Attorney General taps top Connecticut federal prosecutor for review of Trump-Russia inquiry – USA TODAY
Attorney General William Barr told a Senate panel that he believes “spying did occur” on Trump campaign. He said “it’s my obligation” to explore that.
WASHINGTON â Attorney General William Barr tapped Connecticut’s chief federal prosecutor, John Durham, to assist in an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation and the FBI’s surveillance activities, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.
The person, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said that Durham has been assisting the attorney general for at least a couple of weeks to determine whether federal investigators acted appropriately in the early stages of the now-completed inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Barr announced that he had launched the review last month during an appearance before a Senate subcommittee. HeÂ expressed concern about the FBI’s use of surveillance involving associates of then-candidate Donald Trump as authorities sought to understand Russia’s interference efforts, though Barr also said he did not know whether officials had done anything wrong.
“Spying on a campaign is a big deal,” Barr told lawmakers then. “IÂ think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated.”
At that time, the attorney general said heÂ planned to examine the “genesis and the conduct” ofÂ the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred,” Barr told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “I am concerned about it. There is a basis for my concern.”Â
Democrats have seized on Barr’s use of the term “spying,” asserting that the attorney general has sided with President Trump to disparage the 22-month investigation that the president has repeatedly described as a “witch-hunt.”
As recently as last week, however, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was unaware of any evidence indicating that the FBI had abused its surveillance authority, distancing himself from the attorney general. “That’s not the term I would use,” Wray told the same Senate committee, referring to the “spying” reference.
Rod Rosenstein, until recently the department’s second-in-command, said in a speech Monday that based on what he knew in 2017, “the investigation of Russian election interference was justified, and closing it was not an option.”
The review involving the attorney general and Durham, a longtime Justice Department official, marks the third such inquiry into aspects of the Russia investigation that was led by special counsel Robert Mueller. It was first reported late Monday by the New York Times.
The department’s inspector general is conducting a review of surveillance warrants authorities used to eavesdrop on a former campaign aide, Carter Page, in October 2016. Barr has said that effort should be completed by late May or perhaps June. The chief federal prosecutor in Utah, John Huber, also is in the midst of a separate review.
Â Trump and Republicans in Congress have complained repeatedly that the FBI targeted the president’s campaignÂ for political reasons,Â revealing text messagesÂ between two senior officials involved in the probe who expressed their personal contempt for Trump. And they have focused on the FBI’s reliance on information from a former British spy who had been hired indirectly by Clinton’s campaign to conduct research on Trump before the election.Â
During his long career at the Justice Department, Durham has taken on a number of special investigations, including an appointment during the George W. Bush administration to investigate the CIA’s destruction of videotapes depicting the torture of terror suspects.
“Snitty.” That’s the way William Barr described a letter from Robert Mueller expressing concerns about his portrayal of the Russia probe. (May 1)