Washington, D.C. – Nora Dannehy, a top federal prosecutor, helped lead the investigation in the Trump-Russia Probe.
We’ve now learned she has resigned from the Justice Department two months before the presidential election.
She had concerns in recent weeks about the probe being politically motivated ahead of the upcoming Presidential election according to the Hartford Courant. The Courant was the first to break the story.
Hartford Courant: Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr https://t.co/TqVtkQT8J9
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) September 11, 2020
Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham was appointed by A.G. William Barr to lead the investigation in May 2019. After Barr assigned Durham to investigate the Russia inquiry, he asked Ms. Dannehy to return from the private sector to serve as his top investigator on the case. It was not an unusual request.
Dunnahey had worked closely with Durham for years. Dannahey’s husband, Leonard C. Boyle, is a close colleague of Durham’s. Boyle served as the first assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut.
He had previously served as the head of the Terrorist Screening Center, appointed by Mr. Mueller when he was F.B.I. director.
Dunnahey accepted Durhams request. Her task was to help to lead an investigation into the methods used by the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
She was among those who were tasked to see if President Donald J. Trump had coordinated with the Russia to see if the Russians could help him win over Hillary Clinton.
Dannehy’s reputation is very by-the-book and methodical and she isn’t one to make sudden decisions. An unnamed lawyer (why does no one want to give out their names to these outlets?) who has worked with Dannehy for decades told CNN:
“She’s long had a very close working relationship with John Durham, It would be extraordinary for her to have left her longtime colleague, unless there was a very good reason in her mind to do it.”
A top aide to Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a politically sensitive investigation into the origins of the investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has resigned from the Justice Department https://t.co/ufa7BCEi4t
— POLITICO (@politico) September 11, 2020
Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that documented Russian attempts to sabotage the 2016 election. Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, found serious errors one aspect of the Russia investigation.
When Horowitz completed his own review of the early stages of the F.B.I. investigation he concluded that the bureau had concrete lawful basis to open the counterintelligence inquiry. The Justice Department released a statement in the name of Mr. Durham disagreeing with Mr. Horowitz’s conclusion based on his own continuing inquiry.
Mr. Durham thought the available evidence indicated that the F.B.I. officials should have opened a “preliminary” counterintelligence investigation rather than a “full” one.
Mr. Durham has a long history of being assigned to lead sensitive investigations of government conduct. This includes the F.B.I.’s ties to a crime boss in Boston and C.I.A. torture of detainees. Mr. Trump gave him a political appointment as the U.S. attorney for Connecticut in 2018.
It’s been a year and a half, and he’s faced question from former law enforcement and intelligent officials. John Brennan, the former CIA director, was among them.
They asked questions about the decisions made during the Russia probe. Dannehy was present for interviews with Brennan and other officials. This was not something she was unaccustomed to.
Danney has played a leading role in questioning witnesses about investigative actions.
This was not the first time that she had taken on a high-profile, politically fraught investigation. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed her to investigate if any laws were broken during George W. Bush administration about the firing of U.S. attorneys.
The case was dismissed because she couldn’t find any wrongdoing. In her report, however, she mentioned that political pressure to rush a case or decision before an election was wrong and potentially constituted obstruction of justice according to the New York Times.
Dannyhe wrote in that report the following:
“Pressuring a prosecutor to indict a case more quickly to affect the outcome of an upcoming election could be a corrupt attempt to influence the prosecution in violation of the obstruction of justice statute.
The same reasoning could apply to pressuring a prosecutor to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decisions.”
Stanley A. Twardy Jr., who was appointed U.S. attorney for Connecticut by President Ronald Reagan, had hired Dannehy in 1990 to be an assistant federal prosecutor. Ms. Dannehy had been Mr. Durham’s chief assistant, and that she had also previously served as the acting U.S. attorney for Connecticut. He held her in very high esteem.
According to the New York Times, Twardy told them:
“This is completely out of the blue.”
Pressure to wrap up the Russia probe is intense. There are expectations in both the White House and Congress that Barr would make public some kind of interim report ahead of the election. Mr. Barr had wanted Mr. Durham’s team to move quickly. Typically, the Justice Department takes a very dim view of investigations that could have an effect on an election.
If Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham plan to make the investigative steps public close to the election, it would proverbially give the bird to a longstanding Justice Department practice. This practice basically avoids overt activity within 60 days of an election if it could have a political impact on the vote.
Mr. Barr has raised hints about Mr. Durham’s work, contrary to the department norm. He has defined a narrow interpretation of the so-called 60-day rule. His definition is that it is meant the department should not indict a candidate for office or a close campaign associate.
“The idea is you don’t go after candidates, you don’t indict candidates, or perhaps someone that’s officially close to a candidate — that is essentially the same — within a certain number of days before an election. But, you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”
Since Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is not the target of the probe, the policy doesn’t necessarily apply.
And, if President Trump doesn’t win the election in November, there’s nothing to say that Durhum’s work would be permitted to continue. This is because Democratic leadership would, in that case, control the Justice Department.
This is especially because Trump likes Durhum, and he believes that his work into the Russia probe might turn up negative things against the Democrats.
Dannehe’s departure could complicate the investigation results and slow it down. It’s already been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key decisions still await before the probe is completed, but they will be made without Dannehe’s guidance.
Critics of the Durham investigation have called this probe a politically motivated effort by Barr and the Trump administration. The reason is to smear the Robert Mueller investigation, which led to many criminal prosecutions of Trumps associates.
Barr said he could reveal some of Durham’s findings before the election. Of course, concerns were sparked that this could help Trump politically.
I wish he were wrong. But he’s not. https://t.co/vetrOhHRzm
— Brit Hume (@brithume) September 14, 2020
Barr responded, according to CNBC:
“We’ll develop this case to the extent we can before the election, and we’ll use our prudent judgment to decide what’s appropriate before the election and what should wait until after the election.”
One criminal charge has resulted from the investigation so far. The errors that the inspector general’s team uncovered were in materials submitted for four wiretap applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
This was a direct target against a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. This was only because he had links to Russian intelligence officials. The name of the official? Carter Page.
This was against a former FBI lawyer,Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty to altering an email related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide. That email had been used by the FBI to seek court approval to eavesdrop on Page.
During the final preparations to apply for the final renewal of the wiretap, an F.B.I. lawyer assigned to assist the Crossfire Hurricane team, Kevin E. Clinesmith, prevented a colleague from recognizing that the application and the three earlier ones had an important omission. The omission was adding words to a C.I.A. email about Mr. Page and showed it to the colleague.
Mr. Horowitz referred Mr. Clinesmith for criminal investigation. Mr. Durham’s team prosecuted the case. Last month, Mr. Clinesmith pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement by doctoring the email. Clinesmith told the presiding judge that he thought he edited it to put in accurate information in the email.
Durham will try to conclude his work before the election, but he might not be able to. Barr has not ruled against it or the possibility of additional criminal charges.
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