Sunday, September 20, 2020

How Long Has Durham Been On The Job?

We've known, or at least we thought we knew, that John Durham was investigating Russia Hoax related matters as early as the late summer of 2018. However, a new book by NYT reporter Mike Schmidt (Donald Trump v. the United States) sheds additional light on this matter, without clearing it up entirely. Here's how this is explained at The Lawfare Blog:

Schmidt reports in his book that around March 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions tapped Durham—then an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut—to open a leak investigation into FBI Director James Comey following reporting by the New York Times that Comey had asked the Justice Department to refute Trump’s baseless allegations that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower. The investigation reported directly to Sessions. Schmidt adds that Durham’s investigation “unnerved career officials in the deputy attorney general’s office,” [i.e., officials working for Rod Rosenstein] which is generally responsible for the department’s day-to-day operations and normally would have overseen an investigation like Durham’s.

The existence of the investigation shows that Durham has been involved with the investigation of Russia-related matters from the very start of the Trump administration, a point the New York Times’s Charlie Savage made on Twitter. It is unclear to what extent Durham’s 2017 inquiry is related to a January 2020 report that federal prosecutors were investigating whether Comey improperly disclosed information to reporters in the spring of 2017.

Contrary to Schmidt, I don't think this does show that Durham was involved in "Russia-related matters" at that point. In fact, I'd be pretty certain that he wasn't.

What this shows is simply that Durham was conducting--or attempting to conduct--a leak investigation with regard to disgraced former FBI Director Comey. Well, Comey wasn't former at that point, but he had already disgraced himself. A leak investigation is very specific, and Durham's role was nothing like Mueller's became. A leak investigation can be conducted with very little if any attention to the actual substance of the leak. Further, since Sessions had already recused himself from all things Russia-related, I have to assume that Durham would have steered clear of anything to do with Russia-related investigations.

In the circumstances, you can imagine that Durham got very little cooperation, since all choke points would have been controlled by Comey and McCabe at the FBI and by Rod Rosenstein at DoJ. 

The puzzling point to me is this: One would expect that once Comey was fired, Durham would have folded up his leak investigation tent and gone back to Connecticut. That's how it usually works with high government officials--dismissal is regarded as punishment enough. It's hard to imagine Jeff Sessions conducting some sort of jihad against the disgraced and fired Comey at that point. Moreover, with Team Mueller up and running and McCabe and Rosenstein in full control of all informational choke points, what would be the point of Durham's leak investigation?

So we're left to wonder whether Durham had some other non-Russia-related function or whether he actually did go back to Connecticut--to return to DC sometime in mid-2018. It's an interesting puzzle. Did Rod Rosenstein--as has been speculated--at some point get a clue as to the likely outcome of what he had put in motion with Team Mueller, and call in Durham? Reporting to Rosenstein would have allowed Durham to look into Russia-related matters, but as long as Durham was reporting directly to the recused Jeff Sessions that should have been impossible.

So many questions, as Comey would say!

Now, there's another interesting point in the Lawfare Blog review of Schmidt's book. It's fairly brief, so I'll quote it all:

Dutch Flash Drives Containing Stolen U.S. Documents

In February 2020, the Times reported that Durham was looking at a “fight” that was “centered on a certain data set.” Schmidt’s book now offers a number of previously undisclosed details about that matter. In early 2016, Dutch intelligence authorities were able to ascertain precisely which documents the Russian hackers had stolen from U.S. governmental and nongovernmental institutions, including the DNC. Once the Dutch understood how valuable this information would be in helping U.S. officials understand Russia’s motive, the Dutch officials handed over multiple flash drives to the FBI containing tens of thousands of stolen documents. 

However, the documents presented serious legal issues for the FBI because they contained privileged communications from members of Congress and the executive branch. (Schmidt reports that “[p]eople familiar with their contents said that among them were emails that had been sent and received by President Obama.”) The FBI argued strongly that it should be able to access the documents. “Why shouldn’t we know what the Russians know?,” one senior American official said, according to Schmidt. But ultimately, in an Oct. 20, 2016, meeting with top FBI, CIA, and Justice Department officials, White House counsel Neil Eggleston refused to grant the FBI the authority to examine the contents of the documents. In Schmidt’s account, there is no suggestion that Eggleston’s judgment was based on inappropriate considerations. 

There is no indication in the NYT article that Durham has sought access to those emails--rather, he has been looking at circumstances surrounding the bureaucratic fights over disclosures of various "data sets". As for the emails themselves, they are said to have been "unclassified." On the other hand, knowing what we know now about the Obama administration's handling of sensitive documents one can't be too sure about the contents. of the emails.


  1. In what universe would a book about the Trump administration, written by a NYT reporter, be considered anything but a partisan agenda-driven reinforcement of The Narrative...of resistance and opposition...

    I imagine it's possible that the publisher required corroboration of some of the included information, and there even may be disclosures that go against partisan interests, but the track-record of NYT reporters precedes themselves.

    Clearly, this is why we thank you for reading so we don't have to!


    >> <

    SWC says indictments and interim report on those not indicted coming "next week."

  3. Amazing - can this get any stranger?

    "If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!"

    Trump on Twitter...

    1. They will never ever understand Trump’s marvelous satire. And their failure to do so, their attempts to use it to bolster their charges of his so-called “collusion”, make them look like a bunch of naive rubes.

  4. Durham has been looking at things--at least on the periphery--for a very long time, and more in depth now for nearly a couple years.

    I am seeing a LOT of speculation (SWC recently tweeting it, Adam Housley saying similar things) that this week is the time for indictment/report on unindicted but otherwise unethical conduct.

    Considering Graham's disclosure about 10-12 days from 10-12 days ago, and considering the recent desperate attempts by Dems to "investigate" Durham", sounds about right. Assuming Graham has coordinated his activities with DOJ and knows who is and is not being charged and indicted, his list of interviewees is interesting. When Graham dropped his hint, he described it as something to be angry about...I worried at the time that it might be we learn who gets away with what they did.

    Comey front and center suggests he is not at risk (at the moment) of indictment. That, or Comey is a damned fool.

  5. Two thoughts: 1) Probably you're right about Durham not getting involved with anything Russian. On the other hand as experienced as he is no doubt he got a strong sense that "Something is rotten in Denmark."

    2) If it was all yoga routines and wedding plans why not let the IC community have a look-see as at that time they were ostensibly up to their eyeballs combating Russian political agent provocateurs at the behest of the WH. Makes no sense unless you subscribe to the "the innocent have nothing to hide" school of police science (meaning their actions indicate that their guilt as sin of something, we just don't know of precisely what).

  6. So, where are the flash drives? Would they contain forensics helpful to the actual nature of the breach?

  7. More than once I have seen speculation that much of the shenanigans about accessing communications was a lot more about MONEY and insider information than anything else. thus, it is plausible (though I would not bet the farm) that the investigations focus more on insider trading intel and blackmail material than Russiarussiarussia.

  8. "In Schmidt’s account, there is no suggestion that Eggleston’s judgment was based on inappropriate considerations."

    LOL. NYT, of course. Except there are witnesses with knowledge of "inappropriate considerations" behind certain Obama admin actions. But they're not the Obamedia's and Schiffty's kind of fake "whistleblowers," so they may as well not exist. Indeed, the "narrative" forbids their official existence.

    We now return you to Joe Biden's teleprompter formerly known as TOTUS.

  9. Always remember, the point is...obfuscation and distraction, not illumination.

    Expect massive doses of disinformation as the day of reckoning approaches.