U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the Russia investigation, is "adding additional prosecutors" to his investigative team, a signal that his probe is expanding even as the Trump administration comes to a close.
Fox News anchor Brett Baier reported Monday that, in addition to adding more prosecutors, Durham is making "excellent progress" in the investigation, according to officials.
"US Attorney John Durham, who AG Bill Barr tapped to investigate the origins of the Trump Russia probe, is expanding his team by adding additional prosecutors, and is making, 'excellent progress,' according to a federal law enforcement official familiar w/ the situation," Baier reported.
US Attorney John Durham, who AG Bill Barr tapped to investigate the origins of the Trump Russia probe, is expanding… https://t.co/CFa8JjN7I5— Bret Baier (@Bret Baier) 1607963451.0
The development comes as Durham's investigation was recently afforded significant protections to continue operating in president-elect Joe Biden's administration.
In late October, outgoing Attorney General William Barr secretly appointed Durham special counsel, essentially blocking Biden's administration from obstructing or interfering with the investigation, which is criminal in nature.
"I decided 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," Barr told the Associated Press.
Legal expert Benjamin Wittes described Barr's move as "devilishly clever."
"The move has the effect of saddling Biden with a special counsel investigation. Because while as a U.S. attorney, Durham can—and likely will—be dismissed in the normal course of the change of administration, as a special counsel he is protected from removal by regulations that require he can be fired only for 'good cause' or for some gross impropriety. He is also guaranteed a certain amount of day-to-day independence," Wittes wrote in an essay at Lawfare.
Politico reported over the weekend that Durham has recently turned his focus to former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who was responsible for authoring the anti-Trump dossier, under the suspicion that FBI agents mishandled classified information in their relationship with Steele.
In a previously unreported move, Durham enlisted a British law firm over the summer to take Steele to court in London, aiming to compel him to turn over notes he had taken of his meetings with the FBI in 2016, according to people with direct knowledge of the episode.
The underlying context for the request, the people said, is that Durham believes Steele's notes could contain evidence that FBI agents improperly disclosed classified information about Crossfire Hurricane, as the bureau dubbed its Russia probe, in the course of questioning Steele about his own findings regarding a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said.
So far, Durham's investigation has resulted in only one criminal case, ending with former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleading guilty to falsifying records used to obtain a surveillance warrant against Carter Page.