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A Cynical and Political Looming Prosecution

NBC News: AG Barr Approved Expansion of Durham Probe to Include Scrutiny of Brennan, Clapper

Thanks to Fox News' reporting, we already knew that the footprint of the Durham probe into the origins and conduct of the Trump/Russia investigation had been expanded.  NBC News has added more details into the mix, including the development that Durham's work is poised to expand in order to scrutinize key Obama-era intelligence figures, such as former CIA Director John Brennan and ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

A review launched by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has expanded significantly amid concerns about whether the probe has any legal or factual basis, multiple current and former officials told NBC News. The prosecutor conducting the review, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, has expressed his intent to interview a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, Brennan told NBC News.

Brennan and Clapper, each of whom has serious issues with the truth, have been active partisan combatants in the Trump era, as have several of their law enforcement counterparts -- including the former FBI director, who was reprimanded for misconduct on leaks, and his top deputy, who was fired for repeatedly lying under oath.  Brennan went so far as to describe some of President Trump's (admittedly weak and embarrassing) conduct as "treasonous."  The extent to which Brennan and Clapper et al were involved in any potential wrongdoing or envelope-pushing is an interesting and valid subject for exploration.  And as Ed Morrissey points out, NBC's revelation that some intelligence officials are reportedly obtaining legal counsel amid Durham's inquiry is intriguing:

Barr almost certainly approved this expansion and direction because of what Durham has already found. And what Durham has already found, NBC notes, has intelligence operatives lawyering up...The DoJ made sure to note at the beginning that Durham was conducting an internal review, not a criminal investigation, although there was nothing to prevent it from developing into one. The DoJ does not comment on the existence of criminal investigations until they either close one or get an indictment — with a couple of notable James Comey-related exceptions — and they’re not talking now, either. These developments, however, make it look like Durham has turned the corner from review to full-blown criminal investigation. At least that’s the impression that some of the people involved must have.

There's no timeline on when Durham's Barr-backed investigation will wrap up, or when the public may get access to its findings.  The fact that Brennan and Clapper are apparently slated to be interviewed does not necessarily mean that they're in any legal or ethical peril themselves, but it does suggest that Durham's (fully justified and appropriate) review is going to be comprehensive.  More from Ed:

...the interest in Clapper and Brennan seems pretty noteworthy. Durham will need to have his ducks in a row before deposing both men, who have been pretty slippery in public comments on a wide range of issues. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are still angry over Clapper’s flat-out lies in testimony about domestic surveillance, which cost Clapper absolutely nothing in that instance. If either of the two men think Durham will let them get away with that in their “interviews,” however, maybe they’d better lawyer up too.

Meanwhile, less comprehensive -- but still highly anticipated -- is the Justice Department Inspector General's report on possible FISA or other investigative abuses over the course of the Trump/Russia probe.  There were rumors that IG Michael Horowitz's determinations were going to drop late last week, but the redaction process is still reportedly underway.  The more recent buzz is that the redacted document will emerge around the end of October:  

Horowitz announced the completion of his inquiry approximately five weeks ago.  Tick tock.

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