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House Democrats grill John Durham during his testimony about the FBI’s Russia-Trump probe

The former special counsel issued a long report last month accusing the FBI of acting negligently in opening the Trump-Russia investigation based on insufficient information.
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House Democrats grilled former special counsel John Durham on Wednesday about his lengthy report that criticized the FBI for its investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia during the 2016 election.

During his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Republicans touted Durham’s findings that the FBI shouldn’t have launched the Russia probe to begin with, reiterating their argument that it was a political hit job against the Trump campaign.

“Seven years of attacking Trump is scary enough,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the committee's chair, said at the beginning of the hearing. “But what’s more frightening is any one of us could be next.”

Democrats piled on criticism of Durham’s findings in a series of heated exchanges. 

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., insisted that Durham’s “reputation will be damaged” as he accused him of running a biased investigation.

Durham fired back: “My concern about my reputation is with the people who I respect, my family, and my Lord, and I’m perfectly comfortable with my reputation with them, sir.”

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., accused Durham, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, of acting like a “partisan hack” who tries to “spin the facts.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., an outspoken critic of Trump, scrutinized the validity of Durham’s probe by pointing to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in the Russia probe.

In a 448-page report released in 2019 after an investigation that spanned nearly two years and resulted in 34 indictments, Mueller extensively detailed Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and associates with Russians, and Trump’s efforts to quash the probe.

Schiff’s questioning prompted audible indignation from Republicans. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas banged his fist on the table.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the committee's ranking member, grilled Durham about his credentials, noting that he filed only three criminal cases and brought two cases to trial — which Durham confirmed was correct. Nadler expressed skepticism over the length and the cost of the probe — which Durham sought to defend.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called out Jordan for mocking questions from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, about Durham’s discussions with former Attorney General William Barr.

Barr chose Durham to lead a probe into the FBI and the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — an investigation Barr had been highly critical of.

Durham spoke with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors for more than 2½ hours Tuesday. He was “very forthcoming” with the panel, saying that “he has concerns, that there are reforms that need to go into place and that there are still issues that need to be addressed,” Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, the committee's chair, told reporters afterward.

“I think that we were able to get some information that would be very helpful for us and the work that we have to do on both the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] renewal, FISA reforms and also reform issues with the FBI,” he said.

Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the committee’s ranking Democrat, agreed with Turner’s assessment. He told reporters, “We have to learn from the mistakes made in these investigations to make sure that Americans can have confidence in the prosecutorial power of the federal government and in their elections.”

Durham last month released a 300-page report after a four-year investigation into the Trump-Russia probe. He criticized the FBI at length, accusing the agency of having acted negligently by opening the investigation based on vague and insufficient information, but he did not provide any new evidence that anyone in the government had acted unlawfully.

“The [Justice] Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to law,” the conclusion section of the report says. “Senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of analytical rigor toward the information they received, especially information received from politically affiliated persons or entities.”

Durham’s conclusions were disputed in 2019 by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which found that despite a series of mistakes by the FBI, the decision to open the probe was justified and that it was not tainted by political bias or improper motivation.

In response to Durham’s report, the FBI said it had already addressed the missteps he identified.

“The conduct in 2016 and 2017 that Special Counsel Durham examined was the reason that current FBI leadership already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time,” it said in a statement.

One guilty plea was made during Durham’s investigation that led to probation, but he fell short of convicting defendants in two trials.

Trump’s allies in Congress, including Jordan, have seized on Durham’s report to argue that the Russia probe and its ties to Trump were politically motivated.