Nora Dannehy: Top Aide in Russia Probe Resigns Amid Worries of AG Bill Barr’s Influence

Nora Dannehy

Getty/Mark Wilson Acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy

Nora Dannehy is a former federal prosecutor and top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who has been probing the Russia investigation and surveillance used on members of President Donald Trump‘s campaign in 2016. She resigned abruptly from the Department of Justice on Friday, September 11, the Hartford Courant reported.

Attorney General Bill Barr chose Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, to review the origins of the probe into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. Trump, his administration and conservative media figures have long accused the Obama administration, as well as numerous federal law enforcement figures, of breaking the law and “spying on” Trump’s campaign. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, this week suggested indictments could be coming out of the secretive probe.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Dannehy Was in the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office Between 1991 & 2010; She Returned in March 2019 as a Top Aide to Durham

Dannehy joined the District of Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1991, serving as assistant U.S. attorney until 2008, according to the Department of Justice.

In 2008, she became acting U.S. attorney and served in that role until 2010, according to the DOJ. She was the first woman to hold the office in Connecticut.

She returned to the office in 2019 to serve as a top aide to Durham, who has been serving as U.S. attorney since November 2017. Durham had high praise for Dannehy last year.

“Nora Dannehy has superior legal skills and an unmatched reputation for integrity,” Durham said. “During her long tenure in the Justice Department, she led some of the most sensitive investigations ever undertaken by our office. I am thrilled that Nora has chosen to return to public service and look forward to working with her and relying on her counsel and decades of legal experience to further the cause of justice for the people of Connecticut and our nation.”


2. Dannehy Joined Durham’s Probe into the Russia Investigation That President Trump Calls a ‘Witch Hunt’

GettyWASHINGTON, DC – MAY 23: Former Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill, May 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Brennan is discussing the extent of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Barr assigned Durham in May 2019 to head up a probe into the origins of the Russian interference investigation that resulted in dozens of high-profile indictments, and which has been continuously slammed as a “witch hunt” by Trump, Lawfare Blog reported.

Durham’s team is stacked with justice department and law enforcement veterans, including former FBI agents and Anthony Scarpelli, a Washington State federal prosecutor. Dannehy joined the team as well sometime after her return to the justice department, the New York Times reported.

Former CIA Director John Brennan was interviewed for eight hours as part of the probe in August, CBS reported. A spokesperson for Brennan told the outlet that Brennan was told he was not the target of a criminal investigation, but was interviewed “as a witness to events that are under review.”


3. Dannehy Sent a Brief Resignation Letter to Colleagues on Thursday, Without Giving a Reason for Leaving, But Told Colleagues She Was Concerned About Barr’s Influence

According to the Courant’s reporting, Dannehy sent a brief emailed letter of resignation on Thursday evening, September 10.

Her email did not make any mention of political pressure, the Courant reported.

Colleagues told the paper, however, that she was not a fan of Trump and that her decision to leave had been weeks coming, after feeling pressure from Barr to get the report done in time for the November election.

A spokesman for the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed to Heavy that Dannehy had resigned, but wouldn’t comment any further.

Barr, who is widely viewed as an ally to the president, has been subject to much speculation that he is pushing for an outcome favorable to the president’s re-election.


4. Trump on August 13 Appeared to Publicly Put Pressure on Barr & Durham For a Favorable Outcome in the Probe

Donald Trump

GettyPresident Donald Trump speaks during a news conference the White House on September 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump took questions on a variety of topics, including a recent magazine article in The Atlantic accusing him of making disparaging remarks about American soldiers.

In an August 13 interview with Maria Bartiromo, of Fox News, Trump appeared to suggest that Durham and Barr’s political futures could hinge on what comes out of the Russia probe.

Trump said he hoped Durham was “doing a job” and, “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy. We’ll see what happens.”

Trump has repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama and members of law enforcement that investigated his 2016 campaign of treason and other crimes.

“They spied on my campaign, which is treason,” he told Bartiromo. “They spied, both before and after I won, using the intelligence apparatus of the United States to take down a president, a legally elected president, a duly elected president of the United States. It is the single biggest political crime in the history of our country.”


5. Speculation About Dannehy’s Resignation Raged Immediately on Twitter; Former Department of Defense Special Counsel Ryan Goodman Said it ‘Looks Like Profound Corruption’

Law experts and commentators immediately blasted the news of Dannehy’s resignation as evidence of corruption on Friday.

“Canary in coal mine dead,” said Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the Department of Defense. “Looks like profound corruption in Barr-Durham probe attempted October surprise.”

Law professor Lawrence Tribe also alleged that the news pointed to Trump and Barr trying to force Durham’s hand into an October surprise — indictments or news about the original Russia probe that could increase Trump’s re-election chances in November.

“The sudden resignation of John Durham’s top deputy, Nora Dannehy, is a strong sign that Bill Barr has turned Durham into a tool of the corrupt Trump project of smearing Biden and clearing Trump in October,” Tribe said. “These crooks aren’t even subtle.”

Barr also told the House Judiciary Committee in July that he did not intend to follow the Justice Department’s unwritten “60 day rule,” Politico reported. The so-called “60-day rule” encourages the justice department not to announce new cases or information that could have an influence on an election within 60 days of that election.

A spokesman at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut would not comment beyond Dannehy’s resignation.

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