Monday, December 27, 2021

INVESTIGATION: DOJ Releases Second Financial Activity Report on Durham Special Counsel Investigation

Source: WSJ

Published: December 22, 2021

By: Jerry Dunleavy and Daniel Chaitin

The Department of Justice released a second report on the financial activity of John Durham's special counsel inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation.

The five-page document, released Wednesday, shows a breakdown of the roughly $1.9 million in expenditures made by the Special Counsel’s Office for the period from April 1 through Sept. 30 on personnel, travel, equipment acquisition, and contracts. Another $471,000 was spent by other parts of the agency in support of Durham's investigation.

An earlier report published in late May, which covered a period starting Oct. 19, 2020, when Durham was appointed special counsel by then-Attorney General William Barr, through March 31, showed about $1.5 million in costs. Roughly $3.8 million in total has been spent across a nearly one-year period.

"The review identified no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the design or operation of SCO [special counsel's office] controls," the Justice Department said in the new report.

The two reports offer only a partial view of the cost of Durham's work since he began the investigation in the spring of 2019. Under the Biden administration, Durham left his role as the U.S. attorney in Connecticut but was allowed to continue the investigation as special counsel.

The so-called "investigation into the investigators" has lasted longer than Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia, which cost nearly $32 million.

Durham told a federal court last week that he is scrutinizing members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign as part of his criminal inquiry.

Special counsel John Durham. (Bob Child/AP Photo)

The special counsel's team asked a judge to “inquire into a potential conflict of interest” related to the lawyers for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s main anti-Trump dossier source, Igor Danchenko, noting that a separate lawyer at their firm “is currently representing the 2016 ‘Hillary for America’ presidential campaign, as well as multiple former employees of that campaign, in matters before the Special Counsel."

Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. Durham’s indictment said Danchenko made these statements about the information he provided to Steele for his now-discredited dossier, which the FBI relied upon when pursuing authority for the secret surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December 2019 that Steele's dossier played a "central and essential" role in the FBI's effort to obtain wiretap orders against Page. The DOJ watchdog determined the FBI’s investigation was filled with serious missteps and errors and concealed potentially exculpatory information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The inspector general also said Danchenko undermined Steele’s claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between former President Donald Trump and Russia.

Michael Sussmann is a defendant in a separate Durham case who has been accused of lying to the FBI’s top lawyer, Jim Baker, in September 2016 about who his client was as he pushed debunked claims about a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. Sussmann denies misleading the FBI and pleaded not guilty.

Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to editing an email fraudulently to say Page was “not a source” for the CIA and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Durham's endeavor has long been criticized by Democrats and legal observers who claim the inquiry is meant to undercut Mueller's work. Former President Donald Trump and his allies have championed the investigation as a means to root out corrupt officials and settle political scores.

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