Freed from his double duty as Connecticut's chief federal prosecutor, Special Counsel John Durham is zeroing in on the final phase of his far-reaching investigation into whether FBI officials or others committed crimes while conducting the Russia collusion probe, such as misleading federal judges or Congress.
All expectations were that Durham would wrap up his probe with final indictments and/or a report last fall after a plea deal was reached with former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he falsified a document submitted to substantiate an application for a surveillance warrant targeting the Trump campaign.
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.
Most of the evidence that supports those concerns is now in the public domain after a series of declassifications that began last year and ended when former President Donald Trump declassified hundreds of pages of the most sensitive evidence during his last 24 hours in office in January.
Those documents show that:
- The FBI and President Barack Obama were warned in summer 2016 — well before the first FISA warrant was issued — that Hillary Clinton might be concocting a bogus Russia collusion scandal to "vilify" Trump and distract from her own email scandal.
- The FBI was warned repeatedly that informal Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had been a longtime CIA asset who assisted the U.S. on Russia matters.
- Both Page and George Papadopoulos had been recorded by an FBI informant wearing a wire denying all the key allegations against them.
- A spreadsheet analyzing Christopher Steele's dossier found most of his collusion allegations had been debunked, could not be corroborated, were found to be internet rumor or were disavowed by his primary sub-source.
- Steele had been paid by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign for his Russia collusion work and harbored a desire to defeat Trump and Clinton because he believed the Republican nominee would be bad for his home country of Great Britain.
- FBI had been repeatedly warned that Steele was susceptible to Russian disinformation, that his primary sub-source was assessed to be tied to Russian intelligence and that some of the evidence in his dossier had been determined to be Russian disinformation.
- The lead FBI agent investigating then-prospective National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had reported to his bosses in January 2017 that months of investigation had found "no derogatory" evidence to suggest Flynn was aiding Russia and urged closing down the investigation, but he was overruled by superiors.
Nearly all of these major revelations were withheld from the FISA court and only belatedly disclosed to Congress, officials have said.
Over the last year, Just the News has gathered and published all of the key declassified documents.
Here is the must-read list:
Required Reading (4)
- 2018 report by Rep. Devin Nunes and House Intelligence Committee Republicans debunking Russia collusion. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-02/DeclassifiedNunesReport2018.pdf
- 2019 Justice Department inspector general report on Russia probe failures that identified 17 major factual errors, falsehoods and violations in the FISA warrant applications. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-03/DOJOIG%20report%20on%20Russia%20FISA.pdf
- 2020 Unredacted footnotes from DOJ OIG report, showing red flags about Steele dossier and failure to disclosure exculpatory evidence to the FISA court. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/04-15-20_ODNI_Declassified_Footnotes_20-00337_Unclassified.pdf
- Carter Page FISA applications showing what the FBI did and didn't tell the court. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-12/CarterPageFISA.pdf
Intelligence Community Warnings about Hillary Clinton Dirty Trick (2)
- Handwritten notes of CIA Director John Brennan's briefing in July 2016 to President Obama warning that intelligence indicated that in a ploy to "vilify" Trump Clinton was going to be "stirring up a scandal" alleging Trump-Russia collusion. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-10/ENCLOSURE_1__Brennan_Notes__U.pdf
- CIA electronic communication warning FBI of alleged Clinton-approved plan to plant the Russia collusion story as a means of "distracting" from her own email scandal. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-10/ENCLOSURE_2__DCIA_Memo_09-07-16__U.pdf
Christopher Steele Dossier Warnings (4)
- FBI spreadsheet on reliability of Steele dossier. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-10/Steele%20Spreadsheet-1.pdf
- FBI debriefing showing Steele sub-source disowning information attributed to him in the dossier. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-02/SteeleSubSourceDebriefings.pdf
- FBI 2017 debriefing of Christopher Steele in which he acknowledges he was motivated to defeat Trump. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-01/Steele2017FBIDebriefing.pdf
- FBI memo detailing why Steele was terminated as an informant for leaking to news media. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-02/SteeleFBIClosingMemi.pdf
Confidential Human Source Stefan Halper (3)
- Stefan Halper's FBI handling documents showing he was being asked to look beyond investigative targets Carter Page and George Papadopoulos to identify "anyone" inside the Trump campaign with Russia ties who could receive dirt "damaging" to Clinton. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-02/Halper%20Source%20Documents_final.pdf
- Transcript of FBI recorded conversations between Halper and Papadopoulos. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-02/HalperPapadopoulosIntercept.pdf
- Transcript of FBI recorded conversations between Halper and Page. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2021-01/HalperPageIntercept11-2016.pdf
Flynn Case (4)
- FBI Agent Barnett memo stating bureau never had evidence of Russia collusion and that investigation was like a game of "Clue" and the goal was simply to "get Trump." https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-09/04518073623.pdf
- FBI memo from January 2017 recommending Russia collusion case against Flynn be closed for lack of derogatory information. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2004/FBIFlynnCaseCloseMemo.pdf
- FBI text messages showing bureau executives reversing decision and keeping Flynn probe open despite recommendations of lead agent. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/FlynnCaseTextMessages.pdf
- FBI executive Bill Priestap's notes raising concerns bureau was "playing games" with Flynn probe and asking whether goal was to get the truth of simply to get Flynn to lie so he could be prosecuted and fired. https://justthenews.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/FlynnFBINotes_0.pdf