The New York Times reports that the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia inquiry has now become a criminal investigation. This investigation is taking place under the US attorney for Connecticut, John Durham, and as the Times notes: ‘The move also creates an unusual situation in which the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into itself.’ The second issue of The Spectator’s US print edition — just out — moves this story on significantly. A source ‘close to the Justice Department’ tells the magazine that not only is it now a criminal investigation – but that the former CIA director, John Brennan, is in Durham’s crosshairs.

This is not entirely surprising, following as it does the unprecedented removal by President Trump of Brennan’s Top Secret security clearances. There is, of course, a huge difference between a prosecutor looking at whether there should, possibly, be charges, and actually bringing charges. But what is it that exactly that Brennan is supposed to have done? They think they have an idea over at our namesake, the American Spectator (we share no more than the name). Last year they published an extraordinary story accusing Brennan of ‘recklessness’ and a ‘range of his abuses — from leaks to perjury to the outsourcing of spying on Trump to foreigners under the guise of “intelligence-sharing.”’

The most interesting claim of all was that Brennan helped British intelligence to spy on Trump Tower by giving them a listening post on the 12th floor of a building in Crystal City, Va., and one in San Antonio, Texas. The source for the story was a ‘member of the intelligence community’ who said he had been approached by FBI investigators ‘inquiring about Brennan’s improprieties at the CIA’. The story about listening posts in Virginia and Texas was never confirmed, or even picked up by other publications. But it is at least consistent with what the ‘source close to the Justice Department’ was telling Cockburn’s colleagues at The Spectator’s US edition: that Brennan was being looked at for (allegedly) running an illegal — because domestic — operation to spy on the Trump campaign.

It still seems incredible that Brennan would give British spies license to run around the US spying on the Trump campaign. Nevertheless, Bob Tyrrell, the American Spectator’s long-serving editor, tells Cockburn he has full confidence in his source and in the story. ‘That’s the most damning piece of information I have because I know how good the sources have been. They’ve been good for me for 20 years.’ Perhaps President Trump and his supporters will return now to the American Spectator’s story. Cockburn, for one can’t wait to see what Durham, the prosecutor, has to say about all this in his report.

Got a tip for Cockburn? Email