‘Bull’ Durham: New Russiagate Prober Has Been Haunting The FBI For Months
By Eric Felton
John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Attorney General William Barr to investigate how Trump-Russia allegations emerged and spread within federal law enforcement, has already been looking into whether the FBI’s former top lawyer, James Baker, illegally leaked to reporters.
In fact, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut appears to have begun that work more than seven months ago, to judge from an underreported transcript of an October congressional interview with Baker. The Baker interview, at which Durham was not present, suggests that the prosecutor nevertheless has some people very worried.
Baker testified about the Trump-Russia affair on Oct. 3 before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In that session, the former FBI general counsel admitted that versions and variations of Christopher Steele’s dossier were being turned in to the bureau from the strangest of places. Baker said he had even heard about it from David Corn, Washington bureau chief of left-leaning Mother Jones, who wrote one of the first pieces on the dossier, in October 2016. But in one of those company-town connections that happen frequently in Washington, Baker said he was not just a contact or source for Corn; they were also old pals.
“Tell me about your relationship with David Corn,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.
“David is a friend of mine,” Baker said.
“Tell me about that. A close friend? Long-time friend?”
Jordan asked, “When did you first meet Mr. Corn?”
“I don’t specifically remember,” Baker testified. “A long time ago, though.”
“Years ago? “
“Years and years and years ago, yeah,” Baker allowed. “Our kids carpooled together. We carpooled with them when our kids were little.”
So one of the most divisive scandals in Washington history was facilitated by an unexpected friendship, an odd couple brought together by a shared interest in getting their kids dropped off at school.
The congressman from Ohio wanted to know more about the Baker-Corn relationship: “Prior to the election of – Presidential election of 2016,” Jordan asked, “how many times did you talk with David Corn in the weeks and months prior to election day?”
“I don’t remember,” Baker said, providing an answer that suggests it was more than a few.
“I don’t want him talking about conversations he’s had with reporters because I don’t know what the questions are and I don’t know what the answers are right now,” Levin said. “Given that there is an ongoing investigation of him for leaks which the Department has not closed, I’m not comfortable letting him answer questions.” Durham’s inquiry was serious enough to limit significantly what Baker was willing to talk about with lawmakers.
That Baker’s lawyer advised him not to talk about leaks is, of course, not proof that Baker leaked. “Baker’s lawyer was obviously being prudent and saying his client could not talk about anything related to any leaks of any kind,” David Corn tells RealClearInvestigations. Corn emphasizes that the “Durham inquiry did not involve Russia or the Steele memos; it had nothing to do with me or my limited interaction with Baker.”
And one former federal official who said he has been interviewed by Durham in connection with the Baker probe, Robert Litt, has written that the inquiry has nothing to do with the Steele dossier.
Contacted by RealClearInvestigations, Levin said, “Mr. Baker did not make an unauthorized disclosure of classified information and we are confident the investigation will conclude that.”
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