Ex-CIA Chief Brennan Told by Durham He Is Not Target of Criminal Probe: Spokesperson

August 22, 2020 Updated: August 22, 2020

A spokesperson for former CIA Director John Brennan said Friday that federal prosecutor John Durham told the former intelligence chief in their interview that he is not the subject or target of a criminal probe.

“Earlier today former CIA Director John Brennan was interviewed by U.S. Attorney John Durham on issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” spokesperson and former CIA Deputy Chief of Staff Nick Shapiro said in a statement. “Brennan was informed by Mr. Durham that he is not a subject or a target of a criminal investigation and that he is only a witness to events that are under review.”

Shapiro also said that Brennan was interviewed for 8 hours, during which time the discussion covered a “wide range of intelligence-related activities undertaken by CIA before the November 2016 presidential election as well as the Intelligence Community Assessment published in early January 2017.”

Brennan led the CIA under the Obama administration as it and other intelligence agencies arrived at the conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. According to an Intelligence Community Assessment cited by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Senate testimony, Russia used cyber operations against both political parties and that “President Putin directed and influenced [a] campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump.” Russia’s meddling did not extend to actual vote tallying and no intelligence or evidence was found to suggest that any votes were changed as a result of the interference.

The probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election morphed into an investigation into the Trump campaign, with the chief accusation being that members of the campaign colluded with Russian operatives to influence the election. Multiple investigations, including the probe led by former special counsel Robert Mueller, yielded no evidence of any such criminal conspiracy, commonly referred to as “collusion.” Yet there have been multiple questions about the conduct of the probe into the Trump campaign, which carried the code name “Crossfire Hurricane,” with the set of alleged improprieties on the part of the intelligence community dubbed “Spygate.”

Attorney General William Barr last year appointed Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to examine the decisions that were made by government officials as they investigated ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Barr has challenged the idea that the FBI had a strong enough basis to launch its counterintelligence probe against the Trump campaign and gave Durham a mandate to review the actions taken by multiple intelligence agencies, including the CIA.

John Durham
John Durham (L) is sworn in as the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut by Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven, Conn., on Feb. 22, 2018. (Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut)

Critics of the probe into the Trump campaign have alleged Brennan acted improperly, while President Donald Trump has long claimed that the Obama administration weaponized government surveillance against his campaign.

Durham’s interest in speaking with Brennan underscores the extent to which he and his team are continuing to examine whether actions that were part of Crossfire Hurricane were marred by bias and impropriety.

Brennan said in May that he was willing to be interviewed by Durham, adding that he has nothing to hide and looks forward “to the day when the truth is going to come out.”

“I feel very good that my tenure at CIA and my time at the White House during the Obama administration was not—that was not engaged in any type of wrongdoing or activities that caused me to worry about what this investigation may uncover,” Brennan said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

“So I welcome the opportunity to talk with the investigators,” the former spy chief said. “I have nothing to hide.”

According to Shapiro’s statement regarding the interview, “Brennan welcomed the opportunity to answer Mr. Durham’s questions related to a wide range of intelligence-related activities undertaken by CIA before the November 2016 presidential election as well as the Intelligence Community Assessment published in early January 2017.”

While Shapiro’s statement said Brennan “expressed appreciation for the professional manner in which Mr. Durham and his team conducted the interview,” it also criticized the Trump administration.

“Brennan also told Mr. Durham that the repeated efforts of Donald Trump and William Barr to politicize Mr. Durham’s work have been appalling and have tarnished the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice, making it very difficult for Department of Justice professionals to carry out their responsibilities. It is Brennan’s fervent hope that the results of the Durham review will be apolitical and not influenced by personal or partisan agendas,” Shapiro stated.

Durham brought his first criminal charge last week against a former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who stood accused of altering an email related to the surveillance of former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, Carter Page.

Clinesmith has pleaded guilty to a false statement charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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