U.S. Attorney John Durham issued a rare statement in the wake of the release of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s Monday report, stating that his office does “not agree with” the report’s conclusions regarding the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe.
“I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff,” Durham’s statement reads. “However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department.”
“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham’s statement concludes.
Horwitz’s report, released Monday, ascertained that the FBI had an “authorized purpose” for opening its investigation – contradicting President Trump and his allies, who routinely cast the entire investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” – but also found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s FISA application to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Durham’s statement, however, challenges the report’s assertion that the FBI was acting properly in opening its investigation because it received information from a “Friendly Foreign Government” (FFG) that former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos received dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia.
“Given the low threshold for predication in the AG Guidelines and the DIOG, we concluded that the FFG information, provided by a government the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) deems trustworthy, and describing a first-hand account from an FFG employee of a conversation with Papadopoulos, was sufficient to predicate the investigation,” the report states. “This information provided the FBI with an articulable factual basis that, if true, reasonably indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both, may have occurred or may be occurring.”
It’s unclear which government the report is referencing, but in May 2016 former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer sent a memo to the FBI in which he relayed Papadopoulos’s claim that Russian intelligence planned to release damaging information about Hillary Clinton ahead of the election, a claim that Papadopoulos heard from Maltese academic and alleged Russian asset Joseph Mifsud, who had met previously with Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos was found guilty of lying to Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts he had with Mifsud, although Downer said that his memo did not indicate that Papadopoulos or anyone else on the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia to obtain the information.
“There was no suggestion — [neither] from Papadopoulos nor in the record of the meeting that we sent back to Canberra — there was no suggestion that there was collusion between Donald Trump or Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians,” Downer said.
Papadopoulos has publicly speculated that Downer was working with Joseph Mifsud — a Maltese academic who reached out to him claiming to have access to damaging information about Clinton — to entrap him and damage the Trump campaign.
Durham, the Connecticut U.S. attorney appointed by attorney general William P. Barr to lead a DOJ probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, spoke to Downer last month as part of the probe, which has been upgraded to a criminal inquiry.
In October, Barr defended Durham and the probe after criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
“He’s a 35-year veteran of the department, great reputation for non-partisanship. He was selected by two Democratic attorney generals to do sensitive investigations for them,” Barr said of Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut. “He’s a by-the-book kind of guy. He’s thorough and fair, and I’m confident he’s going to get to the bottom of things.”