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Politics Garland claims DOJ official who badmouthed Durham inquiry has 'nothing' to do with it

08:30  28 october  2021
08:30  28 october  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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A National Security Division official who publicly criticized John Durham’s special counsel investigation before joining the Justice Department has "nothing whatsoever to do with" the inquiry, Attorney General Merrick Garland testified on Wednesday.

Nora Dannehy wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

The answer provided to Congress offers some clarity to the situation after Republican senators demanded in June that Garland respond to the "bias" Susan Hennessey, a former NSA attorney, showed in comments about Durham and the focus of his work, the investigation into alleged tied between former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, before she was picked for the DOJ role in May.

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Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked about Hennessey during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I have to confess I don’t think I’ve ever met Susan Hennessey, and she has nothing whatsoever to do with the Durham investigation," Garland replied.

Later in the hearing, Blackburn asked Garland whether he hired Hennessey.

“Look, I have sign-off authority for everybody, I suppose in the Justice Department, but that’s the best I can answer with respect to that,” Garland replied. “The question you were worried about, senator, and I understand, had to do with Durham. And as I explained, she has nothing to do with the Durham investigation.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson said this summer that Hennessey "has repeatedly and publicly expressed partisan comments about previous and current investigations including the Justice Department inspector general’s review of Crossfire Hurricane and Special Counsel John Durham’s ongoing investigation, raising concerns that she is conflicted and should be recused from such investigations.”

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The senators said Hennessey “expressed a clear partisan bias” when she tweeted in December 2020, “Durham has made abundantly clear that in a year and a half, he hasn't come up with anything. I guess this kind of partisan silliness has become characteristic of Barr's legacy, but unclear to me why Durham would want to go along with it.” Hennessey had also said in September 2020, “The Durham investigation presents the opportunity for bad actors to make a lot of mischief.”

When Blackburn asked Garland if he had been aware of her comments prior to hiring her, Garland said, “I hire 115,000 people in the Justice Department.”

Grassley and Johnson said earlier this year that Hennessey “expressed copious public views in support of the fundamentally flawed Crossfire Hurricane investigation and vouched for the Steele Dossier.”

They pointed to a Lawfare post from January 2017, in which Hennessey wrote British ex-spy Christopher Steele was “a person whose work intelligence professionals take seriously.” Hennessey claimed, “The president and president-elect do not get briefed on material that the intelligence community does not believe to be at least of some credibility.” Her post also said Steele compiled his memos “on behalf of anti-Trump Republicans and, later, Democrats working against Trump."

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The conservative Washington Free Beacon bankrolled Fusion GPS to investigate Trump and other Republican candidates during the 2016 GOP primaries but dropped the project after Trump locked up the nomination. But further funding for their research came from Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through the Perkins Coie law firm, and Steele was hired to compile his now-discredited dossier only after the conservative political website backed out.

“If reports that a FISA order was obtained are accurate, that means that the FBI has developed a lot more evidence than just this private dossier on the point,” Hennessey wrote.

DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz said Steele’s dossier played a "central and essential" role in seeking FISA surveillance and FBI interviews of Steele's primary subsource “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting."

Attorney General William Barr quietly appointed Durham to be special counsel in October 2020 after assigning the then-U.S. attorney to the task in May 2019. Garland initially declined to promise during his confirmation hearing in early 2021 that he would protect Durham's investigation or make his report public.

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Blackburn asked for a written status of Durham’s inquiry, to which Garland said the special counsel “is continuing.”

Blackburn also asked whether Garland would make Durham’s report public.

“His budget has been approved, as I already announced, and with respect to the report, I would like as much as possible to be made public. I have to be concerned about Privacy Act concerns and classification, but other than that, the commitment is to provide a public report, yes," Garland said.

The Republican senator also asked if Garland would vow to allow Durham to go wherever his investigation led him without the attorney general exerting any undue interference.

“There will be no political or otherwise undue interference with the Durham investigation," Garland said.

Durham’s criminal inquiry has netted one guilty plea. Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith admitted he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew its FISA warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

A grand jury returned an indictment last month that centers on a September 2016 meeting between Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann and then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in which the lawyer passed along information about suspicions of covert communications between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the business of Trump.

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Although Durham alleged Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any specific client, the special counsel contends Sussmann was secretly doing the bidding of Clinton’s presidential campaign while billing her team for it and working on behalf of technology executive Rodney Joffe.

Sussmann, a high-profile Washington, D.C., cybersecurity lawyer, disputes this account and pleaded not guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI in D.C. federal court last month.

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Tags: News, John Durham, Marsha Blackburn, Justice Department, Merrick Garland

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Garland claims DOJ official who badmouthed Durham inquiry has 'nothing' to do with it

House GOP demands details from Garland and FBI on school boards memo .
House Republicans are demanding answers from Attorney General Merrick Garland and the FBI about actions the DOJ has taken to carry out his divisive school board memo, which followed a since-withdrawn National School Boards Association letter referring to parent protesters as domestic terrorists. © Provided by Washington Examiner Garland revealed last month that the DOJ and the White House communicated about the September NSBA letter just before he issued his memo. The NSBA letter urged the DOJ to look into deploying the PATRIOT Act against protesting parents.

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