Merrick Garland Declines to Say He Will Keep Special Counsel John Durham
udge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, declined to say on Monday whether he would retain Special Counsel John Durham in his role investigating the origins of the “Russia collusion” investigation.
Former Attorney General William Barr quietly elevated Durham to Special Counsel last fall, before the presidential election, to preserve his work in a potential new administration. Barr had previously said that he believed there may have been improper political motivations behind the FBI’s launch of Operation Hurricane Crossfire into Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. One FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty to misleading the FISA court to obtain a warrant.
Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Garland whether he would retain Durham, noting that Barr, in his own confirmation, committed explicitly to allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to continue the “Russia collusion” inquiry.
Garland would not commit. The following exchange took place:
Sen. Grassley: I will go to the Durham investigation. At Barr’s hearing, he stated the following [with] regard to the Mueller investigation. “It is virtually [sic[ important the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.” Also at that same hearing, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein asked, “Will you commit to providing Mr. Mueller with the resources, funds, and time needed to complete his investigation?” Attorney General Barr answered Senator Feinstein with a one-word, “Yes.” With respect to Special Counsel [John] Durham’s investigation, I expect that he will be allowed to complete his investigation. If confirmed, will you commit to providing Special Counsel Durham with the staff, resources, funds, and time needed to thoroughly complete the investigation?
Judge Garland: Senator, I don’t have any information about the investigation as I sit here today. And another one of the very first things I’m going to have to do is speak with Mr. Durham to figure out how his investigation is going. I understand he has been permitted to remain in his position. And sitting here today, I have no reason to think that that was not the correct decision.
Sen. Grassley: And I suppose that would be an answer that he would only be removed for cause, then? Would that be your position?
Judge Garland: Senator, I really do have to have an opportunity to talk with him. I have not had that opportunity. As I said, I don’t have any reason, from what I know now, which is really very little, to make any determination on that ground. But I don’t have any reason to think that he should not remain in place.
Sen. Grassley: If confirmed, would you commit to publicly releasing Special Counsel Durham’s report just like the Mueller report was made public?
Judge Garland: So Senator, I am a great believer in transparency. I would, though, have to talk with Mr. Durham and understand the nature of what he has been doing and the nature of the report. But I am very much committed to transparency and to explaining Justice Department decision-making.
Sen. Grassley: At this point, I’m not going to take exception to the answers you have gave me about Durham, because I think you are an honorable person. They are not quite as explicit as I hoped they would be, like we got from Barr for the Mueller Investigation. But I think you have come close to satisfying me. But maybe not entirely.
Durham was one of two major federal prosecutors retained in their positions when President Biden dismissed the rest; the other, Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, is investigating the Hunter Biden affair.