Attorney General William Barr is looking to turn his attention to investigating how the Russian probe was started, appointing U.S. Attorney John Durham to examine its origins.
As the Associated Press reports, the new inquiry will help address concerns Trump supporters and others have concerning how some Obama officials may have acted improperly to initiate the Russia probe.
From Associated Press:
Democrats have accused Trump of using the allegations to divert attention from special counsel Robert Mueller’s findingsthat Russia aided Trump’s 2016 campaign and that he could not exonerate the president on the question of whether he tried to impede Mueller’s investigation. Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin.
Durham’s appointment comes about a month after Barr told members of Congress he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016. He later said he didn’t mean anything pejorative and was gathering a team to look into the origins of the special counsel’s investigation.
Barr provided no details about what “spying” may have taken place but appeared to be alluding to a surveillance warrant the FBI obtained on a former Trump associate, Carter Page, and the FBI’s use of an informant while the bureau was investigating former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
Former FBI Director James Comey said he did not believe “spying” into the Trump campaign occurred, although he said it was a “totally normal” thing to do when they utilized undercover personnel and electronic surveillance.
Current FBI Director Christopher Wray similarly said he did not consider court-approved surveillance to be “spying,” the Associated Press reports.
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
Durham’s inquiry, which will focus on whether the government’s methods to collect intelligence relating to the Trump campaign were lawful and appropriate, is separate from an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general. The agency’s watchdog is also examining the Russia probe’s origins and Barr has said he expects the watchdog report to be done in May or June.
Congressional Republicans have also indicated they intend to examine how the investigation that shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years began and whether there are any legal concerns.
Durham is a career prosecutor who was nominated for his post as U.S. attorney in Connecticut by Trump. He has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters.
Durham was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2018. At the time, Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, called Durham a “fierce, fair prosecutor” who knows how to try tough cases.