- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2021

Special counsel John Durham’s probe into the FBI’s actions in the early days of its Russia collusion probe has cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $3.8 million since October 2020, according to data released by the Justice Department.

The report made public late Wednesday revealed that Mr. Durham spent $2.8 million on travel, salaries, benefits, computer services and litigative support since October 2020. Over that same period, the Justice Department spent more than $1 million to support Mr. Durham’s office.

Of that total, $2.3 million was spent between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2021. That breaks down to $1.9 million directly spent on the investigation and another $471,000 spent by other Justice Department units connected to Mr. Durham’s probe.

An earlier report in May showed that Mr. Durham had spent about $1.5 million between Oct. 19, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

The $3.8 million price tag for Mr. Durham’s first year as special counsel is eclipsed by the $16.7 million spent by special counsel Robert Mueller during the first year of his probe into alleged ties between former President Donald Trump and Russians who interfered in the 2016 election, allegations that have since been debunked.

Mr. Mueller’s probe resulted in charges against 34 individuals, including 23 Russians, eight guilty pleas and a conviction at trial. Five members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle were among those charged, though Mr. Mueller’s effort never uncovered evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

The Justice Department report is not a complete accounting of the Durham probe because it does not include money spent between March 2019 and September 2020.

During that time, Mr. Durham was a U.S. attorney asked by former Attorney General William Barr to review possible wrongdoing by the FBI and Obama-era officials while probing alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. He was not a special counsel at the time and was not required to publicly report his expenses.

The increased spending detailed in the report Wednesday matches an uptick in action from Mr. Durham and his team in recent months.

Mr. Durham was criticized by Mr. Trump and his allies for his slow pace, though the COVID-19 pandemic likely deserved some of the blame. Then two-high profile indictments in the past two months prompted Mr. Trump to compliment the special counsel last month.

“Hats off, because it’s coming out and it’s coming out a level — Durham has come out with things that are absolutely amazing,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News in November. “We all sort of knew that happened, and now we have the facts, and I think they’re only going to get deeper and deeper — and it all leads back to the Democrats, [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary [Clinton] and the dirty lawyers.”

In November, Mr. Durham indicted Igor Danchenko, a Russian researcher who was a key source for the so-called “Steele dossier,” a largely debunked compilation of scandalous allegations about Mr. Trump, which played an important role in the course of the FBI investigation. Mr. Durham has charged Mr. Danchenko with five counts of lying to the FBI about where he got his information.

Mr. Durham has also charged Democratic-connected attorney Michael Sussmann with lying to the FBI. According to court documents, prosecutors believe Mr. Sussmann lied about his connections to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee when he reported suspicions about a purported link between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.

Both Mr. Danchenko and Mr. Sussmann have denied wrongdoing and indicated they would fight the charges.

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith was also ensnared in the probe and later pleaded guilty to altering an email to justify continued surveillance of a Trump campaign official.

Republicans had hoped the Durham probe would uncover plenty of wrongdoing by Obama-era officials to keep the FBI’s Russia probe alive. Democrats, meanwhile, have long claimed that Mr. Durham’s probe is a political fishing expedition aimed at undercutting the probe that tied up Mr. Trump’s presidency for two years.

While Mr. Durham began looking into law enforcement and intelligence agencies, he seems to have moved to people outside the government who may have misled the FBI to keep the heat on Mr. Trump and his campaign.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has the right to override Mr. Durham’s decisions but has said little about the probe so far. He said in October that he wants “as much as possible” to make Mr. Durham’s eventual report released publicly.

Earlier this month, the attorney general told reporters that the Justice Department is following the rules regarding the special counsel probe.

“The regulations regarding special counsels are pretty clear about what Mr. Durham does,” Mr. Garland said. “I don’t want to say anything beyond what is in the regulations, but we are following the regulations.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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