A top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor tasked with investigating the origins of the Russia probe, has resigned, according to a spokesperson for Durham's office. Her resignation may set off alarm bells about Attorney General William Barr's efforts to influence the investigation.
The Hartford Courant, citing unnamed colleagues, reported that the aide, Nora Dannehy, is leaving “at least partly” out of concern that Barr is pressing the office for an interim report before it has finished its investigation.
NBC News has not independently verified Dannehy’s reasons for departing. Dannehy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Barr asked Durham to review the origins of the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Dannehy rejoined Durham's office in March 2019, shortly after Barr asked Durham to launch the investigation, having previously led that office in an acting capacity.
Issuing a report that discredits the Russia investigation could help President Trump score points politically before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
In an NBC News interview with Pete Williams on Wednesday, Barr was asked whether Durham might produce an interim report before the presidential election in November.
“I'm not going to get into what there might be,” Barr told Williams.
In December, after the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded that there was no evidence that political bias played a role in opening the Russia probe, Durham weighed in and previewed his findings, breaking a Justice Department tradition not to discuss an ongoing investigation.
“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 said in a statement on Dec. 9.
Some Republicans have suggested the investigation stemmed from a plot by members of the Obama administration and career intelligence officials, in what they call the "deep state," to undermine Trump.
The probe publicly became known as a criminal investigation in October 2019.
A Barr spokesperson would not comment on Dannehy’s departure or the Hartford Courant’s reporting that she left because of Barr attempting to politically influence the investigation.
A Harvard Law graduate, Dannehy was the first woman to hold the role of U.S. Attorney in Connecticut. Serving in an acting capacity, she was a part of several high profile investigations, including the investigation into the dismissal of nine U.S. Attorneys during the Bush Administration.