As Trump is impeached, the House GOP brings in a Trump-era special counsel who studied the Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Donald Trump faces a 37-count federal indictment and the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted, House Republicans are using the report of a special advocate to renew their argument that federal law enforcement is tainted with political bias.

John Durham, who recently completed his report on the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. It is a day after Durham met behind closed doors with members of the House Intelligence Committee.

While Durham produced just three prosecutions – with two acquittals – in a four-year investigation, its report pointed to FBI agents withholding key information from judges and argued the bureau ignored reasons for not investigate Trump’s campaign.

Republicans who control the House say they are still angry at the 2016 campaign investigation, known as the ‘Crossfire Hurricane’, and intend to push further curbs on the FBI in exchange for renewal surveillance powers known as Section 702 that US intelligence considers critical and expires at the end of this year. Many Democrats also want new rules on what access the FBI has to search foreign surveillance data for information on U.S. citizens and businesses.

GOP animosity toward the Justice Department was further fueled by Tuesday’s announcement that President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, will likely avoid jail time as part of a plea deal over allegations of taxes and guns. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, tweeted, in all caps, that it was a “double standard of justice.”

Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr to examine the origins of the investigation into links between Russia and Trump’s campaign in 2016.

He concluded that the FBI acted too quickly and without sufficient justification to launch a full investigation and said the bureau had been more cautious about allegations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information on his private mail server.

He also said the FBI cited the so-called Steele dossier in the United States’ primary supervisory court, even after investigators failed to substantiate “a single substantive allegation”. The Clinton campaign partially funded the creation of the dossier and agreed last year with the Democratic National Committee to pay a $113,000 fine for misreporting campaign research spending.

The Durham Report only resulted in one conviction – a guilty plea by a little-known FBI employee – and the only two other cases that were brought both ended in acquittals at trial.

And though Durham accused the FBI of confirmation bias, he did not allege that political bias or partisanship guided the FBI’s actions.

The bureau is also facing bipartisan criticism over how it handles intelligence gathered electronically under Section 702. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows spy agencies to collect foreign phone calls and emails for their investigations.

A recently declassified supervisory court opinion found that the FBI conducted thousands of unsubstantiated searches on Americans, including queries related to the January 6 insurrection and the 2020 protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Ahead of Durham’s meeting with the Intelligence Committee, Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, the committee’s chairman, alleged last week that the FBI had “gone off the rails” and damaged the credibility of the justice system.

“Rules and laws need to be changed so that these mechanisms can no longer be used in this way to really harm the American public,” he said.

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the panel, said after Tuesday’s committee meeting that Durham had not recommended any changes to the existing law, but had extensively discussed the issues raised in the report and the handling of the politically sensitive investigations.

“Our audience was not political. Nobody was looking to score points,” Himes said. “People asked questions that indicated their political affiliation, but that’s because they were doing their due diligence on things that concern them.”

FBI Director Chris Wray has acknowledged errors in the bureau’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation. In a statement Tuesday, the office said it had “already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time.”

The Durham Report “reinforces the importance of ensuring that the FBI continues to do its job with the thoroughness, objectivity, and professionalism that the American people rightly deserve and expect,” the statement said.

The House GOP push to highlight the Durham report comes as Trump — the frontrunner in the 2024 GOP primary — battles legal danger never before faced by a former president.

Trump is facing federal indictment accusing him of mishandling classified documents and indicted in New York over allegations he knew about silent money payments made to a porn actress during his 2016 campaign.

Most Republicans disparaged the New York indictment as tainted with politics, but they were divided on the Justice Department case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Turner was asked last week if he was alarmed by the federal indictment.

He replied, “The behavior that is described in the complaint, and the behavior that we are aware that President Biden has engaged in as a senator or vice president, is wrong and endangers the nation.

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