OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
One of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s top advisers is facing demands she recuse herself from a Justice Department probe regarding the origins of the investigation into alleged “collusion” between former President Donald Trump and Russia, especially after the investigation has also examined actions of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is her husband.
“Margaret Goodlander serves as counsel to Garland, who oversees Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation. Garland has oversight of Durham’s budget, the scope of the investigation, and the release of a report Durham is believed to be writing,” The Republic Brief reported.
“Sullivan, who married Goodlander in 2015, has been referenced in Durham’s indictment of a cybersecurity lawyer who worked for the Clinton campaign. While there is no indication that Durham is targeting Sullivan, the national security adviser could be a witness for the investigation given that he was a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign,” the report stated.
“Durham’s report could also reveal embarrassing details about Sullivan’s work on the campaign to dig up dirt on Donald Trump’s possible links to Russia,” it adds.
According to a Justice Department spokesman, Goodlander “has no role in the investigation.” However, the outlet reported that it is not clear if she has formally recused herself from it or if the probe by Durham is outside of her DoJ responsibilities.
The outlet cited Fox News, which reported that Goodlander’s role is to advise Garland on matters concerning antitrust and international issues.
Nevertheless, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been following this probe while conducting his own investigation over the years, and the watchdog organization Empower Oversight, believe that Goodlander ought to formally recuse herself from the Durham probe.
“The Justice Department’s standing guidance calls for employees to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, especially when it comes to ongoing criminal investigations,” said Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It’s in Garland’s best interest—and he’s obligated—to be transparent about whether his department is walling off officials who have a real or even perceived conflict, just as prior administrations have done,” Grassley told the Washington Free Beacon.
Jason Foster, founder and president of Empower Oversight, said that the public’s faith in Biden’s Justice Department means it is “critical that decisions about Special Counsel Durham’s investigation are insulated from the political biases and personal interests of senior DOJ officials.”
“It would be no imposition on [Goodlander] or AG Garland to simply recuse herself from providing any advice to him in relation to that investigation—and thus reassure the public that she will continue to have no role in the future,” Foster told the Free Beacon.
The Republic Brief explains:
As a Clinton adviser, Sullivan had contact with the campaign lawyers who commissioned the Steele dossier, the infamous British spy report that made false allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Sullivan is the Clinton adviser referenced in Durham’s indictment of cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann.
Sussmann, a former partner at the firm Perkins Coie, is accused of lying to an FBI lawyer about his reasons for investigating suspicious computer traffic between Trump’s real estate company and Alfa Bank, a Russian bank. Durham alleges that Sussmann said he did not have a client with interest in the information when he was in fact working for the Clinton campaign.
According to the indictment, Sussmann’s former Perkins Coie partner, Marc Elias, in September 2016 briefed Sullivan and others on the Clinton team about his firm’s efforts to investigate the Alfa Bank data. Sullivan days before the election issued a statement that cited the Alfa-Trump allegations as evidence of collusion.
It was unknown at the time that the Clinton campaign was investigating the Alfa Bank issue. The FBI later determined that there was no nefarious link between the bank and Trump.
Elias was the attorney who hired Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the Steele dossier. Durham indicted the primary source for the dossier, Igor Danchenko, on charges that Danchenko lied to the FBI about the identity of his sources. Dancheko allegedly lied by saying that a longtime Democratic operative, Charles Dolan, was not one of his sources.
It’s hard to know what to think about Durham’s investigation at this point. The Russian collusion narrative has been proven to be a hoax, and the statute of limitations has either come and gone or is rapidly approaching for some charges.
What would inspire more confidence in the American public going forward is speedy justice, not justice delayed or denied.