Two prominent Republican senators said Thursday that President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general must commit, in order to win their support for Senate confirmation, to allowing U.S. Attorney John Durham to remain as special counsel in his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN that Biden’s choice must “absolutely” allow Durham’s investigation to continue unabated.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is likely to take over as the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, told the network that Durham should get “the same respect” bestowed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Grassley supported legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation, which ultimately found no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin. (RELATED: Durham Seeks Jail Time For Ex-FBI Lawyer Who Altered Email About Carter Page)
“Everybody came to me when I was chairman of the committee and wanted to make sure that I would take action to make sure that Trump didn’t fire Mueller,” Grassley told CNN.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so I want to make sure that Durham gets the same respect.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr revealed that he designated Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, as special counsel to continue his investigation into FBI, CIA and other agencies’ Trump-related intelligence-gathering activities.
Barr’s order, which he signed on Oct. 19, requires Durham to produce a confidential report of his investigation and provide a copy that can be released to the public.
Barr tapped Durham on May 13, 2019 to review the agencies’ activities in 2016. The investigation has largely centered on the findings of a Justice Department inspector general’s report, which said that the FBI provided misleading information to a federal surveillance court in order to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The FBI relied heavily on the infamous Steele dossier in applications for the spy warrants.
Some legal analysts have said that Durham does not meet the requirement under the special counsel statutes because he currently works in government. The regulations require that a special counsel come from outside the government.
Biden has not weighed in on the Durham investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff suggested this week that Biden’s attorney general could strip Durham of the special counsel designation.
Biden is reportedly considering nominating former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates or outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones to serve as DOJ chief.
Yates is likely to face GOP resistance because of her approval of a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 9 that she would not have signed the warrant application had she known about a series of FBI errors that were laid out in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Dec. 9, 2019.
Some Republicans are likely to oppose Yates over her resignation just days into Trump’s term over his ban on travel from majority-Muslim countries.
Jeh Johnson, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, is also considered a candidate for the attorney general position.
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