Special Counsel John Durham Briefs Intelligence Committee Behind Closed Doors

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Special counsel John Durham testified before the House Intelligence Committee for more than two hours Tuesday afternoon in a closed door hearing about his review of the FBI’s Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

Appointed by Attorney General Bill Barr in 2019 to review special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Durham released his final report on May 12. He found that the FBI initiated the investigation in a “noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaign.” Durham also found that the Bureau “had no information in its holdings indicating that at any time during the campaign anyone in the Trump campaign had been in contact with any Russian intelligence officials.”

During the hearing, Durham testified to lawmakers about possible reforms to the FBI’s investigative processes, according to committee chairman Mike Turner of Ohio and ranking member Jim Himes of Connecticut. In particular, lawmakers will explore reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FBI agents relied in part on the since-debunked Steele Dossier to obtain a wiretap warrant on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. They made “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in their application, Inspector General Michael Horowitz previously found.

“I don’t think anybody on our committee is completely satisfied with the reforms the FBI has undertaken,” Turner told reporters. “They’re certainly a great start, they are responding to some of the issues and problems found in the Durham report, and some of the issues that some members of Congress themselves had, but our goal in reforms to FISA will go beyond that and maybe even codify some of the ones that have been proposed.” (RELATED: ‘How Do We Make Certain This Doesn’t Happen Again?’: House Intel Chief Teases Upcoming John Durham Testimony)

“I think the committee, and this is pretty close to unanimous on the committee, because we appreciate the absolutely essential quality of FISA 702 to keeping us safe from fentanyl, from terrorism, from Iranian plots, I can go on, it must be reauthorized. I also think it is unanimous that it must be reauthorized with reforms. And at the core of those reforms, it really is, in my opinion, U.S. person queries,” Himes added. “There have been a lot of reforms that already have been made. So the minimalist position would be, ‘let’s just do that,’ and the maximalist position is probably, ‘don’t let the FBI do U.S. person queries or make them subject to a judicial warrant.”

Durham is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in an open hearing on Wednesday morning.