AP source: A US attorney has been appointed to examine the origins of the Russia probe – Stars and Stripes

AP source: A US attorney has been appointed to examine the origins of the Russia probe - Stars and Stripes
Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to Review Origins of Russia Inquiry
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful.

John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees.

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Barr assigns US attorney in Connecticut to look into government surveillance involving Trump campaign: source

His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russias election interference and Trump associates.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have consistently defended the Russia investigation, which culminated in special counsel Robert Muellers report in March. The report found “sweeping” and “systematic” Russian interference in the election and identified links between Trump campaign officials and figures associated with the Russian government.

Video: Federal prosecutor appointed to probe Russia investigation

The departments inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is separately examining investigators use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions. And John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation. His findings have not been announced.

Additionally on Capitol Hill, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he, too, intends to review aspects of law enforcements work in the coming months. And Republicans conducted their own inquiries when they controlled the House, including publicizing details of the F.B.I.s wiretap use.

Separately, the U.S. attorney for Utah, John Huber, is also investigating allegations of surveillance abuses by the FBI, as well as suggestions that federal investigators failed to fully investigate questions about Hillary Clintons connections to the sale of U.S. uranium rights to a Russian-controlled company through the Clinton Foundation.

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for Mr. Durhams office, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. I do have people in the department helping me review the activities over the summer of 2016, Mr. Barr said in congressional testimony on May 1, without elaborating.

NBC News hasnt independently verified The New York Times report that Barr had assigned John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to review the FBIs decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russias campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Durham, who was nominated by Mr. Trump in 2017 and has been a Justice Department lawyer since 1982, has conducted special investigations under administrations of both parties. Attorney General Janet Reno asked Mr. Durham in 1999 to investigate the F.B.I.s handling of a notorious informant: the organized crime leader James (Whitey) Bulger.

But, asked about the report Monday night, Rudy Giuliani, one of the presidents personal attorneys, told NBC News: “I believe Barr has selected an excellent person, someone who is a career prosecutor who has worked with Republicans and Democrats.”

In 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned Mr. Durham to investigate the C.I.A.s destruction of videotapes in 2005 showing the torture of terrorism suspects. A year later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded Mr. Durhams mandate to also examine whether the agency broke any laws in its abuses of detainees in its custody.

Jay Sekulow, another of Trumps personal attorney, said: “The origins of this investigation have to be examined thoroughly, and the appointment of a U.S. attorney would be the appropriate course of action.”

Mr. Barr has signaled his concerns about the Russia investigation during congressional testimony, particularly the surveillance of Trump associates. I think spying did occur, he said. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And Im not suggesting that it wasnt adequately predicated. But I need to explore that.

His use of the term spying to describe court-authorized surveillance aimed at understanding a foreign governments interference in the election touched off criticism that he was echoing politically charged accusations by Mr. Trump and his Republican allies that the F.B.I. unfairly targeted the Trump campaign.

John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees.

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Last week, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, defended the bureau, saying he was unaware of any illegal surveillance and refused to call agents work spying. Former F.B.I. and Justice Department officials have defended the genesis of the investigation, saying it was properly predicated.

There have been calls from the White House and Republicans in Congress to investigate the Russia investigation. This investigation, the Times notes, is separate from the Senate Judiciary review and the investigation being conducted by DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz.

Yet Mr. Durhams role — essentially giving him a special assignment but no special powers — also appeared aimed at sidestepping the rare appointment of another special counsel like Robert S. Mueller III, a role that allows greater day-to-day independence.

His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russias election interference and Trump associates.

Federal, state and congressional authorities are investigating Donald J. Trumps businesses, campaign, inauguration and presidency.

Mr. Trump and House Republicans have long pushed senior Justice Department officials to appoint one to investigate the presidents perceived political enemies and why Mr. Trumps associates were under surveillance.

“I became President of the United States in one of the most hard fought and consequential elections in the history of our great nation,” Pres. Trump wrote. “From long before I ever took office, I was under a sick & unlawful investigation concerning what has become known as the Russian Hoax. My campaign was being seriously spied upon by intel agencies and the Democrats. This never happened before in American history, and it all turned out to be a total scam, a Witch Hunt, that yielded No Collusion, No Obstruction. This must never be allowed to happen again!”

Mr. Trumps calls to investigate the investigators have grown after the findings from Mr. Mueller were revealed last month. Mr. Muellers investigators cited insufficient evidence to determine that the president or his advisers engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.

Durham, who has been with the Department of Justice since 1982, has led high-profile investigations such as a probe into the FBIs handling of informant and organized crime leader Whitey Bulger and the investigation into the CIAs destruction of videos allegedly showing torture of terrorism suspects.

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The Mueller report reaffirmed that the F.B.I. opened its investigation based on legitimate factors, including revelations that a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had told a diplomat from Australia, a close American ally, that he was informed that the Russians had stolen Democratic emails.

Attorney General William Barr has assigned a federal prosecutor to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, with the goal of determining whether or not there was misconduct in the way investigators came to the decision to investigate the Trump campaign, according to The New York Times.

It would have been highly, highly inappropriate for us not to pursue it — and pursue it aggressively, James Baker, who was the F.B.I.s general counsel in 2016, said in an interview on Friday with the Lawfare podcast.

The Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is also investigating whether political bias influenced investigation decisions related to the president and his campaign. John Huber, a United States attorney from Utah, is also looking into the Russia investigation.

As part of the early Russia inquiry, the F.B.I. investigated four Trump associates: Mr. Papadopoulos; Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman; Michael T. Flynn, the presidents first national security adviser; and Carter Page, another campaign foreign policy adviser.

President Donald Trump and some other Republicans have called for a special counsel to “investigate the investigators” after special counsel Robert Muellers report found that the presidents campaign did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Papadopoulos later pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. as part of the inquiry; Mr. Manafort was also convicted of tax fraud and other charges brought by the special counsel, who took over the investigation in May 2017, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors also obtained approval from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page after he left the campaign. Mr. Trumps allies have pointed to the warrant as major evidence that law enforcement officials were abusing their authority, but the investigation was opened based on separate information and the warrant was one small aspect in a sprawling inquiry that grew to include more than 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants and about 500 witness interviews.

Law enforcement officials have also drawn intense criticism for using an informant — a typical investigative step — to secretly report on Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos after they left the campaign and for relying on Democrat-funded opposition research compiled into a dossier by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was also an F.B.I. informant.

Attorney General William Barr has tapped the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to study the origins of a 2016 counterintelligence investigation that conducted what he has called spying on people affiliated with the Trump campaign, a person familiar with the decision said.

Investigators cited the dossier in a lengthy footnote in its application for permission to wiretap Mr. Page, alerting the court that the person who commissioned Mr. Steeles research was likely looking for information to discredit the Trump campaign.

He told the Senate panel, “I just want to satisfy myself that there were no abuse of law enforcement or intelligence powers.” Barr also said, “Im not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think its important to look at that. And Im not just talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”

The inspector general is said to be examining whether law enforcement officials intentionally misled the intelligence court, which also approved three renewals of the warrant. The last application in June 2017 was signed by Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who defended the decision last month in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Horowitz is also said to be scrutinizing how the F.B.I. handled Mr. Steele and another informant, Stefan A. Halper, an American academic who taught in Britain. Agents asked Mr. Halper to determine whether Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos were in contact with Russians. Mr. Barr has said the inspector general could finish his inquiry in May or June.

Durham, according to the source, has been tasked by Barr with ensuring that the U.S. governments intelligence collection efforts related to the Trump campaign — leading up to President Trumps 2017 inauguration — were both lawful and appropriate.

AG Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney To Investigate Origins Of Russia Probe

Mr. Durham is also investigating whether Mr. Baker made unauthorized disclosures to the news media, according to two House Republicans closely allied with Mr. Trump, Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who disclosed in a letter to Mr. Durham in January that they had learned of that inquiry.

When Durham was appointed Connecticut U.S. attorney by President Trump, he was given a positive recommendation by both of the states senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who consider him to be a “fierce and fair” prosecutor.

While they implied that it was related to the Russia investigation, another witness in Mr. Durhams inquiry into Mr. Baker, Robert Litt, the former general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, came forward to say that he had been interviewed and that the investigation has nothing to do with Russia. Mr. Baker said last week that he was confident he had done nothing wrong and would be exonerated.

His career with the Justice Department spans several decades, working under Republic and Democratic administrations alike. In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Durham to investigate law enforcement corruption in Boston.

Follow Adam Goldman, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT, @charlie_savage and @nytmike.

In congressional testimony last month about the release of special counsel Robert Muellers report on the Russia probe, Barr expressed concern about the possibility of “improper surveillance” of the Trump campaign. 

Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection efforts targeting the Trump campaign were "lawful and appropriate," a person familiar with the situation told Fox News on Monday evening.

Attorney General William Barr has asked the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to review the origins of the Russia investigation, a source familiar with the assignment confirmed to CBS News on Monday.

John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, will conduct the inquiry, the source said. The move comes as the Trump administration has pushed for answers on why federal authorities conducted the surveillance — as well as whether Democrats were the ones who improperly colluded with foreign actors.

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Two sources told Fox News earlier today that Barr was “serious” and had assigned DOJ personnel to the probe. Durham is known as a "hard-charging, bulldog" prosecutor, Fox News is told. Sources familiar with matter say the focus of the probe includes the pre-transition period — prior to Nov. 7, 2016 — including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses.

An informant working for U.S. intelligence posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try extracting any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia from George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, it emerged earlier this month. Papadopoulos told Fox News the informant tried to "seduce" him as part of the "bizarre" episode.

Durham previously has investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office's relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

U.S. Attorney John Durham has been assigned to probe the origins of the surveillance of the Trump campaign, a source told Fox News. (Justice Department)

In January, House Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows wrote to Durham seeking a briefing, saying they had "discovered" that Durham's office was "investigating [former FBI General Counsel James Baker" for unauthorized disclosures to the media."

Durham's new review would exist alongside the ongoing probe by DOJ Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz, who is continuing to review potential surveillance abuses by the FBI — an investigation that began last March and that Fox News is told is nearing completion.

Republicans also have been looking for answers from U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber, who was appointed a year ago by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review not only surveillance abuses by the FBI and DOJ, but also authorities' handling of the probe into the Clinton Foundation.

Huber, Republicans have cautioned, apparently has made little progress and has spoken to few key witnesses and whistleblowers. But, in January, then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker reportedly indicated at a private meeting that Huber's work was continuing apace.


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.

Democrats have pummeled Barr in frustration following revelations in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russian actors, despite numerous offers by Russians to assist the campaign. Mueller's final report has led to a bitter D.C. battle over the limited number of redactions in the report, which the DOJ says are legally necessary because they pertain to grand jury matters.

In obtaining a secret FISA warrant to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page, the FBI copy-pasted directly from a disputed Washington Post opinion article to suggest the Trump campaign may have been compromised. The bureau also repeatedly assured the court that it "did not believe" British ex-spy Christopher Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion.

Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos responds to reports the FBI spied on him on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

But, London court records showed that contrary to the FBI's assessments, Steele briefed Yahoo News and other reporters in the fall of 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm behind the dossier. Fusion GPS was retained by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC), a piece of information not stated in the FISA application.

The FISA application cribbed word-for-word from the Washington Post article that claimed the Trump campaign had "worked behind the scenes" to "gut" the GOP platform on Russia and Ukraine. The FBI apparently did not conduct its own independent assessment of the piece, which was labeled an "opinion" column by the Post, and Mueller's probe ultimately found no wrongdoing by the Trump team.

Additionally, internal FBI text messages exclusively obtained by Fox News earlier this year showed that a senior DOJ official raised concerns about the bias in a key FISA warrant, but that FBI officials pressed on.

"There's a document that's classified that I'm gonna try to get unclassified that takes the dossier — all the pages of it — and it has verification to one side," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" this weekend. "There really is no verification, other than media reports that were generated by reporters that received the dossier."

Graham specifically cited the report from The Hill's John Solomon that the FBI was expressly told that Steele, the bureau's confidenial informant, had admitted to a contact at the State Department that he was "keen" to leak his discredited dossier for purposes of influencing the 2016 election.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec’s written account of her Oct. 11, 2016, meeting with Steele was apparently sent to the FBI, according to records unearthed in a transparency lawsuit by Citizens United.

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