Durham bolsters investigative — and prosecutorial — team



This seems like a curious time to add staff to an investigation into an investigation, but the coronavirus crisis has not stopped John Durham. Earlier this week, Attorney General William Barr said that the pandemic would not slow the US Attorney’s probe of Operation Crossfire Hurricane and the intelligence operations connected to it for potential criminal acts. Durham has underscored that pledge by expanding his team — not just with agents, but with a big addition to the prosecutorial squad as well:

The top federal prosecutor for Connecticut selected additional team members for his investigative effort in recent weeks, adding agents from the FBI, as well as the chief of the violent crimes and narcotics trafficking section for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., Anthony Scarpelli, according to sources cited by CNN. Durham, who has been running the operation out of Connecticut and D.C., drove down to Washington a few weeks ago to keep the investigation moving even as the COVID-19 virus hampered many law enforcement efforts nationwide. …

Scarpelli has spent the last two years leading the office in charge of the fight against murder and the drug trade in D.C. Before that, he was the deputy chief of that office, according to his LinkedIn profile. Scarpelli also spent a year as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 14 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C., and eight years as an assistant prosecutor for Middlesex County in New Jersey.

That is a very interesting addition to Durham’s team. The murder and drug trade hasn’t yet come to a screeching halt in the capital, after all, and that would be a high-profile position for an ambitious federal prosecutor. (Are there any other kind?)  To walk away from that kind of highly visible position, Scarpelli must see some intriguing potential for his talents in court with whatever Durham has already found.

It’s also interesting that Durham has added more agents from the FBI, although that cuts both ways. Durham’s scope in this investigation includes the FBI — in fact, it seems likely to mainly involve the FBI. If Durham starts returning indictments against fellow FBI agents as a consequence of this investigation, that won’t make these agents TDYed to him very popular once they return. On the other hand, the fact that he’s been able to recruit them might make for a good demonstration of organizational integrity at the FBI … or an indication that this will be mostly aimed at the intelligence communities (FBI included) rather than law enforcement.

That may also be why Durham’s team has spent a lot of time inside a SCIF of late, too:

Amid the pandemic, Durham and a team of prosecutors and investigators have continued their work, even requesting witness information after the country largely shut down in March because of coronavirus restrictions, according to people briefed on the investigation. Leading up to the lockdown, Durham’s team had spent many days a month reviewing classified intelligence inside a special facility for reviewing classified documents known as a SCIF. …

Durham’s focus appears to have turned toward decisions made by top officials overseeing the intelligence analysis of Russian election interference efforts in 2016, and particularly the leadership of then-CIA director John Brennan and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to more than a half dozen people familiar with the investigation.

Durham’s investigators have asked witnesses about examining the information that backs the US intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian interference effort was aimed in part to get Donald Trump elected, a person familiar with the matter said.

Two days ago, Barr told Hugh Hewitt that indictments aren’t “imminent,” but that there isn’t really any timeline on such actions either, including any consideration about the upcoming election. “You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election,” Barr said. “But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”

However, Barr said he’s “very troubled” by what Durham has already found. One has to wonder whether Scarpelli feels the same way. Say, neither Brennan or Clapper have signed onto a presidential campaign, have they? I wonder how long it will take them to start pitching Joe Biden.

 





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