Senate Intelligence Committee leaders ‘very concerned’ about John Durham review, Joe DiGenova says
by Daniel Chaitin March 04, 2020
The bipartisan duo leading the Senate Intelligence Committee are likely “very concerned” about the Justice Department review of the Russia investigation, according to former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova.
DiGenova, a lawyer whose work has been caught up in the Ukraine-impeachment controversy, said Republican Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democratic Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia appear to be under scrutiny by U.S. Attorney John Durham’s team.
“I also think that Burr and Warner are very, very concerned about where the Durham probe is going in looking into activities of those two senators with various lawyers and nonlawyers, including journalists in the run-up to the leaking of the Carter Page affidavit,” DiGenova told WMAL’s Mornings on the Mall this week.
DiGenova appeared to be alluding to the case of James Wolfe, a longtime Senate Intelligence Committee aide who pleaded guilty in late 2018 to lying to investigators looking into leaks of classified information.
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Burr, Warner, and former Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California urged a federal judge to show leniency as Wolfe faced two years in prison sought by federal prosecutors. A plea deal was struck, which resulted in a two-month prison sentence, after Wolfe’s lawyers sent letters to senators on the panel notifying them they might need to testify as part of a criminal trial.
Wolfe misled the FBI in December 2017 when they were investigating leaks to the media. The FBI’s inquiry appeared to center on disclosures of information about a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant obtained to wiretap Page, who had been an adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, as part of the Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence operation.
Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, was appointed last year by Attorney General William Barr to review possible misconduct that took place in the Russia investigation that targeted Page, an American citizen suspected of being an agent for the Kremlin but who was never charged with any wrongdoing, and other members of the Trump team. Little is known about Durham’s effort, except for clues dropped by Barr and the occasional news report, including those who said the review turned into a criminal investigation in the fall, allowing the U.S. attorney the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments.
Republican allies of the president hope Durham will sniff out the “dirty cops” they believe were trying to undermine Trump’s candidacy and presidency, while Democrats have criticized the review as a politically motivated scheme to undermine the work of former special counsel Robert Mueller and attack Trump’s perceived enemies. Only one person is publicly known to be under criminal investigation by Durham’s team: former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who altered a key document in FISA filings related to Page.
Trump recently appeared to evoke the Wolfe case when criticizing prosecutors’ original prison recommendation for GOP operative Roger Stone, who eventually received a 40-month prison sentence for impeding a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“A swamp creature with ‘pull’ was just sentenced to two months in jail for a similar thing that they want Stone to serve 9 years for. A phony Mueller Witch Hunt disgrace. Caught!” Trump tweeted last month.
DiGenova has been in the news in recent months as details emerged about his and his wife Victoria Toensing’s work with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to uncover evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden held up to $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine to help his son escape a potential corruption investigation. Trump pressing Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals, including the Bidens, was the subject of impeachment, which ended in an acquittal of the president in the Senate last month.
A vocal Trump defender who claims to have insider information on matters such as leaks, DiGenova told WMAL that Burr is a “dicey” Republican who was reluctant to support Trump’s pick for director of national intelligence, Texas congressman John Ratcliffe. DiGenova suggested that Burr came around because he was “frightened” by the presence of acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, whom he called “a serious, serious bureaucratic infighter who knows how to fire people.”
Following House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a prominent Trump critic, Burr and Warner asked Grenell to declassify information about the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
Grenell said he will step down as ambassador to Germany if the Senate confirms Ratcliffe to take on the spy chief role permanently. DiGenova predicted Ratcliffe will be confirmed.