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Who is John Durham? Prosecutor tapped for Russia probe inquiry known as ‘aggressive, tireless and fair’

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Who is John Durham? Prosecutor tapped for Russia probe inquiry known as 'aggressive, tireless and fair'

U.S. Attorney John Durham, the longtime lawman tapped to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, is no stranger to high-stakes assignments that might not make him popular in federal law enforcement circles.

But his reputation as a hard-charging and apolitical prosecutor is what colleagues say has made him the go-to investigator for highly sensitive jobs. And looking into alleged misconduct within the FBI and other government agencies — surrounding the most politically explosive investigation since at least the Clinton era — could be his toughest assignment yet.

Those who know him describe him as up to the task.

“He is aggressive, tireless and fair,” former U.S. attorney for Connecticut Deirdre Daly told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “He has been tapped by the Justice Department under previous Democratic and Republican administrations to conduct sensitive and significant investigations, so he has done this before for both sides of the aisle, so to speak.”

‘What’s critically important here is that he is independent and apolitical.’

— Deirdre Daly, former U.S. attorney for Connecticut

Durham served as counsel to Daly when she was U.S. attorney and deputy U.S. attorney. Durham now holds the U.S. attorney position in Connecticut, but his profile rose this week after it emerged that Attorney General Bill Barr had assigned him to lead the investigation into “all intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, and any misconduct during the early stages of the FBI’s original Russia probe.

US ATTORNEY JOHN DURHAM HAS BEEN REVIEWING ORIGINS OF RUSSIA PROBE ‘FOR WEEKS’: SOURCE

Durham, 68, was appointed by President Trump as U.S. attorney for Connecticut in 2018. But prior to being confirmed to that post, he had been tasked multiple times with investigating alleged misconduct by national security and law enforcement officials. Durham has conducted these sensitive investigations under administrations of both political parties.

“What’s critically important here is that he is independent and apolitical,” Daly said.

One of Durham’s highest-profile cases was in 1999, when former Attorney General Janet Reno, during former President Bill Clinton’s administration, asked him to probe the FBI’s handling of Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger. During that case, Durham helped to convict retired FBI agent John Connolly Jr., who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on racketeering charges related to his relationship with Bulger.

Next, in 2008, during former President George W. Bush’s administration, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey assigned Durham to investigate the CIA’s alleged destruction of videotapes in 2005, which showed the torture of terrorism suspects. By 2009, under the Obama administration, then-Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham’s task to probe whether the CIA broke any laws in its handling of detainees in custody. Durham ultimately did not recommend charges.

Later, Holder tapped Durham to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into whether it was legal for the CIA to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques.

“He has tremendous experience as both an investigator and a prosecutor,” Daly said. “He is also extremely familiar with the federal criminal justice system’s procedures, policies and practices.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. appointed John Durham to investigate alleged abuses at the CIA. 

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. appointed John Durham to investigate alleged abuses at the CIA. 
(AP)

Durham also led investigations into former Republican Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who was imprisoned twice for not paying taxes and for accepting improper gifts from individuals conducting business with the state.

BARR ASSIGNS US ATTORNEY IN CONNECTICUT TO LOOK INTO GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE INVOLVING TRUMP CAMPAIGN: SOURCE

Others who know Durham and his work described him as a “hard-charging, bulldog” prosecutor.

According to sources familiar with the latest investigation, Durham has been working on his review of the Russia probe “for weeks.” He is expected to focus on the period before Nov. 7, 2016—including the use of FBI informants as well as alleged improper issuance of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. Durham was asked to help Barr “ensure that intelligence collection activities by the U.S. Government related to the Trump 2016 Presidential Campaign were lawful and appropriate.”

A source also told Fox News that Barr is working “collaboratively” on Durham’s investigation with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Durham is also working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is currently reviewing allegations of FISA abuses and the role of FBI informants during the early stages of the Russia investigation.

Barr first announced his review of the “conduct” at the FBI during the original Russia investigation last month.

“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted in the summer of 2016,” Barr testified on April 9.

That same day, Fox News learned Barr had assembled a “team” to investigate the origins of the investigation. It is unclear if Durham was part of the original team assembled by Barr last month.

The FBI’s July 2016 counterintelligence investigation was opened by former senior agent Peter Strzok. The FBI, at the time, was led by former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe—both fired during the Trump administration.

It has been widely reported that in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 election, the FBI used informants or other investigators to make contact with Trump campaign officials. That issue is part of Durham’s probe, as well as Horowitz’s, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. At this stage, Durham reportedly does not have subpoena power in connection with this probe.

Barr’s appointment of Durham comes after he testified last month that he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016, and “the question is whether it was adequately predicated.”

But FBI Director Chris Wray, during a separate congressional hearing, broke with Barr’s assessment.

“That’s not the term I would use,” Wray told lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked if FBI agents engage in “spying” when they follow FBI policies and procedures.

“Lots of people have different colloquial phrases,” he continued. “I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes, and to me the key question is making sure that it’s done by the book, consistent with our lawful authorities.”

Trump ally and unofficial legal adviser, former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova, told Fox News that Barr made a “perfect pick” in appointing Durham.

“He is a superb career prosecutor who has accomplished remarkable things in highly-complex, sensitive cases, which is what this entire scandal is about,” diGenova, who has called for an investigation into the investigators for months, said Wednesday. “Barr has also proven his judgment is excellent, and more importantly, that he is serious by choosing Durham—serious about getting to the bottom of this national disgrace.”

When asked whether diGenova and others in the president’s camp would accept the outcome of Durham’s probe no matter how it resolves, he said yes.

He added: “If there are crimes, he will find them. And whatever he does, I certainly am willing to accept.”

 Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

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Trump, in Japan, meets Emperor Naruhito ahead of news conference with Abe

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Trump, in Japan, meets Emperor Naruhito ahead of news conference with Abe

President Trump on Monday became the first world leader to meet Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, ahead of a much-anticipated news conference where the president is expected to talk about topics ranging from trade to North Korea.

The president has been celebrating the busy trip to Japan, where he’s said he’s been making headway on a trade deal, in addition to taking in the culture.

TRUMP CELEBRATES ‘PROGRESS’ IN TRADE NEGOTIATIONS DURING EVENTFUL JAPAN VISIT

The president and first lady Melania Trump kicked off Monday’s formal visit with the new emperor and Empress Masako with handshakes and greetings at Japan’s Imperial Palace.

Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, opening what has been called the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.”

Trump then went to Tokyo’s official state guest house to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They will later participate in the joint news conference at Akasaka Palace.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, escorted by Japan's Emperor Naruhito, front right, and Empress Masako, fourth left, during the welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, escorted by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, front right, and Empress Masako, fourth left, during the welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
(Issei Kato/Pool Photo via AP)

It’s the second lengthy day of meeting for Trump and Abe, but the president’s 4-day trip has not been all business, he and Abe enjoyed a round of golf on Sunday, took in a sumo match and had a couples dinner with their wives.

“We were able to exchange our views frankly in a cozy atmosphere. It was wonderful,” Abe said.

TRUMP, JAPAN’S PM BOND ON GOLF COURSE DURING STATE VISIT

The president said Saturday that trade negotiations with the Japanese prime minister have been moving forward, specifically regarding beef and agriculture.

“Great progress being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Agriculture and beef heavily in play. Much will wait until after their July elections where I anticipate big numbers!”

In a speech before businessmen at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, Trump claimed that Japan has enjoyed a trade advantage, but that the two countries were working on a bilateral trade deal.

“I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years but that’s OK,” Trump said. “Maybe that’s why you like me so much.” He added that “we’ll get it a little bit more fair.” He suggested that removing barriers to U.S. exports to help achieve this goal.

In addition to trade, Trump told the media that he and Abe also covered subjects including the military.

President Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito at Monday's ceremony. 

President Trump and Japan’s Emperor Naruhito at Monday’s ceremony. 
(Issei Kato/Pool Photo via AP)

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The president is set to attend a state banquet in his honor Monday evening, and participate in a Memorial Day event Tuesday before heading back to the U.S.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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NYU political science professor blasted for tweeting fake Trump quote, calling it ‘plausible’

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NYU political science professor blasted for tweeting fake Trump quote, calling it 'plausible'

Foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and a New York University political science professor, got in big trouble Sunday for tweeting a fake quote attributed to President Trump, then claiming it was “plausible” the president would say it.

“Kim Jong Un is smarter and would make a better President than Sleepy Joe Biden,” Bremmer wrote in the now-deleted tweet, attributing it to Trump.

North Korea has labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being” after the U.S. presidential hopeful recently called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a tyrant during a recent speech.

Foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and a New York University political science professor, got in trouble for a tweet of a fake quote attributed to President Trump. (Mediaite)

Foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and a New York University political science professor, got in trouble for a tweet of a fake quote attributed to President Trump. (Mediaite)

Biden during a campaign launch in Philadelphia on Saturday accused Trump of cozying up to “dictators and tyrants” like Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bremmer was called out on Twitter by many notables, who questioned his reasoning.

Canadian journalist Daniel Dale tweeted: “This quote is fabricated. As often, no idea what Bremmer is doing.”

10 DEADLIEST U.S. TORNADOES ON RECORD

Geopolitics analyst Ankit Panda tweeted: “This is not a real Trump quote … If you’re basing your views of reality based on Ian Bremmer’s tweets in 2019, please reconsider.”

Bremmer later reportedly responded in a now-deleted tweet: “This is objectively a completely ludicrous quote. And yet kinda plausible. Especially on twitter, where people automatically support whatever political position they have. That’s the point.”

Neither Bremmer nor NYU returned Fox News’ requests for comment.

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Bremmer was most recently in the news earlier this month for claiming no U.S. administration since the collapse of the communism in Eastern Europe has ever been so directly hostile to Russian interests than the Trump administration.

He went to Twitter to dispel the accusation often voiced by Democrats who’ve said the current administration has been soft on Russian efforts to spread its influence around the globe.

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VP Pence tells West Point grads it’s a ‘virtual certainty’ they will fight on a battlefield for America

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VP Pence tells West Point grads it's a 'virtual certainty' they will fight on a battlefield for America

Vice President Pence told West Point’s most diverse graduating class in history that they will go to war for America at some point in their life.

Pence addressed the U.S. Military Academy’s 2019 graduating class of more than 980 cadets at the institution’s 221st commencement on Saturday morning in West Point, N.Y.

“It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,” the vice president told the graduates. “You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.”

“Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”

PENCE MET WITH ‘I LIKE MIKE’ STUDENTS AT TAYLOR UNIVERSITY

“And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win,” he said. “The American people expect nothing less.“

Vice President Mike Pence salutes a graduating cadet before handing a diploma to her during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

Vice President Mike Pence salutes a graduating cadet before handing a diploma to her during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

The graduating class, their families and other attendees also heard Pence say, “as you accept the mantle of leadership I promise you, your commander in chief will always have your back. President Donald Trump is the best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have.”

The cadets leave West Point as U.S. Army second lieutenants.

During his remarks, Pence noted that Trump has proposed a $750 billion defense budget for 2020 and said the United States “is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.”

VIRTUES OF WEST POINT THAT BUILD LEADERS AND PRODUCE SUCCESS’ BY PAT WILLIAMS

The 2019 cadets included 223 women, 34 of whom are black. Both totals are all-time highs since the first female cadets graduated in 1980. The academy graduated its 5,000th woman Saturday.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

The 110 African Americans who graduated were double the number from 2013. There were also 88 Hispanics who graduated.

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West Point held other events leading up to the commencement, including a wreath-laying on Tuesday featuring the academy’s oldest living graduate, retired Col. Doniphan Carter, class of 1944 and a graduation parade on Friday, the Westchester Journal News reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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