A new report out Thursday offers new clues about the DOJ investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that was ultimately led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Bill Barr to conduct the investigation appears suspicious of Obama-era intelligence officials’ hesitancy to share information with other agencies about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The Times, citing unnamed people familiar with aspects of the inquiry, reported that the Trump investigators “appear to be hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis about Moscow’s covert operation,” in the paper’s words.
Last year Barr tasked John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, with investigating the investigators behind the Russia probe. The probe has widened over time, and Barr himself has gotten involved.
So far, the Times reported, Durham and his investigators’ questions of various intelligence analysts imply he may be looking at Trump’s political enemies, including the former CIA director and Trump critic John Brennan.
The Times reported:
Mr. Durham appears to be pursuing a theory that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result — and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture lest they interfere with that goal, the people said.
Durham and his investigators have interviewed analysts at multiple agencies who sought to learn more about Russian meddling in 2016, including the CIA, FBI, NSA and others. Those agencies concluded that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win.
Per the Times, Durham has focused in on a number of instances in which some analysts “sought access to delicate information from the other agencies and were told — initially, at least — that they could not see it.”
Those episodes included a dispute over a dataset, an NSA request for information about a CIA source within the Kremlin who was extracted to the United States in 2017, and emails belonging to American officials that had been hacked by Russians.
The motives and rationales behind various disputes can be read multiple ways, the paper caveated:
The analysts could have been engaged in standard bureaucratic behavior like obeying the filtering process or hoarding sensitive information. Or perhaps they were trying to cover something up. The questions asked by Mr. Durham and his team suggest they are looking for any potential basis to support making the latter reading, officials said.
In December, Barr said he didn’t expect Durham’s report to be ready “for quite a few months.”