Attorney General taps top Connecticut federal prosecutor for review of Trump-Russia inquiry – USA TODAY

Attorney General taps top Connecticut federal prosecutor for review of Trump-Russia inquiry - USA TODAY
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.

Video: Federal prosecutor appointed to probe Russia investigation

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.

Durham is a Trump appointee who has investigated numerous public corruption cases under Republican and Democratic administrations. He was appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate corruption surrounding the use of FBI informants in Boston in the late 1990s, and later called on to investigate the CIA's destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations in 2008.

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.

Barr's concerns about surveillance of the Trump campaign were first revealed during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee last month when he suggested, controversially, that Trump's campaign was spied on, but he has declined to elaborate on the precise contours of the review or the basis of concern.

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.

US attorney John Durham has been tapped to help Barr, but is not acting as a special counsel like Robert Mueller, the source said, and will be looking at whether intelligence collection activities by the US government prior to election day were lawful.

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.

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.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted criticism of FBI Director Chris Wray's leadership on the heels of Wray distancing himself from Barr's use of the term "spying" last week.

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.

Terminology aside — Durham's assistance on Barr's review now marks a third, and separate, instance of a probe into the early days of the Russia investigation.

Barr reportedly launches 3rd investigation into origins of Russia probe

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.

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AP source: Prosecutor to examine Russia probe origins

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Attorney General Bill Barr indicated he was going to look into the origins of the Russia investigation, and it appears he’s now taking concrete steps to do so.

AG William Barr Assigns Prosecutor to Examine Russia Probe Origins

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.

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.

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.

Trump-Russia probe: Barr assigns prosecutor to review inquiry

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.

Barr Orders Connecticut Prosecutor to Investigate Mueller Probe – Reports

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.

Barr Appointed a Prosecutor to Examine Russia Probe Origins

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.

Bill Barr appoints U.S. attorney in Connecticut to investigate origins of Russia probe

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.

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.

Barr Taps Prosecutor to Investigate Origins of FBI Trump-Russia Probe

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.

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.

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.

Report: CT U.S. Attorney investigating Russia probe

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

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.

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.

Report: Barr Picks US Attorney to Investigate Russia Probe

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.

AG Barr appoints US attorney to examine Russia probe origins –

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.

Barr appoints U.S. attorney to examine origins of Trump-Russia 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.

Trumps attorney general assigns prosecutor to investigate origin of Russia investigation

"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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