03:18 GMT09 August 2020
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    John Durham’s investigation into the conduct of US officials who investigated potential connections and collusion between Donald Trump, his family and campaign team and the Russian state has been ongoing since the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation in 2019.

    While shrouded in intense secrecy, Attorney General Willian Barr has recently given some subtle but seismic indications of how the investigation is progressing and what and who is and isn’t being scrutinised under the probe’s auspices.

    Walls Closing In

    First and foremost, it’s clear that despite the coronavirus pandemic slowing Durham’s investigative efforts, they haven’t been put on hold entirely, and his work has continued despite the difficulty in convening grand juries and interviewing witnesses.

    In fact, Barr indicated to Fox News 21st June that while the investigation could endure past election day in November,

    “He’s pressing ahead as hard as he can, and I expect we will have some developments, hopefully before the end of the summer. But as I’ve said, his investigation will continue. It’s not going to stop because of the election. What happens after may depend on who wins,” he said.

    Go Way Back

    While an uncertain timeline, what’s clear is Durham’s investigation dates back far further than the FBI’s official opening of its investigation into the Trump campaign 31st July 2016 – Crossfire Hurricane - to the year prior perhaps.

    ​Barr has suggested it's noteworthy ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele began working on his dossier for Democratic-funded research firm Fusion GPS before the FBI probe was launched, and numerous anomalies and unanswered questions arise from what the Orbis Business Intelligence chief was up to prior.

    “It’s important to determine whether there was any activity before July, before the Papadopoulos conversation. People are looking at that. It’s significant the dossier was initiated before then,” he has said.

    Caught in Crossfire

    In respect of Crossfire Hurricane itself, and the “wine bar conversation” – in which Trump aide George Papadopoulos allegedly indicated to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in May 2016 it’d been suggested to him the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton – Barr has also made some highly revealing disclosures. In particular, that what Papadopoulos drunkenly uttered to Downer was not sufficient grounds for launching a counterintelligence investigation at all – echoing the position of former FBI Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock.

    This conclusion is at odds with Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s ruling in his review of Crossfire Hurricane – he believed it a reasonable foundation, but nonetheless concluded the Bureau engaged in duplicity and dishonest practices in order to sustain the probe, despite consistently failing to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing.

    ​Papadopoulos’ alleged comments were a “very slender reed to get law enforcement and intelligence agencies involved in investigating the campaign”, Barr has said.

    In perhaps his boldest statement, Barr suggested the FBI’s ongoing efforts to scrutinise the Trump campaign, particularly when Steele’s sub-source repudiated the dossier’s content when interviewed by Bureau agents in January 2017 and specifically said it shouldn’t be used as the basis for an investigation, was “the closest we have come to an organized effort to push a President out of office” – in other words, an attempted coup.

    “The dossier pretty much collapsed at that point, yet they continued to use it as a basis for pursuing this investigation,” Barr fulminated.

    No Stone Unturned

    It’s clear Durham’s probe could result in indictments, too. the revelation over three dozen Obama administration officials submitted “unmasking” requests to access intercepted conversations of incoming Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Kislyak.

    “It makes you wonder what they were doing. It’s unusual for an outgoing administration, high-level officials, to be unmasking in the days they’re preparing to leave office,” he stated. 

    Still, while those officials included Barack Obama himself and Vice President Joe Biden, Barr has made clear neither is specifically under criminal investigation and he doesn’t expect Durham’s probe to extend in that direction – although others could become subject to criminal charges by the time the Attorney General’s done.

    ​In particular, Durham is interested in who leaked information on Flynn’s calls with Kislyak to the media, among other ‘Russiagate’ related factoids, as leaking national defence information without authorization is a felony. “Lots” of leak probes are underway, Barr has made clear.


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