Nora Dannehy, a top prosecutor working for US Attorney John Durham on the probe of the Russia investigation for Attorney General William Barr, has resigned, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Connecticut said.
The Hartford Courant, which first reported Dannehy’s departure, cited colleagues who told the newspaper that Dannehy was stepping down in part due to concerns of political pressure to deliver a report before the presidential election.
CNN has not confirmed the reason for her decision, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed she was working on the Russia probe.
Dannehy rejoined the office in March 2019. She had previously worked for nearly two decades for the office before leaving to become deputy attorney general for the state of Connecticut.
She returned to the US Attorney’s Office in Hartford to work with Durham and the two have long been close, according to a former Justice Department colleague. Dannehy has a by-the-book and methodical reputation that dates back to her previous tenure in the office, and she isn’t one to make sudden decisions, the former colleague says.
“She’s long had a very close working relationship with John Durham,” a lawyer who has dealt with Dannehy for decades told CNN. “It would be extraordinary for her to have left her longtime colleague, unless there was a very good reason in her mind to do it.”
One lawyer familiar with Dannehy’s work for Durham said her departure was puzzling. She had appeared committed to the investigation and “just worked like a dog on this.”
The decision was all the more surprising given her long history of working alongside Durham.
“She is a consummate professional and has historically operated at the highest ethical standards,” the lawyer added.
Status of Durham probe
Inside the Justice Department, some officials familiar have grown concerned that Barr’s public comments on Durham’s work, as well as President Donald Trump’s repeated claims of what he expects to come from the probe, are damaging to the legitimacy of Durham’s investigation and to the department.
Trump hopes that Durham will discredit the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation into his 2016 campaign, and allies, including Barr, have questioned whether the Russians showed a preference for Trump in 2016. But the US intelligence assessment released last month threatens to undercut those goals, making clear the Russians are doubling down on their pro-Trump efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.
While Durham has brought charges against former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for falsifying an email used to prepare a surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, there’s skepticism among Justice officials that Durham will find sufficient evidence to bring additional charges against any other major figures involved.
More likely, some officials believe, is a harshly critical report on the conduct and decisions of top intelligence and law enforcement officials who oversaw the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russians.
The timing of such a report’s release is another potential source of contention, especially in the last 60 days of the 2020 campaign.
Barr told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this week that he didn’t believe the Durham probe would impact the election.
“I do not think anything that we do in the Durham investigation … is going to be affecting the election,” Barr added.
When asked whether charges in the Durham investigation would come 60 days before the election, Barr replied, “Well, the 60 days is not part of the rule. But I said that I don’t think anything we’re going to do would violate our policy.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement Friday that Dannehy’s “resignation waves a huge red flag about political pressure by Attorney General Barr.”
“She would not have resigned without good reason,” Blumenthal added. “John Durham and Bill Barr should be on notice: issuing a report before the election would violate policies and norms well-established and long-standing at the Department of Justice.”
Durham has gathered information from a series of high-profile officials in the probe. Former CIA Director John Brennan sat for an eight-hour interview late last month for the investigation, Brennan’s spokesman Nick Shapiro said on Twitter.
Shapiro added that the interview occurred at CIA headquarters and Durham had told Brennan he is a witness and isn’t a target of the probe, meaning they are not pursuing charges alleging wrongdoing by Brennan. Brennan told Durham that Barr has politicized Durham’s investigation, and the former CIA chief asked why the agency’s intelligence work on Russian election interference in 2016 is being scrutinized when it’s been validated by the Senate Intelligence Committee and former special counsel Robert Mueller.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Sara Murray contributed to this report.