Former CIA Director John Brennan was interviewed for eight hours on Friday by U.S. Attorney John Durham as part of Durham’s ongoing review of the origins of the investigation launched into Russia’s 2016 election interference, according to a statement released by Brennan’s spokesperson.
During the interview, which took place at CIA headquarters, Brennan was informed by Durham that he was “not a subject or a target” of a criminal investigation, and was being questioned as a “witness to events that are under review,” Nick Shapiro, who previously served as Brennan’s senior adviser, said.
“Brennan welcomed the opportunity to answer Mr. Durham’s questions related to a wide range of intelligence-related activities undertaken by CIA before the November 2016 presidential election as well as the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) published in early January 2017,” Shapiro said. “Brennan provided details on the efforts made by the Intelligence Community to understand and disrupt the actions taken by Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, was tasked over a year ago by Attorney General Bill Barr to lead an investigation of the FBI’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. As part of his inquiry, Durham is also known to be examining the intelligence community’s analytic assessments of Moscow’s intentions, including those made public in the 2017 document laying out the conclusions of several U.S. agencies.
This has sparked concern among current and former intelligence officials who say the process by which intelligence analysts arrive at their judgments should not be subject to a law enforcement standard.
The 2017 ICA was reviewed in the course of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and was examined in detail by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which, on a bipartisan basis, found it to be a “sound intelligence product.”
Shapiro said Brennan “questioned why the analytic tradecraft and the findings of the ICA are being scrutinized” during Friday’s interview, though he otherwise praised Durham and his team for their professionalism.
Durham, who previously served on multiple occasions as a special investigator for the Justice Department, has conducted much of his review out of the public eye – though a December statement he released contradicting a finding by the Justice Department’s inspector general raised questions about his impartiality.
Democrats have since expressed alarm that Durham’s work could be used by Barr to undermine the intelligence community’s work and the FBI’s investigation, which President Trump continues to criticize and dismiss as a “witch hunt.”
Mr. Trump and Brennan, who led the CIA during the Obama administration from 2013 to 2017, have also engaged in a public and intensely personal feud. The president has accused Brennan of unlawfully surveilling his campaign and sought in 2018 to revoke his security clearance. Brennan has been a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, accusing him of corruption and abuse of office.
Durham’s review has to date resulted in one criminal charge. Earlier this week, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to falsifying a document used to obtain surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. In recent congressional testimony, Barr did not rule out releasing more of Durham’s findings before the November election.
In his statement, Shapiro said it was Brennan’s “fervent hope” that the results of Durham’s review would be “apolitical and not influence by personal or partisan agendas.”