U.S. Justice Department officials intend to interview senior CIA officers as they review the Russia investigation, according to people briefed on the matter, indicating they are focused partly on the intelligence agencies’ most explosive conclusion about the 2016 election: that President Vladimir Putin of Russia intervened to benefit Donald Trump.
The interview plans are the latest sign the Justice Department will take a critical look at the CIA’s work on Russia’s election interference. Investigators want to talk with at least one senior counterintelligence official and a senior CIA analyst, the people said. Both officials were involved in the agency’s work on understanding the Russian campaign to sabotage the election in 2016.
While the Justice Department review is not a criminal inquiry, it has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the CIA, according to former officials. Senior agency officials have questioned why the CIA’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny. Attorney-General William Barr, who is overseeing the review, assigned the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct it.
The Justice Department has not submitted formal written requests to talk to the CIA officers, but law enforcement officials have told intelligence officials that Mr. Durham will seek the interviews, two of the people said. Communications officers for both the CIA and the Justice Department declined to comment.
CIA director Gina Haspel has told senior officials that her agency will co-operate – but will still work to protect critical pieces of intelligence whose disclosure could jeopardize sources, reveal collection methods or disclose information provided by allies, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Ms. Haspel will not block the interviews and has told the agency that talking with Mr. Durham need not jeopardize secrets and is consistent with co-operating with Mr. Barr’s inquiry.
Justice Department officials have said Mr. Durham’s review is not a criminal inquiry, but if he finds criminal wrongdoing he can pursue it. Stephen Boyd, an assistant attorney-general, called the review a “collaborative” effort with the intelligence agencies.