In the Records: A Trump Political Appointee’s Involvement in the Durham Investigation

New Justice Department records obtained by American Oversight shed light on the high level of involvement that Seth DuCharme, a Trump political appointee and top adviser to former Attorney General William Barr, appeared to have had in Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation of the Russia inquiry, once again calling attention to the investigation’s partisan and political roots.

The records include recently unredacted versions of documents, the content of which had been shielded from release under a Freedom of Information Act exemption covering information related to ongoing law enforcement proceedings. Following news in May of the Justice Department’s closure of the Durham investigation, many of those redactions were lifted, revealing details that suggest DuCharme was closely involved in certain hiring and personnel decisions.

For instance, under one redaction was an email from April 2019 in which DuCharme wrote to Durham: “We have the means to quickly onboard retired agents as contractors to assist you. As soon as we decide who will fill those roles, I will work with our team to get them onboard quickly. I will also see who I know who may be available, to add to your list.”

In another instance, the Justice Department originally redacted only the word “Chicago” from an email DuCharme sent Durham in August 2019 about his progress conducting “preliminary interviews” and offering “preliminary recommendations” for hiring for the probe. Another email thread from September 2019 revealed that Durham had told DuCharme he would be at the “FBI for an hour or so,” a detail that was also previously redacted by the Justice Department.

Email correspondence American Oversight obtained in 2020 shows that Barr had selected DuCharme to support and assist Durham’s work in the spring of 2019. Barr later appointed DuCharme acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in July 2020, filling the seat Richard Donoghue left open when he stepped down to serve as Trump’s acting deputy attorney general earlier that same month.

“From its onset, this investigation was a politicized undertaking in the service of former President Trump,” American Oversight’s Executive Director Heather Sawyer said at the time of the release of Durham’s report in May. “We look forward to the release of more public records that could shed further light on Attorney General Barr and Durham’s four-year, multimillion-dollar effort to appease the former president.”