Prose­cu­tor probes re­sis­tance to shar­ing Rus­sia in­tel­li­gence

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Char­lie Sav­age, Adam Gold­man and Ju­lian E. Barnes

WASH­ING­TON — Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in­ves­ti­gat­ing the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence in 2016 ap­pear to be hunt­ing for a ba­sis to ac­cuse Obama-era in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials of hid­ing ev­i­dence or ma­nip­u­lat­ing anal­y­sis about Moscow’s covert op­er­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to people fa­mil­iar with as­pects of the in­quiry.

Since his elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has attacked the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that con­cluded that Rus­sia se­cretly tried to help him win, fos­ter­ing a nar­ra­tive that they sought to dele­git­imize his vic­tory. He has long pro­moted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by John Durham, the prose­cu­tor ex­am­in­ing their ac­tions, as a po­ten­tial path­way to prov­ing that a deep-state ca­bal con­spired against him.

Ques­tions asked by Durham, who was as­signed by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr to scru­ti­nize the early ac­tions of law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials strug­gling to un­der­stand the scope of Rus­sia’s scheme, sug­gest that Durham may have come to view with sus­pi­cion sev­eral clashes be­tween an­a­lysts at dif­fer­ent in­tel­li­gence agen­cies over who could see each other’s highly sen­si­tive se­crets, the people said.

Durham ap­pears to be pur­su­ing a the­ory that the CIA, un­der its for­mer di­rec­tor John Brennan, had a precon­ceived no­tion about Rus­sia or was try­ing to get to a par­tic­u­lar re­sult — and was ne­far­i­ously try­ing to keep other agen­cies from see­ing the full pic­ture, lest they in­ter­fere with that goal, the people said.

But of­fi­cials from the FBI and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency have told Durham and his in­ves­ti­ga­tors that such an in­ter­pre­ta­tion is wrong and based on a mis­un­der­stand­ing of how the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity func­tions, the people said. Na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials are typ­i­cally cautious about shar­ing their most del­i­cate in­for­ma­tion, like source iden­ti­ties, even with other agen­cies in­side the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

Durham’s ques­tion­ing is cer­tain to add to ac­cu­sa­tions that Trump is us­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment to go af­ter his per­ceived en­e­mies, like Brennan, who has been an out­spo­ken critic of the pres­i­dent. Barr, who is over­see­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has come un­der at­tack in re­cent days over se­nior

Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials’ in­ter­ven­tion to lighten a prison sentencing rec­om­men­da­tion by lower-level prose­cu­tors for Trump’s long­time friend Roger Stone.

A spokesman for Durham did not re­spond to phone and email in­quiries. The CIA and the NSA de­clined to comment. The people fa­mil­iar with as­pects of Durham’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive topic.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral, who re­leased the re­sults late last year of an in­quiry into as­pects of the FBI’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, found no doc­u­men­tary or tes­ti­mo­nial ev­i­dence se­nior law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials had en­gaged in a high-level con­spir­acy to sab­o­tage Trump, the nar­ra­tive the pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers con­tinue to em­brace.

Durham’s ques­tions shed ad­di­tional light on where he may be going.

In re­cent months, Durham and his team have ex­am­ined emails among a small group of in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts from mul­ti­ple agen­cies, in­clud­ing the CIA, FBI and NSA, who worked to­gether to as­sess the Rus­sian op­er­a­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have in­ter­viewed those an­a­lysts and their su­per­vi­sors about the mo­ti­va­tions be­hind sev­eral episodes in which some sought ac­cess to del­i­cate in­for­ma­tion from the other agen­cies and were told — ini­tially, at least — that they could not see it.

One fight, they said, con­cerned the iden­tity and place­ment of a CIA source in­side the Krem­lin. An­a­lysts at the NSA wanted to know more about him to weigh the cred­i­bil­ity of his in­for­ma­tion. The CIA was ini­tially re­luc­tant to share de­tails about the Rus­sian’s iden­tity but even­tu­ally re­lented.

U.S. AT­TOR­NEY’S OF­FICE FOR THE DISTRICT OF CON­NECTI­CUT 2018

John Durham, the U.S. at­tor­ney for Con­necti­cut, is leading a review of the ori­gins of the Rus­sia in­quiry.

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