Rep. Gaetz Accuses John Durham of ‘Protecting’ Key RussiaGate Figures, Being ‘Part of the Cover-Up’

U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tore into Special Counsel John Durham during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his “Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns” Wednesday, accusing him of being part of a cover-up to protect top FBI officials.

Throughout the day Durham faced an onslaught of withering questions from openly hostile Democrats, but only Gaetz’s ruthless line of questioning seemed to rattle the career prosecutor.

Gaetz blasted Durham for failing to indict several key figures in the Russia collusion hoax, including Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division from 2015 to 2018; and former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. The Florida congressman also expressed extreme frustration at Durham’s failure to locate the mysterious RussiaGate figure Joseph Mifsud, and his failure to investigate why Robert Mueller’s team wiped data from their government phones.

Earlier in the hearing, Durham had expressed disappointment that key FBI figures didn’t cooperate with his investigation more, prompting Gaetz to quip, “yeah. So we’re disappointed too. But the difference is, when regular folks do things that are wrong and unlawful, there’s typically greater effort to try to get those people before a grand jury to utilize criminal process where appropriate, not not for other purposes. And it’s just like, oh, well, Bill Priestap, the guy who might have set this whole op in motion, he just didn’t want to talk to you about certain things.”

The congressman continued: “And you were real accommodating to that. And then Mifsud, the person who juices Papadopoulos to create this predicate that you find improper, you guys. I mean, did you ever know who his lawyer was? Mifsud’s Lawyer?”

Mifsud, the Maltese professor who told then-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails, has ties to U.S., British, and Italian intelligence services. In September of 2019, Durham and then-Attorney General William Barr traveled to Italy to explore the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence operation directed at the Trump campaign in 2016.

Earlier that year, Papadopoulos had accused senior Australian diplomat Alexander Downer of being a Western asset who was sent to London to make contact with him. Papadopoulos said he was also targeted in London and Rome by FBI (and possibly CIA) informants, Stefan Halper, Azra Turk, Joseph Mifsud, and Downer.

Durham told Gaetz he talked to Mifsud’s lawyer in Europe as part of the effort to locate the professor, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Gaetz was not impressed. “Now you’re you’re sitting here in front of the Judiciary saying you could find the guy’s lawyer, but you couldn’t effectuate the service of a subpoena because you couldn’t find him? You know how silly that sounds?” the Republican scoffed.

Durham told the congressman that he didn’t have the authority to serve a subpoena overseas and there were other challenges, as well.

“The lawyer didn’t know where Mifsud was, he was in communication with him, but he claimed not to know where he was. And we were trying to arrange an opportunity to talk to Mifsud,” he said.

“Did you take possession of two Blackberry phones from Mifsud in any way?” asked Gaetz.

Durham acknowledged that “there were phones that were provided to us by his lawyer.”

“So you can find the phone but not the guy!” Gaetz exclaimed.

“Do you see how silly this looks? You found the lawyer, you found the phones, but the actual dude who got ordered by Western intelligence to go start this thing you couldn’t find?” the congressman continued. “It’s it’s kind of laughable, it seems like more than disappointment. It seems like you weren’t really trying to expose the true core of the corruption that you were trying, to you were trying to go at it in another way.”

Durham responded to Gaetz defensively, saying “as we said in the report, and as I said in my opening remarks, we pursued the facts as best we could.”

Gaetz moved on to another glaring issue that seemed to have been neglected by the Special Counsel.

“How about this fact, Mr. Durham—the entire Mueller team does a hard reset on their Apple phone in synchronization to wipe away evidence. Did you investigate that?” he demanded.

Many of the deletions allegedly occurred after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered anti-Trump texts on then-FBI agent Peter Strzok’s government-issued phone, and after Horowitz began reviewing the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

Durham answered weakly that he had “read that.”

“Why didn’t—Did you investigate it?” Gaetz asked.  “Who gave the order on the Mueller team to wipe the phones?”

Durham told the congressman that the phone issue “was not something that we were asked to look at. And we didn’t know.”

“That’s not true, Mr. Durham. That is not true, because I’m holding the document that authorizes your activity and it specifically says the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It’s imperative. Mr. Chairman, I seek unanimous consent to enter into the record the order that says that you’re supposed to investigate these things,” Gaetz responded, before moving on to another key RussiaGate figure. “How about Azra Turk? Azra Turk. What’s Azra Turk’s real name? Do you know that?” he asked.

Turk was associated with FBI Confidential Human Source Cambridge Professor Stefan Halper, who had cozied up to both Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos in 2016 to pump them for information. Halper introduced the attractive FBI asset to Papadopoulos, claiming she was his research assistant.

Durham told Gaetz that he would not “be disclosing the names of FBI personnel that are otherwise unavailable.”

“So the FBI sent somebody to go honeypot George Papadopoulos,” Gaetz shot back. “Who gave the order to do that?”

Durham insisted that he wasn’t charged with investigating issues like potential FBI entrapment. “I think that’s beyond the scope of what’s in the reports,” he said.

“Literally, it’s the scope of what you’re charging order is!” Gaetz exclaimed. He added that Congress wanted to find out who authorized the entire op, and accused Durham of being part of the coverup.

“Who put it in motion? We get after it was put in motion, the FBI did a bunch of wrong and corrupt things. Totally understand. We’re trying to deal with that. But, when you are part of the cover-up, Mr. Durham, then it makes our job harder,” Gaetz said.

Bristling, Durham responded: “Yeah, well, if that’s your thought, I mean, there’s no way of dissuading you from that I can tell you that it’s offensive, and that the people who worked on this investigation have spent their lives trying to protect people in this country and to pursue within the law. What it is we are authorized to do.”

Gaetz fired back:  “You tried two cases, lost both of them and then the one plead, guilty plea, you got Clinesmith. Clinesmith is back to practicing law in Washington, DC, today!”

“That’s beyond my control,” Durham replied.

“Right, but the the fact that you allowed that play to occur, right? And then the punishment was insufficient. The fact that you didn’t you didn’t charge Andrew McCabe,” Gaetz fumed. “You didn’t investigate Mifsud or the Mueller probe even though as we sit here today in black letter that was your charge?”

The congressman compared the Special Counsel’s Office with the Washington Generals.

“They’re the team that basically gets paid to show up and lose,” Gaetz quipped, before noting that “it’s not what’s in your report that’s telling. It’s the omission.”

The congressman lamented Durham let a lot of people down by allowing the instigators of the Russia hoax to skate.

“It’s the lack of work you did and for the people like the chairman [Rep. Jordan] who put trust in you, I think you let them down. I think you let the country down. And you are one of the barriers to the true accountability that we need,” he said.

“Yeah. Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever investigated a crime,” Durham responded dejectedly.

“I don’t know if you have. You didn’t investigate these Mr. Durham,” Gaetz charged.

Durham tried one last time to explain his investigation’s lack of prosecutions.

“I don’t know sir, if you’ve ever had an occasion to try to investigate crimes under the rules and regulations and under the Constitution that we’re bound by,” he said. “We can gather evidence in particularly lawful ways. Can’t charge people because we might think we can charge people.”

Unmoved, Gaetz accused the Special Counsel of “protecting” the former government actors behind hoax.

“It’s not that you didn’t just charge,” he replied. “You didn’t investigate. You didn’t investigate the Mueller team, analyzing their phones and tell us who gave the orders because you’re protecting those people.”

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About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

Photo: Former Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2023. Durham met with the House Select Intelligence Committee on June 20, 2023, to discuss his findings in the origins of the FBI's investigation of former US President Donald Trump, and possible Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. (Photo by Stefani REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)