- - Tuesday, April 7, 2020

If you were reading The Wall Street Journal late last week, you might have noticed a story about a federal prosecutor John Durham from Connecticut. He is the man that Attorney General William Barr tapped a year ago to look into irregularities allegedly committed surrounding the 2016 election, possibly by high-ranking officials in our intelligence community. All of America is absorbed with the coronavirus pandemic. I am, too. But there are other matters of great import to be decided before this year is out. Mr. Durham’s investigation is one of them.

According to The Wall Street Journal, when Mr. Durham became anxious about canceled flights to Washington he personally drove down I-95 in March in his own vehicle to continue his investigations. If you have seen pictures of the steely-eyed prosecutor, you will agree with me that I-95 was to be avoided when the prosecutor was driving down it. I would not want to have a fender bender with him.

Apparently he has been asking a lot of questions hither and yon, in the U.K., in Italy and in Australia. Yet, his real focus is apparently Washington. He seems interested in the uses to which former British spy Christopher Steele’s now-discredited dossier was put and by whom. He has been asking questions of CIA officials and persons at the National Intelligence Council. It is a center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which organized the collaboration of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency.

Readers of this column may recollect that I observed back in 2017 that all these offices worked together at the behest of one man back in 2016 and 2017. That man would be John Brennan, the head of CIA. As my colleague George Neumayr noted in a column in 2018, Mr. Brennan’s agglutination of intelligence agencies was given the Orwellian designation “inter-agency taskforce.” 

Mr. Durham’s inquiries have, as the Washington Examiner put it, “increased the strain between DOJ [Department of Justice] investigators and spy officials, with one intelligence official who helped compile the 2017 assessment saying neither Mr. Brennan nor anyone else involved interfered politically and the 2004 law reforming the intelligence community worked the way it should.” 

Well, I am not so sure. From the stories in The Wall Street Journal and the Examiner, it looks to me like there is disagreement within the inter-agency task force as to how much confidence it has in the 2017 assessments of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Some participants say there is “high confidence.” Others, namely at NSA, say there is only “moderate confidence” in how actively Vladimir Putin tried to help Mr. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Mr. Durham is looking into this controversy and into other matters. He is investigating Mr. Brennan’s relationship with the Steele dossier. Was it used in the 2017 assessment? Did former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe insist on the dossier being part of the assessment? If so, why? And most importantly, did Mr. Brennan dissemble about its use?

I had been led to believe that Mr. Durham’s investigations would be wrapping up by now. Over three years ago, George Neumayr and I had fingered Mr. Brennan as the chief culprit behind the plot to implicate Donald Trump in a phony collusion with Mr. Putin to steal the election from Hillary. With the rise of the coronavirus scare and the government’s shutdown of the economy, it seemed to me that the investigation of Mr. Brennan and his gang was going to disappear. 

Now with The Wall Street Journal’s piece last week and the Washington Examiner’s follow-up on it, I am full of hope. The attorney general is reportedly in favor of rendering his conclusions by the summer. Last month, he said in an interview that Mr. Durham is “making good progress on a lot of fronts.” Certainly as of today there is plenty of activity from Mr. Durham and his team.

Yet, I am left to wonder, why was The Wall Street Journal the only newspaper to run this story on Mr. Durham’s activities, and the Washington Examiner the only newspaper to follow up? For that matter, why did no newsgathering source pick up on my and Mr. Neumayr’s investigation of the intelligence community’s surveillance of the Trump campaign years ago?

• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.

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