Ex-CIA chief Brennan interviewed in Russia probe review
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former CIA Director John Brennan was interviewed Friday by U.S. Attorney John Durham’s team as part of its inquiry into the investigators and intelligence officials behind the 2016 Russia election interference probe.
The interview took place at CIA headquarters and lasted for eight hours, said Nick Shapiro, Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser.
“Brennan was informed by Mr. Durham that he is not a subject or a target of a criminal investigation and that he is only a witness to events that are under review,” Shapiro said in a statement.
Brennan led the CIA under the Obama administration as it and other intelligence agencies arrived at the conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump. Durham’s interest in speaking with Brennan underscores the extent to which he and his team are continuing to examine how U.S. intelligence officials reached that assessment, which Trump has long resisted.
Brennan appeared voluntarily for the interview and has previously said he welcomed the chance to be questioned and felt he had nothing to hide.
“And so I look forward to the day when the truth is going to come out and the individuals who have mischaracterized what has happened in the past will be shown to have deceived the American people,” Brennan said in a May interview on MSNBC.
During the interview, Brennan offered details on the efforts made by the intelligence community to “understand and disrupt” Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election, and answered questions related to a “wide range of intelligence activities” undertaken by the CIA in the run-up to November 2016, Shapiro said. He also answered questions about the January 2017 intelligence community assessment that blamed Russia for the interference.
A spokesman for Durham declined to comment Friday.
Attorney General William Barr last year appointed Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to examine the decisions that were made by government officials as they investigated ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Exhaustive reports by former special counsel Robert Mueller and the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee have detailed extensive ties between Russians and Trump associates during the 2016 campaign, but Barr has challenged the idea that the FBI had sufficient basis to open its counterintelligence investigation and gave Durham a mandate that empowered him to look into the actions of other agencies too.
Brennan questioned why the CIA’s findings and tradecraft were now being scrutinized by the Justice Department given that the Mueller report and the bipartisan Senate report validated the conclusions of Russian interference, Shapiro said.
“Brennan also told Mr. Durham that the repeated efforts of Donald Trump and William Barr to politicize Mr. Durham’s work have been appalling and have tarnished the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice, making it very difficult for Department of Justice professionals to carry out their responsibilities,” according to Shapiro’s statement.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
Brennan, who has emerged as a vocal critic of Trump, testified before Congress in 2017 that he had personally warned Russia against interfering in the election and that he was so concerned about Russia’s contacts with people involved in Trump’s campaign that he convened top counterintelligence officials to focus on the issue.
He told the House intelligence committee at that hearing that it “should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 present election process,” though he said he didn’t have enough information to know whether it was colluding with the campaign.
“But,” he said, “I know there was a basis to have individuals pull those threads.”
Mueller’s investigation found that the Trump campaign embraced Russia’s help and expected to benefit from it, though he did not allege a criminal conspiracy between the two.
Durham brought his first criminal charge last week against a former FBI lawyer accused of altering an email related to the secret surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The attorney, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a false statement charge.
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