Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) said Thursday that, in order to be confirmed, President-elect Joe Biden’s Attorney General nominee “absolutely” must commit to allowing special counsel John Durham to continue his probe into whether federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies violated the law while investigating the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
“It’s non-negotiable,” Cornyn, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN.
A source familiar with discussions inside Biden’s transition team reportedly told CNN that the Durham probe “won’t impact” Biden’s attorney general selection.
Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to his role as special counsel on October 19 in order to give him more job security under a potential Biden administration, but kept the appointment under wraps to avoid interfering in the 2020 election, documents released by the Justice Department on Tuesday show.
Barr told the Associated Press that Durham’s investigation has “narrowed considerably” since it began and now “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI.”
The attorney general’s order appointing Durham said only that the investigation focuses on potential crimes by federal officials or others who may have “violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns” or in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane and the Mueller investigations.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are interviewing candidates for attorney general and are not expected to announce a decision until at least next week, according to CNN, though the nomination is expected to come well before the holidays.
People under consideration for the job include former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, Senator Doug Jones (D., Ala.) who is finishing up his term after being defeated in last month’s election, as well as former Massachusetts governor and former Justice Department civil rights chief Deval Patrick. Other names include Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary under Obama, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House who also worked at the FBI and as a top national security prosecutor at Justice.
Biden must balance selecting an attorney general who can be confirmed by a Senate that may be controlled by Republicans, while top Democrats are pushing the president-elect to nominate a person of color to at least one of the top four Cabinet posts, which, in light of other earlier nominations, is likely to be the attorney general post.