Ex-CIA chief John Brennan interviewed for 8 hours as part of Durham's review of Russia probe

Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
·3 min read

WASHINGTON – Former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan was interviewed for eight hours Friday by a federal prosecutor leading the Justice Department's review of the Russia investigation.

Brennan, who was CIA director from 2013 to 2017, was interviewed by U.S. Attorney John Durham on issues related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Nick Shapiro, Brennan's former deputy chief of staff, said in a statement late Friday night. Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham last year to review the origins of the Russia investigation and the FBI's surveillance activities.

Critics see the review as a politically charged attempt to undermine the results of the Russia probe and to give Trump ammunition ahead of the presidential election. The Russia investigation found that the Trump campaign was an eager beneficiary of Russia's systematic efforts to influence the 2016 election but did not find evidence of a conspiracy with the Kremlin.

Durham told Brennan he isn't under a criminal investigation and is, instead, a witness to the events under review, according to Shapiro. Brennan spoke with Durham and his team about the CIA's intelligence activities leading up to the November 2016 presidential election, as well as the intelligence community's findings about Russian threats to U.S. elections.

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According to the intelligence community's assessment, published in January 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an aggressive campaign to influence U.S. elections and help elect Trump.

"Brennan provided details on the efforts made by the Intelligence Community to understand and disrupt the actions taken by Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Shapiro said in the statement.

Brennan's interview came just days after Durham charged a former FBI lawyer of falsifying an email used to support the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The case against Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty Wednesday, is the first brought by the Justice Department as a result of Durham's politically fraught inquiry.

Congressional Republicans have cast the development as proof that top FBI and Justice Department leaders in the Obama administration conspired to undermine Trump. Barr has said that former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, are not under a criminal investigation, seeming to contradict Trump's claims that his predecessor had committed crimes.

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Barr has been highly critical of the Russia investigation and the work of former special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the probe.

John Durham is looking into the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.
John Durham is looking into the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.

Barr told the House Judiciary Committee last month that he will not wait until after the election to release Durham's findings. He also told Fox News recently that there would be "significant developments" before November.

Brennan, according to Shapiro, asked Durham why the Justice Department is scrutinizing the CIA's activities, noting that the agency's findings "have been validated" by the Mueller probe, as well a separate investigation into Russia's actions by the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee.

Brennan also told Durham that Trump and Barr have politicized Durham's work, tarnishing "the independence & integrity of the Justice Department."

"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 said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Brennan spoke to John Durham as part of review of Russia probe