Special counsel John Durham is "making good progress" into his investigation of the origins of the counterintelligence probe regarding a supposed conspiracy between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials, Attorney General William Barr said.
Barr, who is to leave his post before Christmas, expressed confidence Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, would be able to complete his investigation which began in May 2019.
"Before the election, as you know, I designated John Durham as special counsel, because I wanted to provide him and his team with assurance that they'd be able to finish their work," Barr said during a Monday press conference. "They're making good progress now, and I expect they will be able to finish their work."
Fox News reported Tuesday – citing an unidentified source – Durham most recently has been working "frequently" out of Washington after spending the summer operating out of Connecticut.
The outlet reported last week Durham, given the title of special prosecutor by Barr in October but only announced Dec. 1, had added more prosecutors to his team, but it was not disclosed who they were.
Earlier this year, it was reported Jeff Jensen, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Missouri, and his District of Columbia counterpart Timothy Shea were assisting in the Durham investigation.
The probe has obtained one guilty plea so far, that of FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to falsifying a document that resulted in investigators obtaining a surveillance warrant from a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Republicans and others have suspected a politically motivated investigation into Trump's campaign, citing evidence such as a text message by Clinesmith that read "Viva la Resistance."
The very day in January 2017 that then-FBI Director James Comey signed a FISA surveillance warrant application declaring content from Christopher Steele's dossier had been "verified," he wrote President Obama's outgoing intelligence community chief with a very different assessment of the British spy's intelligence on Russia collusion, a newly released memo shows.
"We are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting," Comey wrote in a Jan. 12, 2017 email to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that was declassified and made public through an open records lawsuit by the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
The memo recounts an internal debate inside the U.S. intelligence community during one of the most delicate moments in the FBI's then six-month old Crossfire Hurricane probe.
CIA officials had already informed Comey's FBI that the target of the FISA warrant, Carter Page, wasn't a Russian spy but rather an asset helping U.S. intelligence. The bureau had received warnings about Steele and the reliability of his source network, including that it might have been compromised by Russian disinformation. Agents had also just recommended on Jan. 4, 2017 shutting down the probe's inquiry into incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence.
The FBI had been warned the previous summer that Hillary Clinton's campaign may have planted the false Russia collusion story as a way to "vilify" Trump and distract from her email scandal, and agents were about to interview Steele's primary sub-source, who would discount much of the information in the dossier attributed to him as bar talk and unconfirmed rumor not worthy of official intelligence.
And the larger intelligence community had decided it did not want to vouch for the Steele dossier in its official Intelligence Community Assessment about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
It was in that environment in the final days of the Obama administration that Clapper had written Comey earlier on Jan. 12, 2017 to inform the FBI that Clapper had decided to release a public statement declaring that the Steele dossier was only mentioned in an appendix to the intel community's report because the "IC has not made any judgment that the information in the document is reliable."
Comey tried to push back, suggesting Steele was deemed reliable (he actually had been terminated by the FBI for leaking by that time) and that his network included sources that might be in a position to know things (although the key source had already disavowed the information attributed to him in the dossier).
"I just had a chance to review the proposed talking points on this for today," Comey wrote Clapper. "Perhaps it is a nit, but I worry that it may not be best to say 'the IC has not made any judgment that the information in the document is reliable.' I say that because we HAVE concluded that the source is reliable and has a track record with us of reporting reliable information; we have some visibility into his source network, some of which we have determined to be sub-sources in a position to report on such things; and much of what he reports in the current document is consistent with and corroborative of other reporting included in the body of the main IC report.
Then Comey added the line that undercut his argument: "That said, we are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting to include it in the body of the report."
You can read the full memo here:
The email exchange does not reflect whether Clapper responded again.
A report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that sharply criticized Comey's FBI for misconduct in the Russia probe — including falsifying a document and submitting erroneous information to the courts — revealed that the very same day as the Clapper exchange Comey signed the first application to renew a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant, thus extending the spying on Page for another three months. The IG concluded the Jan. 12, 2017 application contained erroneous information.
"The FBI filed three renewal applications with the FISC, on January 12, April 7, and June 29, 2017. In addition to repeating the seven significant errors contained in the first FISA application and outlined above, we identified 10 additional significant errors in the three renewal applications," Horowitz's IG report said.
The Jan. 12, 2017 application signed by Comey was marked "verified," representing to the FISA court that allegations from Steele's dossier that Page had met two sanctioned Russians in summer 2016 and had tried to change the GOP platform to help Moscow had been substantiated. In fact, they had not been verified. To the contrary, the FBI had intercepted Page talking to an informant denying he had met the Russians or been involved in the platform change, two facts the FBI hid from the court.
The fact that Comey was telling the head of intelligence that Steele's information was not sufficiently corroborated while telling the court Steele's information in the FISA application was verified raises grave concerns, according to the chief counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
"After a multiyear court battle led by Southeastern Legal Foundation, this memo proves what we already suspected — those at the highest levels of our government misled and lied to the court to get permission to spy on the Trump campaign, plain and simple," attorney Kimberly Hermann told Just the News.
But FBI Director Chris Wray revealed Tuesday that the entire process — including the bureau's ability to discipline agents involved in the Russia case — was slowed down at Durham's request because of continuing concerns about potential criminality.
"Because we are cooperating fully with Mr. Durham's investigation, at his request we had slowed that process down to allow his criminal investigation to proceed," Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "So at the moment, that process is still underway in order to make sure we are being appropriately sensitive to the criminal investigation."
Wray's comments signaling additional crimes are being investigated are consistent with what former Attorney General William Barr said late last year when he upgraded Durham from a U.S. attorney to a special counsel and expanded his investigative staff.
Interviews with a half dozen sources who have had interactions with Durham's team say he is focused on whether FBI executives knowingly and unlawfully misled the FISA court and Congress by withholding exculpatory evidence, extending an investigation without justification and creating the illusion there was evidence of Russia collusion when most had been debunked or dismissed.
The sources said one former senior FBI official has provided invaluable cooperation and context to what decisions FBI leadership and field agents were making in the probe on such consequential matters as what to tell Congress, the courts and Justice Department lawyers about the flaws, political origins and falsehoods in the Russia collusion narrative.....Much More
Then last week, former top CIA lawyer Robert J. Eatinger Jr. filed notice in court that he is joining Zuberi's legal team as he contests his harsh sentence in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Eatinger, who served as the longtime CIA deputy counsel and was CIA acting general counsel under President Obama, is a national security law expert. He did not return calls to his office.
But another of Zuberi's lawyers, David Warrington, told Just the News on Tuesday he believes Zuberi's new appeal will bring to light information about his client's relationship with the U.S. government.
"It's obvious from the public docket, there has been significant government participation in this case, and hopefully through the appeals process more of the actual facts will come to light," Warrington said. "But as of this point, I am unable to comment further about the government's involvement and what Imaad did for this country "
The implications of Zuberi's national security work have far-reaching implications. It means he committed some of the criminal offenses he pleaded guilty to while assisting the U.S. government. It also means he was raising money for Clinton, Biden, Obama, the Trump inauguration and members of Congress while having a relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies, raising possible questions of separation of powers. And it means the criminal case inevitably interrupted the government's ability to continue using Zuberi on intelligence matters.
Goes on to this
That valuable assistance, however, was suddenly put in jeopardy in early 2017, when federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and New York began investigating his financial activities, specifically nearly $1 million in donations he made to Trump's inauguration committee after years of Democratic fundraising.
Even as the FBI and prosecutors dug deep into Zuberi's activities, his intelligence community work persisted — a signal that his case might eventually be settled, according to interviews and documents.
Records reviewed by Just the News show Zuberi's lawyers engaged in plea discussions with federal prosecutors that would let him off with a relatively modest $1 million fine and no prison time. All he had to do was cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia-Trump collusion and deliver evidence against the president, his inner circle and certain senators and congressman.
There was just one problem: Zuberi could not deliver the story prosecutors wanted. He did not know of any foreign collusion connected to the inaugural committee. He told prosecutors the money he used for the donations was his own. (The final criminal charges did not even allege his donation to the Trump campaign came from foreign sources.)
The Justice Department quickly turned on Zuberi, throwing the book at him with threatened charges ranging from tax evasion to illegal lobbying for Sri Lanka to obstruction of justice over the destruction of some of his emails. The legal assault forced the intelligence community to put their work with Zuberi on pause in late 2019, just months after bringing him to Washington for high-level meetings.
Congress notified that CIA inspector general has received allegations from fund-raiser Imaad Zuberi, including targeting of U.S. lawmakers and misuse of news organization for spy operation.
He wrote that he had "submitted two reports to the Acting Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that contained complaints or information regarding serious or flagrant problems, abuses, violations of law or executive order, or deficiencies relating to the funding administration or operations of an intelligence activity."
He added that if the CIA did not confirm it "will forward the reports to the intelligence committees within 14 days, we will do so directly."
For two decades, Zuberi was a larger-than-life figure on the political stage, hobnobbing with Republicans and Democrats alike from California to Washington as he raised millions for campaigns and globe-trotted with a successful international business. He rubbed elbows with Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, all the while keeping his relationship with the CIA mum.
was instructed at times by U.S. intelligence to glean information from or try to achieve certain tasks with select members of Congress, including one prominent Republican U.S. senator. The CIA is not supposed to target, spy on or influence members of Congress.
was involved in a clandestine operation that used an American journalism organization to carry out countermeasures and influence operations in a foreign country. The CIA is not supposed to use journalism organizations or journalists for operational cover.
was asked by a senior CIA officer to make a private investment in an American drone company even as Zuberi was under criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
observed what he believed was a U.S. intelligence asset become involved in Zuberi's lobbying project in Sri Lanka, a project that resulted in criminal charges against Zuberi involving the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
was asked by U.S. intelligence to allow a scrub team to delete emails, documents and other evidence of his intelligence work from his computer only later to be accused by the U.S. Justice Department of obstructing justice with the deletion.
General John Allen had detailed contacts with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster during diplomatic crisis affecting Qatar.
The Brookings Institution, one of the most influential think tanks in Washington, reported receiving $2 million from Qatar during the same period one of its leaders was advocating for Qatar with the White House.
Just the News obtained June 2017 emails between retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, who led a Brookings program at the time, and then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
They show Allen, the former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force, requesting that McMaster take specific actions beneficial to Qatar. The national security advisor later responds that he has taken some of those actions.
Days before the email exchanges, Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar and imposed an air and sea blockade along with other Gulf states, accusing the emirate of supporting terrorism. They also demanded Qatar distance itself from Iran and give up its prized Al Jazeera television network.
Brookings' annual report for 2017 says the Qatari money was given during the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. The report notes that the liberal think tank operates a research center in Qatar. .....A lot more
An attorney who represented Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign was indicted on Thursday for lying to the FBI, as part of Special Counsel John Durham's ongoing probe into the origins of the FBI's investigation into ties between Russia and former President Donald Trump's campaign.
The lawyer, Michael Sussmann, is a former federal prosecutor who represented the Democratic National Committee on issues related to Russia's 2016 hacking of its servers, the Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
Sussmann's lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, said in a statement their client has committed no crime.