MSNBC national security analyst Malcolm Nance on Friday floated the possibility, without evidence, that the Department of Justice’s newly-launched criminal investigation into the origins of the agency’s Trump-Russia probe could be “the ultimate distraction to help steal an election.”
“WARNING: I heard a DC rumor fm a close Trump source in May 2017 he wanted to charge Obama, Biden, Brennen & Clinton w/treason over Russia. Now with Barr as AG this may be crazy but viable. It could incite civil unrest…the ultimate distraction to help steal an election,” Nance wrote on Twitter.
WARNING: I heard a DC rumor fm a close Trump source in May 2017 he wanted to charge Obama, Biden, Brennen & Clinton w/treason over Russia. Now with Barr as AG this may be crazy but viable. It could incite civil unrest…the ultimate distraction to help steal an election. #Standby https://t.co/2NEwetZrWz
— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) October 25, 2019
The Justice Department had previously considered it to be an administrative review, and Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead the inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. It is unclear when Durham’s inquiry shifted to a criminal investigation.
Durham is examining what led the U.S. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign and the roles that various countries played in the U.S. probe. He is also investigating whether the surveillance methods and intelligence gathering methods used during the investigation were legal and appropriate.
Shifting the DOJ’s sweeping review into a criminal probe enables Durham to subpoena witnesses for testimony and documents. It also authorizes Durham to impanel a grand jury and file charges. The development was first reported by the New York Times.
Joining Nance in expressing concern about the development was CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, who accused the Trump administration was “fully weaponizing DOJ for political purposes.”
“Attorneys General *can* be impeached,” Honig noted.
In a subsequent tweet, the CNN employee downplayed Durham’s new reported powers, predicting the probe will “never convict a single person on a single count.”
Ok haters. Let’s make a deal. I know enough from the available public record and my career as a prosecutor to see that even if Barr dredges up charges here, he will never convict a single person on a single count. If you disagree, say it on record now and I’ll laugh later.
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) October 25, 2019
News of the criminal probe follows an NBC report stating Barr recently expanded his agency’s review, noting that Durham has “found something significant and critics should be careful.” Durham reportedly requested interviews with several CIA analysts involved in studying Russia’s activities during the 2016 presidential election, prompting some of them to hire lawyers.
Durham has reportedly received briefings on the “four corners” of the FBI’s use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants as part of the bureau’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign. “Durham is specifically reviewing the FISA warrant obtained by the FBI to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page, as well as general issues relating to surveillance during the 2016 campaign and matters flowing from the FISA process,” Fox News previously reported.
Appearing before Congress in May, Barr testified that he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign, but would not comment on whether it was undertaken within accordance of the law.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” he told the Senate Appropriations Committee, before adding, “I am not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.