The federal prosecutor leading the probe into the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation might be pursuing a basis to accuse former US intelligence officials who served under former President Barack Obama of hiding intelligence about Russia’s election interference, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported that John Durham, the US attorney tapped by Attorney General William Barr to look into the investigators, is questioning past disputes between different US intelligence agencies’ analysts over sharing highly sensitive information regarding Russia’s scheme to meddle in the 2016 US election.
Durham and his team of investigators have looked at emails and interviewed a small group of intelligence analysts from several US agencies, including the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency about the motives behind those disputes, in which some wanted access to information from other agencies but were initially blocked from viewing it, according to the Times.
A spokesman for Durham, the CIA and the NSA all declined to comment to the Times. The Justice Department declined to give the Times details about Durham’s work.
FBI and NSA officials have told Durham and his team that their interpretation is incorrect and that it does not reflect how the US intelligence community functions, according to the Times.
Durham has zeroed in on a confrontation between the CIA and NSA over the identity of a CIA informant who had been inside the Russian government, the Times reported.
NSA analysts had wanted to know more about the informant to weigh the credibility of the source’s information, according to the Times. The CIA was hesitant at first to share details about the Russian covert source, but eventually came around, the Times reported. According to the newspaper, it’s unclear whether Durham has interviewed the informant, who was extracted from Russia to the US in 2017.
Durham is also questioning a dispute over a data set, the Times reported. A source told the Times the disagreement was over whether NSA analysts could view the CIA’s raw data or whether the CIA needed to filter the sensitive information before sharing it.
The Times also reported that the FBI wanted access to unclassified emails of American officials that the Russian government had previously hacked, which a foreign ally had obtained a copy of and provided to the US.
Obama’s White House counsel declined to have the FBI go through the emails, which included messages from Obama and members of Congress, citing executive privilege.
In a January 2017 assessment, the US intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The CIA and FBI had “high confidence” in its judgment while the NSA had “moderate confidence.”
According to the Times, Durham’s line of questioning appears aimed at understanding how US intelligence analysts reached their conclusions and whether the CIA played a role in fueling suspicions at the FBI about Trump and Russia.
Sources familiar with the inquiry told the Times that Durham appears to be chasing the idea that former CIA director John Brennan had a preconceived notion about the Kremlin and hindered other agencies from viewing his agency’s sensitive data.
“I think it’s kind of silly. Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of CIA in terms of trying to protect our national security?” Brennan said Thursday on MSNBC.
The Times previously reported Durham had requested Brennan’s emails, call logs and other documents from the CIA.
Brennan has previously said he would have “no qualms whatsoever” and would be “happy” to talk to investigators he hopes are conducting the review “in a fair and appropriate manner.”