broke all kinds of protocols and at worst people should go to jail as I mentioned previously,” Meadows controversially but vaguely revealed on Fox News.

Democrats said all of the above warrants Inspector General Horowitz’s close attention. Horowitz famously called out James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as an “unjustified usurpation of authority” and gross departure from “longstanding Department practice.”

The senators want the Durham probe subjected to the same scrutiny.

“These actions suggest that the Durham investigation is being misused for partisan political purposes and undermine the legitimacy of any investigative steps Mr. Durham takes. In addition, it remains unclear what rules and authority permit the public release of a ‘report’ by U.S. Attorney Durham, raising additional concerns about the legitimacy of his appointment and work,” the letter concluded. “We therefore request that your office investigate whether the Durham investigation has operated consistent with Department rules governing the appointment of U.S. Attorneys and the Department’s rules on public statements concerning pending investigations, taking action that may impact an upcoming election, and White House-Department communications concerning pending criminal investigations.”

[Image via Fox News screengrab/DOJ]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.