Records could begin to fill gaps on the start of Durham’s review. Barr has been clear about his skepticism about Russia’s investigation since before he even became Prosecutor General, however how Durham’s research began, how closely Barr directed Durham’s work and the full extent of the investigation is unknown. from Durham. While it is unclear how regularly Barr met with other prosecutors in Durham’s position at the end of the Mueller investigation, the recently discovered details of his encounters with Durham illuminate how the two men communicated at a crucial moment.
The newly released records show that Barr moved quickly after becoming general attorney in February 2019 to have a face to face with Durham.
Of course, Barr is the attorney general and Durham his subordinate. But the frequency and timing of their meetings compared to other US lawyers, who noted that Barr is closest to Washington-related issues, shows Barr’s interest in his Connecticut-based attorney.
Since last summer, Barr and President Donald Trump have used Durham’s investigation to sow skepticism about the Mueller investigation – and his findings, extensive contacts between Trump’s campaign and the Russians, and various attempts by the president to thwart justice.
The Durham probe has become an even more significant part of Trump’s political attention this month, since the department announced that it would end the legal process against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Busy spring of Barr
Documents shared with CNN indicate that the first meeting between Barr and Durham occurred during one of the most consequent weeks of Barr’s term.
Mueller closed his investigation and presented his report to Barr on Friday March 22, 2019.
That afternoon, Barr and his closest advisors met with Durham. Three employees joined them from the Justice Management Division, which manages the logistics needs for the Justice Department, reporting to Barr that he was discussing the department’s resources with Durham. The justice management division typically handles budget and resource requests within the department, often helping its branches set employee details, leasing space and equipment, and other administrative needs.
The documents do not reveal what Barr and Durham discussed in their first meeting, which was scheduled for 30 minutes in the early afternoon, according to records.
It is normal for an attorney general to meet minors, but the timing of this meeting is surprising. A few days later, on March 27, Mueller followed Barr with a second letter, writing to the attorney general “he did not completely capture” his findings and they also spoke on the phone.
The then deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller investigation until he resigned in May 2019, was not invited to any of Barr’s first meetings with Durham, which means that if Barr was speaking with Durham, the top official who had pastor the Mueller investigation and the top manager to whom US lawyers generally report seem to have been eliminated. American Oversight had also searched for documents between the deputy attorney general’s office and Durham’s office and received none.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on this story.
In the coming weeks, the Justice Department has prepared the public version of the Mueller report, making editorships to protect ongoing investigations and jury materials.
Barr hinted at his internal thoughts on Durham’s review during a Senate hearing on April 10, 2019, in which he claimed he believed there had been “espionage” against Trump’s 2016 campaign and that he was preparing to review the matter to the Justice Department. The comment raised the eyebrows of some senators at the hearing – and led to a series of effusive tweets from the President.
Two days later, an elder Barr’s aide arranged Durham to meet the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, according to the documents. Adjutant Barr, Seth DuCharme, spoke to Horowitz on April 12, 2019, to “explain what (we) are working on,” mentioning Durham and another person whose name was written for personal privacy reasons, according to the documents. .
Horowitz’s office declined to comment and it is possible that Durham and Horowitz were communicating a more typical internal review of the Justice Department. But the close involvement of the assistant attorney general seems to show practical coordination within the Durham labor department.
Since then, DuCharme has been promoted to the role of associate assistant deputy attorney general.
These meetings and communications had not been publicly recognized at the time. But Trump publicly asked the Justice Department to investigate the origins of the Russian probe.
Indications from the logs
Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, who obtained the documents from a lawsuit in public records, criticized the close collaboration between the attorney general and Durham.
“Bill Barr has repeated meetings and phone calls with John Durham at critical moments in the investigation into Russia, and this raises serious questions about the independence and credibility of anything Durham produces,” said Evers, accusing Barr of performing “interference” for Trump.
The group is also looking for documents on any contacts Durham has had with the White House or Congress.
It is not known what Barr and Durham discussed in these meetings, and there are many reasons why attorneys general meet with US attorneys. But the frequency of their face-to-face meetings during this critical period – as Mueller’s office finished his work – raised questions for several former Justice Department lawyers who learned about Barr’s meetings this week.
“There are 116,000 people in this department. The attorney general has a sprawling job. Generally the AG is quite remote,” said Marshall Jarrett, a longtime Justice Department veteran who led the US attorney’s executive office up to to 2014. “It seems abundantly clear that Barr has a keen interest in Durham’s investigation.”
Some advocates general are more practical with their children than others. As a boss, Barr can achieve anything he wants. “This is a prerogative of the attorney general,” added Jarrett.
But several Justice Department sources pointed out how focused Barr remained on Washington’s controversies, rather than being practical with the work of his US lawyers across the country.
Jarrett said that meetings with the Judicial Management Division can be revealing, because that office is needed to help create a special operation or review like the one Durham is working on. The office manages logistics such as reassigning or detailing staff, renting spaces and buying furniture.
“You are basically creating a new office” with Durham’s investigation, Jarrett said.
U.S. lawyers in previous administrations usually came to Washington about every six weeks, and at that time a group met with the attorney general and deputy attorney general, according to Jarrett.
Nothing in the documents indicates White House involvement in efforts to launch Durham’s work in the spring of 2019. But using Durham, Barr made Trump’s public request to “investigate investigators” and control his opponents by the Obama administration .
“Barr is very intelligent,” said Jarrett. “He is very experienced and very intelligent. And he thinks far, far ahead of everything.”