U.S. special counsel John Durham is poised to finish his report soon, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on March 28.
Garland, testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, was asked about how Democrat lawyer Michael Sussmann had a badge that let him access the FBI’s headquarters. Sussmann used the the badge to gain entry on Sept. 19, 2016, when he handed over unsupported allegations against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to an FBI lawyer.
“He was with the private law firm purpose Perkins Coie, which is the main counsel for the national Democratic Party. He had a special badge to get him into the … FBI building. Why did he have that special badge?” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked.
“I’m afraid I also don’t know anything about this. I assume from the reference that this is something that Mr. Durham was investigating as part of his investigation,” Garland said.
“No, I don’t think he investigated the badge,” Kennedy said.
“I know he was investigating Mr. Sussmann. I think this goes back to 2020. I don’t know the answer to that,” Garland said.
Kennedy asked Garland to find out the answer for him, noting that he tried getting it from FBI Director Christopher Wray during questioning in 2020 but that Sussmann’s trial was in process at the time. Sussmann, prosecuted by Durham’s team, was acquitted by a jury in Washington.
“The trial is over. I’d like to know why Mr. Sussmann, a private citizen, had a special badge to get into the FBI in the Department of Justice, and if there are other people out there who have special badges,” Kennedy said.
“On the particular question about Sussman, I think we’re going to have to wait until Mr. Durham finishes his report, which should be relatively soon,” Garland replied.
“I certainly don’t in any way want to interfere with him. He’s the one who would know the answer to that,” the attorney general added. “On the more general question, I can certainly ask my team to look into how lawyers have special badges.”
Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden. Durham was made special counsel by former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee.
U.S. officials have rarely commented on the Durham probe, which is focused on the U.S. counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign before and after he was elected president.
Durham has only prosecuted three people. Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who doctored an email to state that a one-time Trump campaign associate was not a CIA asset when the associate actually was, pleaded guilty and received probation. Sussmann was acquitted by a jury, as was Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who was the primary subsource for the Trump dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.
Barr, who has defended the probe, said he was disappointed by the acquittals but optimistic about the upcoming report.
Garland has said before that he wants “as much as possible” of the Durham report to be made public.
“I have to be concerned about Privacy Act concerns and classification, but other than that, the commitment is to provide a public report, yes,” he said during an appearance before a Senate panel in 2021.
He has also said that he would not interfere with the investigation.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said during Garland’s last appearance before the Senate that Garland has succeeded in doing that.
“I expect we will hear accusations from some of my Republican colleagues, such as weaponization of the Justice Department. The reality is you recommitted to serving the American people and not the personal interest of one political figure. You’ve taken the appropriate steps to ensure investigations are not overshadowed by politics. You have not interfered with the investigation of the president’s son by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, a holdover who was appointed by president trump,” Durbin said.
“You have not interfered with the special counsel initiated into the origin of the investigation of the Trump campaign ties to Russia,” he added. “Most recently, you’ve appointed to special counsels to investigate mishandling of classified documents in the possession of former President Trump or President Biden.”