Durham Probe of FBI's Russia Probe Origin Examines Tipsters (U.S. Department of Justice via AP)
By Fran Beyer | Friday, 13 August 2021 11:59 AM
Special counsel John Durham’s deep dive into what sparked the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe is examining potential criminal charges against outside tipsters, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported Durham is presenting evidence to a grand jury and preparing a report expected to be completed in the coming months.
He’s been looking at potential criminal charges against several lower-level FBI employees and people who aren’t in government, the Journal reported.
Durham’s prosecutors have focused on people outside the FBI who provided information that helped to fuel the 2016 investigation, the Journal reported. Prosecutors are examining whether those who provided the information knew it was false at the time, and what the FBI subsequently did with it, the news outlet reported.
For example, Durham has asked questions about evidence related to allegations that a Trump Organization server was secretly communicating with Russian bank Alfa Bank, the Journal reported. The FBI investigated those claims in 2016 and concluded by February 2017 there were no such links.
Prosecutors appear to be pursuing a theory that if people passed along information they knew to be false to the FBI directly, or if they passed it on to others who later shared it with the FBI, it could be considered lying to the federal government, the Journal reported.
The one case Durham has already brought was against a former FBI lawyer who was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to altering a document used in surveillance.
The FBI’s investigation initially began with a tip from an Australian diplomat, and was fueled in part by allegations compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by opponents of then-candidate Donald Trump. Durham has focused on other sources of information to the FBI, the Journal reported.
Beyond the role of outside tipsters, Durham’s investigation examined how the FBI first came to open the investigation, as well as a separate 2017 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Moscow interfered in the presidential election in part to help Trump.
Durham’s team isn’t expected to bring any criminal charges in connection with that intelligence assessment, the Journal reported.
The investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election.
But the inquiry ultimately led to the convictions of a half-dozen senior Trump advisers, several of whom admitted to misleading investigators about their contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries, and the indictment of two dozen Russian citizens, including Russian intelligence officers.
Trump later pardoned several of his former advisers, and the Justice Department dropped charges against another, former national security adviser Michael Flynn.