WASHINGTON — The former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan was told during eight hours of questioning on Friday that he was not the target of any criminal inquiry as part of a divisive Justice Department examination into the Russia investigation’s origins.
During the interview, at C.I.A. headquarters, Mr. Brennan was informed he was “only a witness to events that are under review,” his aide announced. Mr. Brennan oversaw the agency’s inquiry into — and effort to stop — Russia’s campaign to intervene in the 2016 election.
John H. Durham, the United States attorney leading the Justice Department’s investigation, interviewed Mr. Brennan on a “wide range” of subjects, including the agency’s inquiry and the related intelligence report that the Obama administration made public in January 2017.
Democrats have expressed deep skepticism about the Justice Department investigation, suspicious that it will present a biased view of the F.B.I.’s and C.I.A.’s attempts in 2016 to investigate Russian interference. A bipartisan Senate review of the C.I.A.’s work in 2016 this week backed the agency’s conclusions, and some lawmakers have said that report underlines the lengths Russia went to try to influence the election results, a campaign that justifies both the F.B.I.’s and C.I.A.’s efforts to determine what was underway.
During his interview with Mr. Durham, Mr. Brennan joined in the criticism of the Justice Department.
“Brennan also told Mr. Durham that the repeated efforts of Donald Trump and William Barr to politicize Mr. Durham’s work have been appalling and have tarnished the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice, making it very difficult for Department of Justice professionals to carry out their responsibilities,” Mr. Brennan’s aide, Nick Shapiro, said on Friday in a statement, which he echoed on Twitter.
Mr. Shapiro said that some of Mr. Durham’s questions focused on the C.I.A.’s work to prepare the report made public in 2017, known as the intelligence community assessment.
While Mr. Durham appears unlikely to make any sort of criminal charge around the C.I.A.’s work, he could level criticisms of the agency as part of any review or public report he may write. And Mr. Brennan and Mr. Shapiro took issue with that second-guessing.
“Brennan questioned why the analytic tradecraft and the findings of the ICA are being scrutinized by the Department of Justice, especially since they have been validated by the Mueller Report as well as the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Review,” Mr. Shapiro tweeted, referring to the Intelligence Community Assessment.
Still, Mr. Brennan said Mr. Durham conducted the interview professionally, Mr. Shapiro said.
Since before President Trump took office, he has bristled at accusations that he won the election with the help of the Russians. He and his allies have sought to question the origins of congressional investigations, the F.B.I.’s inquiry and the work of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Mr. Trump has repeatedly called those efforts a witch hunt.
The president’s praise of Mr. Durham has raised deep suspicions, and prompted Attorney General William P. Barr to defend the inquiry against charges that he was using it to settle scores for the White House.
The news that Mr. Brennan is being treated as a witness suggests that any indictments by Mr. Durham are likely to be focused on the F.B.I. or the Justice Department, rather than the C.I.A.
Mr. Durham has said he disagrees with some of the Justice Department’s inspector general report examining the Russia investigation. Mr. Durham told the department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, that he had questions about how the F.B.I. case looking at the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials was opened.
Mr. Horowitz found wrongdoing by F.B.I. agents particularly surrounding the requests for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
And the inspector general investigation gave Mr. Durham’s inquiry its first conviction this week. On Wednesday, a former F.B.I. lawyer, Kevin E. Clinesmith, pleaded guilty to doctoring an email from the C.I.A. that was used in preparations for asking a court to renew a wiretap.
Mr. Clinesmith was originally referred for criminal investigation by Mr. Horowitz. He was charged by Mr. Durham.