Washington – Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating a former top FBI lawyer and possibly others in connection with media leaks from the agency’s initial probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Durham’s role in heading the leak investigation was revealed Tuesday with the release of a letter to him from House Republicans seeking more information on his findings.
The letter presses Durham for updated details about his findings, most specifically into former FBI general counsel James Baker.
Baker has been accused of leaking information in 2016 to a Mother Jones reporter in the weeks before that outlet broke the first news story about the existence of a disputed “Steele Dossier,” alleging ties between Trump and the Kremlin.
Top House Oversight Committee Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Representative Mark Meadows, R-N.C., wrote the letter to Durham, a Trump appointee. Democrats have colored such efforts by Republicans as designed to undercut the roots of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe.
The letter includes a partial transcript of a closed-door interview members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees conducted with Baker late last year, in which lawmakers were surprised to be told by Baker’s lawyer he could not answer some of their questions.
The reason given: because Durham was conducting an ongoing investigation into leaks.
Jordan and Meadows, both leaders of the conservative “Freedom Caucus,” were leading members of a task force composed of lawmakers from two investigative committees looking into whether there was bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department in the early stages of the Russia investigation. The task force also looked into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send emails.
“As we continue our oversight and investigative work, we felt it prudent to write to you seeking an update,” the GOP lawmakers wrote Durham. “Without being apprised of the contours of your leak investigation and Baker’s role, we run the risk of inadvertently interfering with your prosecutorial plans.”
Durham spokesman Thomas Carson said Tuesday, “We have no comment on the letter.”
The transcript of the closed-door interview and the letter do not include details explaining why the investigation is being led by Durham. The status of the investigation is also not known.
House allies of Trump like Jordan and Meadows have raised questions about the FBI’s acquisition and use of the so-called “Steele Dossier,” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, that included some salacious and unproven allegations against Trump.
The dossier was also mentioned in the FBI’s application to a federal judge for warrants to conduct surveillance in 2016 on a then Trump-campaign associate.
The House oversight and judiciary panels were run by the GOP in the last Congress. But now the U.S. House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, who won a majority in November’s elections.
That means Democrats hold the gavels to those committees and the power to subpoena witnesses and demand documents, likely signaling a more intense focus on the activities of Trump and his administration.