If The New York Times is panicking, it’s usually not a bad day.
On Thursday, The Times reported that the investigation into the genesis of the Trump-Russia probe back in 2016 had turned from “an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry.”
That’s more than just a difference in terminology, mind you: “The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges,” the news outlet reported.
This isn’t sitting well in The Times building in Midtown Manhattan, where it said that the move “is likely to raise alarms that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.”
The Barr-Durham probe has long been a source of derision and fear in equal measure among both the left and the media.
Take, for instance, the reaction at Politico; Josh Gerstein wrote that the investigation “was launched as an effort by Barr to answer unspecified questions he had about why the FBI began the counterintelligence investigation that eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.”
Yes, “unspecified questions.” Apparently, nobody could wrap their head around the fact that questions remain about the FISA warrant against Carter Page, the use of the questionable Trump dossier as part of obtaining that warrant or the weird role played in all of this by Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese academic who apparently told Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
But I shouldn’t even be talking about Mifsud, CNN notes, because the outlet makes it sound as if any mention of him is redolent of conspiracy theorizing.
In a report about the investigation last week, it mentioned the fact that both the attorney general and Durham have traveled overseas to gather information and the academic played a part in it.
“Among the Barr-Durham trips to gain public attention is one last month to Italy to meet with Italian officials in part to gather information on Joseph Mifsud, a shadowy professor whose discussions with a Trump campaign associate became part of the Mueller investigation, according to a person briefed on the matter,” CNN reported.
“Mifsud has become a subject of fascination in some conservative media, where stories have claimed he was working for US or Western intelligence and was tasked to spy on the Trump campaign.”
Oh, we wacky folks in conservative media. While those theories are a bit farfetched, it’s interesting to note not only are some people not curious about a man who basically disappeared off the face of the earth for the better part of two years, but those who are curious are scolded for their curiosity.
But I digress. Given that this now gives Durham the ability to compel testimony — something several figures in the investigation have been reluctant to do voluntarily — there’s plenty of lawyering up going on.
According to The Times, CIA officials who are anticipating being interviewed have retained criminal lawyers. There are also FBI officials involved in the opening of the Trump-Russia probe who still remain to be questioned as well, they noted.
This, in short, is major progress for Barr-Durham’s review.
Both principals have recently been traveling through Europe talking to intelligence, most notably on two trips to Italy. This is some pretty heavy stuff and signs that the investigation is progressing apace.
It’s gotten serious enough that CIA officials are retaining counsel. It could even mean that we get some answers on those “unspecified questions” Barr has.
Oh, and the best part of The Times’ article? “Mr. Durham has indicated he wants to interview former officials who ran the C.I.A. in 2016 but has yet to question either Mr. Brennan or James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence.”
Yes, Durham has yet to interview either John Brennan or James Clapper. If you don’t think The Times isn’t freaking out, consider the next sentence: “Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked them as part of a vast conspiracy by the so-called deep state to stop him from winning the presidency.”
It’s panicking, all right. Thursday was a very good day.
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