CIA 'rattled' by DOJ inquiry into Russia investigation origins

The Justice Department's review of the origins of the Russia investigation created "unease" at the CIA, according to a reporter who has followed its progress.

Uncertainty over what investigators are seeking and whether the inquiry has become a criminal investigation has prompted some CIA analysts who played a role in the intelligence assessment of Russia's activities during the 2016 campaign to hire lawyers.

"It's really not clear where he's going with this, but a lot of people are very rattled. Those CIA analysts I mentioned had to hire their own lawyers because no one’s even sure whether this is a criminal investigation or not. And if it is a criminal investigation, what is the allegation of wrongdoing? No one I talked to can answer that," Ken Dilanian said on Monday's episode of Morning Joe on MSNBC.

Over the weekend, the NBC News reporter had a report published about the expansion of the DOJ review, which is being overseen by Attorney General William Barr and run by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who has requested to speak with CIA analysts.

A similar report was published by the New York Times that notes President Trump granted Barr expansive powers for the inquiry, but the attorney general lacked subpoena power and could only request documents and interviews. The report also notes, however, that it is unclear whether the status of the review has changed.

"There’s a lot of unease at the CIA and disquiet about the notion of federal prosecutors going over and rooting in their files," Dilanian said. "Not because they think they did anything wrong, but because these are sources and methods — some of the most highly classified documents and secrets in our government. And they are kept to a small set of people for a reason. It’s a need-to-know situation. And they’re questioning what is the need for John Durham and his prosecutors to go over and talk to them about that in the absence of any allegation of wrongdoing?"

The CIA declined to comment due to the ongoing nature of the matter.

Barr and Durham have traveled around the world for the inquiry, and Durham's team has already asked witnesses about possible anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials. Democrats have dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing during the Trump-Russia investigation and are concerned the review may be an effort to discredit the work of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Durham has yet to speak with key figures from the Russia investigation, but former CIA Director John Brennan says the prosecutor wants to speak with him and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In an interview with MSNBC earlier this month, Brennan said Barr's participation in the review "really makes me think that the hand of politics and of Trump are now being used to massage what this ongoing review, quasi-investigation is. So I am concerned."

Republicans believe the impending declassification of Russia investigation documents will show an email exchange between Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey discussing the use of British ex-spy Christopher Steele's unverified dossier in the U.S. intelligence community's assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who claims to have seen the classified material, said this puts Brennan in jeopardy more than it does Comey.

Durham enlisted leaders in the U.S. intelligence community, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, to help with the review.

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My Thoughts:

And they should be rattled.