Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 at the Justice Department in Washington. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)
OAN Newsroom UPDATED 2:23 PM PT – Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Attorney General William Barr recently discussed special counsel John Durham’s work on the Russia probe. During a press conference Monday, he said Durham was “making good progress” on the investigation, but did not give specifics into the case.
Barr also noted Durham was appointed as a special counsel, so the investigation could be completed independent of any presidential administration.
“As you know, I designated John Durham as a special counsel because I wanted to provide him and his team with the assurance they’d be able to finish their work and their making good progress now,” Barr stated. “Expect they will be able to finish their work.”
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The Durham investigation centered around the origins of the Russia probe, which led to the failed impeachment of President Trump back in 2019. It aimed to uncover wrongdoing within certain intelligence and law enforcement agencies under the Obama administration, which may have led to the false Russian collusion narrative to begin with.
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FILE – In this June 8, 2017 file photo, former FBI director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
OAN Newsroom UPDATED 8:00 PM PT – Monday, August 24, 2020
Former FBI Director James Comey has denied his alleged role in the “Obamagate” scandal. During a recent interview, he attempted to ridicule the probe, which has been investigating the origins of the Russian hoax.
“I’m not worried at all about that investigation of the investigation,” stated Comey. “Next, I’m sure will be an investigation of the investigation of the investigation.”
The former FBI chief alleged the probe, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, could be a partisan endeavor. His dismissal of the effort comes despite evidence of FISA abuses and efforts to spy on the Trump campaign, which initially prompted the investigation.
According to Comey, he still believes he did nothing wrong.
“I can’t imagine that I’m a target,” he said. “Given that I know what happened during 2016, which was a bunch of people trying to do the right thing consistent with the law, they just want to have an investigation to talk about.”
He added he hasn’t spoken or sat down for an interview with Durham.
However, it was reported earlier this year the Justice Department was investigating Comey over a possible leak of classified information. The status of the probe is currently unclear.
U.S. Attorney John Durham interviewed former President Obama’s CIA chief John Brennan on Friday as part of his probe into the Obama administration’s investigation of the Trump campaign, according to a report.
Brennan’s spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a statement that the interview took place at the CIA headquarters and lasted for eight hours, the Associated Press (AP) reported late Friday.
Shapiro claimed that Durham told Brennan that he is not a subject or target of a criminal investigation and that he is only a witness to events under review, according to his statement.
Durham’s interview of Brennan comes on the heels of his first criminal indictment, of ex-FBI Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty to doctoring an email to falsely say that former Trump campaign aide Carter Page was “not a source” for the CIA — information that may have prevented the FBI from continuing to wiretap Page.
Brennan was not only involved in the 2017 intelligence community assessment that claimed Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump, but he was also present during key events, such as a January 2017 Oval Office meeting where then-President Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice discussed an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
Brennan was also present right before a meeting where then-FBI Director James Comey briefed incoming President Trump on the unverified “pee dossier” paid for by Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That briefing was used as part of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and provided a news hook for CNN’s disclosure of the dossier and Buzzfeed’s publishing of it.
Brennan appeared voluntarily for the interview and has previously said he welcomed the chance to be questioned and felt he had nothing to hide, according to the AP.
Shapiro said in his statement that 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, according to the AP.
“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,” Shapiro said.
Brennan testified before Congress in 2017 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.
“The rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children that can be exceptional circumstances,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
“And I think that the situation that I was in was exceptional circumstances, and the way that I dealt with it was the least risk to everybody concerned if my wife and I had both been unable to look after our four-year-old.”
He has been backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has said it is time to “move on” from the row and focus on the public’s “needs, rather than on a political ding-dong about what one adviser may or may not have done”.
The lockdown fines were uncovered in Freedom of Information requests made to police forces around the country before news of Mr Cummings’ journey emerged.
The BBC is seeking further details from Durham Constabulary about the two individuals who were fined for travelling from London to Peterlee, about 13 miles west of Durham, on 8 April, a week after Mr Cummings made his trip.
At the time of the trip, meeting someone from another household was against the law.
Durham Constabulary is investigating whether Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules with his journey from London to Durham and a subsequent trip to Barnard Castle, about 30 miles from Durham.
Officers have reportedly spoken to the man who told the Guardian and Daily Mirror he had seen Mr Cummings in Barnard Castle, on Easter Sunday, as part of their investigation.
A government spokesperson said “We are confident the police will use their common sense, discretion and experience.”
By 11 May, 13,445 Fixed Penalty Notices had been handed out in England and 799 in Wales.
The BBC’s Freedom of Information requests covered the first two and a half weeks of the regulations, including the Easter Weekend.
In this period, police forces in England issued 3,203 FPNs – an initial fine of £60, halved if you paid within two weeks.
In one case, a man in Leicestershire was issued with an FPN after being stopped on the motorway.
He told officers he was “travelling home to London after visiting a sick relative” in Nottinghamshire.
Another FPN was given to a man who was “taking his motorbike for a ride” 10 miles from his home address.
There is no appeal process for FPNs issued under the coronavirus regulations.
Civil liberties campaigners say there is no consistency in how the rules have been applied and are calling for a review of the “unjust” fines.
Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns officer at the rights group Liberty, said: “Such broad police powers and vague government guidance are a recipe for discrimination and injustice, which is why Liberty along with many other groups have been consistently calling for a review.
“It’s now clear how unevenly the powers have been applied – particularly when, as recent events show, they don’t apply to the very people who wrote them.
“The government urgently needs to pare back the powers, create a right to appeal and review every fine issued.”
Kirsty Brimelow QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “In light of Mr Cummings’ actions being upheld by the government as legal and within both law and guidance, there needs to be an official review of all these fines.
“If Mr Cummings’ actions amounted to a ‘reasonable excuse’, including his test drive or day trip, how does this affect those convicted who might have put forward similar reasons?”
Ms Brimelow encouraged those who have been issued with fines to seek further guidance.
On Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked by a member of the public at the daily coronavirus press briefing whether the government would review fines for people travelling for “childcare purposes”.
Mr Hancock said it was “perfectly reasonable to take away that question” and he would look at it with his Treasury colleagues.
But government sources later clarified that there would be no review of fines issued under the coronavirus regulations.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said police forces were asking their officers to “engage in the first instance, to explain and to resort to fines only when absolutely necessary”.