Merrick Garland, the nominee for attorney general, stopped short during his Monday confirmation hearing of committing to allowing John Durham to continue his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
Garland also dodged questions about the release of a report from Durham’s investigation, saying that he will “have to talk with Mr. Durham and understand that nature of what he’s been doing, the nature of the report.”
“I really do have to have an opportunity to talk with him. I have not had that opportunity,” Garland told Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Grassley said that Garland was “not quite as explicit” on the Durham question as he had hoped. The Republican noted that William Barr, the former attorney general, committed to leaving Robert Mueller’s investigation in place during his confirmation hearing.
Garland, a judge on the federal appeals court, did give some indication that he may leave Durham in the special counsel role.
“I don’t have any reason to think that he should not remain in place,” said Garland, adding that he will have to speak to the prosecutor before making a final determination on his status.
On Oct. 19, 2020, Barr designated Durham a special counsel to continue his investigation into the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering activities related to the Trump campaign.
Durham, the now-former U.S. attorney for Connecticut, was picked to lead the investigation in April 2019.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden requested that nearly all U.S. attorneys resign from their positions. Biden requested Durham’s resignation, but allowed him to remain as a special counsel.
In his special counsel order last year, Barr said that Durham will have the authority to produce a report of his investigation that can be provided to the Justice Department and released publicly.
Garland also stopped short of saying that he will publish a Durham report.
“I am a great believer in transparency. I would, though, have to talk with Mr. Durham and understand that nature of what he’s been doing, the nature of the report,” he said.
“I’m very much committed to transparency and to explaining Justice Department decision making.”
Durham’s probe has largely tracked the findings of a Justice Department inspector general’s report which said that the FBI made at least 17 “significant” errors and omissions in applications for surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Durham has yielded just one conviction in his investigation, that of former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 19 to altering an email about Page’s work as a source for the CIA.
Garland also avoided discussing the ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden, saying that Justice Department policy prohibits him from weighing in on open cases.
He said that he has not discussed the investigation with the president.
Hunter Biden revealed on Dec. 9 that he had been notified by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware that he was under investigation over his “tax affairs.”
Prosecutors have also investigated Biden’s foreign business dealings and subpoenaed him for records related to multiple companies, including Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company where the younger Biden served as a director.
President Biden has said that he believes his son did nothing wrong, but he has pledged not to interfere in the probe.