‘I simply couldn't be part of it.’ CT’s Dannehy breaks silence on quitting Trump-Russia probe
A former federal prosecutor from Connecticut accused Donald Trump’s attorney general of political interference on Wednesday. It’s the first time Nora Dannehy has publicly explained why she abruptly quit an investigation into the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe.
“I simply couldn't be part of it, and I resigned,” she told state lawmakers.
Dannehy’s comments came during her confirmation hearing for the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Former Attorney General William Barr launched the probe into why the FBI started investigating Trump – and his ties to Russia – in 2015. Trump expected it to expose a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign.
Dannehy said Barr pressured her to release a misleading draft report – just two months before the 2020 election.
“I had never been asked to write a report about an investigation that was not yet complete,” she said. “I then saw a version of a draft report, the conclusions of which I strongly disagreed with.”
Dannehy’s boss, then-Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, led the investigation.
It wrapped-up last May with underwhelming results: A single guilty plea from a little-known FBI lawyer – resulting in probation – and two acquittals. While Durham’s report did identify major errors and omissions in wiretap applications targeting a former Trump campaign official, many of the findings had already been revealed by the DOJ inspector general. Durham also concluded that the FBI’s mistakes were mostly a result of “confirmation bias,” rather than partisanship or outright political bias.
Still, several Trump supporters asked state lawmakers to reject Dannehy.
One called her “an architect of the Russia misinformation campaign from the F-B-I.” Another wrote: “Nora Dannehy represents the swamp! She once championed President Trump's values before betraying him.”
Dannehy’s confirmation hearing came the same day as congressional Republicans grilled current Attorney General Merrick Garland about the federal cases against Trump and President Biden’s son, Hunter.
“There’s one investigation protecting President Biden. There’s another one attacking President Trump,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declared. “The Justice Department’s got both sides of the equation covered.”
Garland defended the country’s largest law enforcement agency.
“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” the attorney general said. “I am not the president’s lawyer. I will also add that I am not Congress’ prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people.”
PRAISE, BUT TOUGH QUESTIONS
Dannehy got a warm reception from both Democrats and Republicans on the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, which advanced her nomination by a 30-4 vote.
“It's refreshing to hear, at least from your experience, that there are still folks who appreciate the nonpartisan nature and role of the DOJ," said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport).
“I think you have done an incredible job here today,” added state Rep Craig Fishbein (R-Wallingford). “I will tell you that you have won my vote. I initially was averse.”
But Dannehy faces criticism from civil rights groups, which blasted Lamont for nominating another ex-prosecutor.
“The only way to turn Black and Brown lawyers into Black and Brown judges is to begin to appoint them,” said Ivelisse Correa, with Black Lives Matter 860.
The committee’s co-chair, state Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), sought to reassure critics.
“I believe those comments have been heard and are being taken seriously,” he said. “I believe there’s a new understanding of the importance of this stuff to some of the people who are involved.”
Dannehy also defended her role advising Lamont on emergency COVID orders. She served as his general counsel from 2021 to 2023.
“The policies that shut down much of the state,” said state Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin).
Dannehy insisted she only provided legal advice.
“I was not a policy person,” she said. “I was a lawyer.”
Dannehy also fielded dozens of questions about abortion. She told lawmakers that the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong for overturning Roe v. Wade.
“They took away an individual right and that is – I don't think has ever been done before,” Dannehy said. “They turned their back on precedent. And finally, they tethered individual rights to a historical perspective.”
Abortion questions helped sink Lamont's last Connecticut Supreme Court pick.
Sandra Slack Glover withdrew amid withering criticism over a letter she signed in 2017, endorsing Amy Coney Barrett for the appellate court bench. Five years later, as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Barrett voted to overturn Roe.
This time around, Dannehy enjoys wide support from legislative leaders. The full General Assembly is expected to confirm her nomination next week.