In mid-2019, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr assigned Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s probe into allegations of Russian collusion with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Despite resulting in just one indictment thus far, reports indicate that Barr secretly appointed Durham as a statutorily protected special counsel prior to last month’s election, ensuring that he can continue his work even in the event of a new administration next year.
“The best thing to do”
The news came amid concerns among some Trump supporters that Joe Biden would attempt to shut down Durham’s investigation if he is successfully inaugurated next month.
Barr’s decision to appoint Durham to the new role, which he first made in October, makes use of the same statute that resulted in the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller ahead of a lengthy investigation of Trump–Russia collusion claims.
That statute makes it extraordinarily difficult to fire a special counsel without just cause.
As the Associated Press revealed after an interview with the attorney general, the possibility of Durham’s probe being shut down by the next administration was a significant factor in his decision to take the extra step earlier this year.
Barr explained to the AP that he believed “the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Mueller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election.”
The attorney general further noted that Durham’s investigation had “narrowed considerably” and now focused on “the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI” and the issues stemming from it — including Mueller’s two-year investigation.
An “important investigation”
In a letter, Barr informed ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he refrained from announcing his earlier appointment at the time it was made in an effort to avoid any potential impact on the election, Politico reported.
Barr’s memo shows that, as special counsel, Durham is expected to submit “a final report” as well as interim reports, if appropriate, “in a form that will permit public dissemination.”
The order further authorized Durham to “investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.”
As Senate Judiciary Chairman, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) offered some advice those on the other side of the aisle. “I hope my Democrat colleagues will show Special Counsel Durham the same respect they showed Special Counsel Mueller,” he said, according to Politico. “This important investigation must be allowed to proceed free from political interference.”