After eight-hour interview, John Brennan claims he isn’t under criminal investigation by John Durham
U.S. Attorney John Durham interviewed former CIA Director John Brennan for eight hours on Friday as he wraps up his inquiry into the Russia investigation, according to a statement on behalf of the Obama administration intelligence chief.
Getting ahead of whatever report the federal prosecutor is expected to release, which President Trump and his allies believe will be a damning assessment of the actions taken by top intelligence and national security officials taken against Trump’s campaign and administration, Brennan also declared he confronted Durham about the politicization of his efforts.
A statement from Nick Shapiro, Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser, also claimed the former CIA director was told he is not under criminal investigation.
They met at CIA headquarters and discussed “issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Shapiro said, adding that Durham informed Brennan that “he is not a subject or a target of a criminal investigation, and that he is only a witness to events that are under review.”
The statement, which was first obtained by Politico, said, “Brennan welcomed the opportunity to answer Mr. Durham’s questions related to a wide range of intelligence-related activities undertaken by CIA before the 2016 presidential election as well as the Intelligence Community Assessment published in early January 2017.”
Shapiro said, “Brennan provided details on the efforts made by the Intelligence Community to understand and disrupt the actions taken by Russian to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Brennan expressed appreciation for the professional manner in which Mr. Durham and his team conducted the interview.”
Durham was assigned to review the origins of the Russia investigation last year by Attorney General William Barr. It was upgraded to a criminal investigation in the fall. As anticipation builds for what the prosecutors may find and reveal, especially so close to the 2020 election, Democrats and some national security veterans have raised concerns about Trump and Barr attempting to set up an “October Surprise.”
Apparently clear of legal jeopardy, Brennan took aim at the premise of the inquiry.
The fierce Trump critic “questioned why the analytic tradecraft and the findings of the ICA are being scrutinized by the Department of Justice, especially since they have been validated by the Mueller Report as the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Review,” the statement from Shapiro said.
Durham is looking into whether Brennan took politicized actions to pressure the rest of the intelligence community to match his conclusions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations. Barr confirmed Durham is scrutinizing the assessment.
“There was definitely Russian, uh, interference,” Barr said in June. “I think Durham is looking at the intelligence community’s ICA — the report that they did in December . And he’s sort of examining all the information that was … the basis for their conclusions. So to that extent, I still have an open mind, depending on what he finds.”
The 2017 assessment concluded with “high confidence” that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016” and Russia worked to “undermine public faith” in U.S. democracy, “denigrate” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “harm her electability and potential presidency,” and “developed a clear preference” for Trump. The National Security Agency diverged on one aspect, expressing only “moderate confidence” that Putin actively tried to help Trump win.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in April defending the intelligence community assessment, saying that Senate investigators found no evidence of political pressure to reach a specific conclusion and determining that the assessments by the CIA, FBI, and NSA present “a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis.”
Those findings clash with a 2018 report from the House Intelligence Committee, led at the time by Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican. That assessment, which was not bipartisan, concluded that “the majority of the Intelligence Community Assessment judgments on Russia’s election activities employed proper analytic tradecraft” but found the “judgments on Putin’s strategic intentions did not.”
The statement from Shapiro on Friday claimed Brennan told Durham the “repeated efforts” of Trump and Barr “to politicize Mr. Durham’s work have been appalling and have tarnished the independence and integrity” of the Justice Department.
“It is Brennan’s fervent hope that the results of the Durham review will be apolitical and not influenced by personal or partisan agendas,” the statement concluded.
Durham collected his first guilty plea on Wednesday from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to a false statements charge for altering a CIA email in 2017 that helped justify the continued Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance of onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page by claiming he was “not a source” for the agency.
Durham is looking into how British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier was used in the 2017 assessment, why former FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, insisted on it being part of the assessment, how allegations from the dossier ended up in an appendix of the assessment, and whether Brennan made misleading assertions about the research’s use. The top federal prosecutor in Connecticut is also reportedly reviewing Brennan’s handling of a secret source said to be close to the Kremlin and working to find out what role that person’s information played in the assessment.
Brennan has sought to pin questions about the discredited dossier on the FBI, which was used to obtain a FISA to wiretap Page. The CIA director recently found out he had been blocked from accessing his classified notes and records while working on his forthcoming memoir.