Signaling what may be the end of the investigation into the predicate for the Russia collusion probe into Trump’s 2016 campaign — and later his early presidency — U.S. Attorney John Durham is reportedly set to interview former CIA head John Brennan on Friday.
Following closely on the heels of a Senate Intelligence Committee Report that suggests members of the 2016 Trump campaign, notably former Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, may have had “frequent contacts with individuals with close ties to the Russian government,” Durham will finally interview John Durham in a reported attempt to determine if he “took politicized actions to pressure the rest of the intelligence community to match his conclusions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee Report does indicate that body believes they found evidence Russia took advantage of “Trump transition-team members’ inexperience in government and their opposition to Obama administration policies, as well as Mr. Trump’s desire to strengthen ties with Moscow, ‘to pursue unofficial channels through which Russia could conduct diplomacy.'” The report also notes that Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik represented a “grave counterintelligence threat” despite Kilimnik’s denial he had any ties to the Russian intelligence service.
In short: Manafort, who left the Trump campaign shortly after he joined, is again being fingered as the potential mark for Russia’s desire to find a diplomatic back channel into the Trump campaign.
And so Durham will sit Brennan down and try to get to the bottom of the role he played in pushing the now-thoroughly debunked Steele dossier as the background drama plays out regarding what the disgraced Manafort may have been doing — whether he was aware of it or not — and if the Trump campaign knew about it (and more importantly, if they sanctioned it, which, given Manafort’s short stint, doesn’t seem likely).
And Brennan knows the Senate Intelligence Committee Report is his last hope to make it look like there was collusion in 2016 between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite the report itself noting its conclusions were based only on “a body of fragmentary information,” and which the Trump reelection campaign noted in a statement found no collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
But Brennan is pushing his narrative to the bitter end, sparring with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Twitter over just what the new Senate Intelligence Report revealed.
You are dead wrong, Senator. The report shows extensive evidence of collusion between the Trump Campaign & the Russians. Read the report.
Criticizing FBI investigative efforts while ignoring the political corruption of Donald Trump & his cronies is shameful. https://t.co/atZ8ZNGTT2
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 18, 2020
Durham, when he interviews Brennan, will be trying to determine whether Brennan pushed the other intelligence community agencies to use the Steele dossier in obtaining FISA warrants to surveil Trump associates.
Among the issues Durham is reportedly scrutinizing is how allegations of Trump-Russia coordination from Steele’s dossier were used in the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment’s appendix. Durham is expected to collect his first guilty plea on Wednesday from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who is facing a false statements charge for altering a CIA email in 2017 that helped justify the continued FISA surveillance of onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page by claiming he was “not a source” for the agency.
Brennan has sought to pin questions about the discredited dossier on the FBI, which used it to obtain a FISA to wiretap Page.
“There were things in that dossier that made me wonder whether they were, in fact, accurate and true,” he said in February 2018. He also said that “it was up to the FBI to see whether or not they could verify any of it.”
Durham is looking into how the 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.
Buckle up. The Durham investigation may finally be about to get really interesting.