U.S. AG work­ing with in­tel chiefs on Rus­sia re­view

Trump de­nies ask­ing Barr to open in­quiry, calls Mueller probe a hoax

The Sudbury Star - - WORLD - MICHAEL BALSAMO

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr is step­ping up the probe into the ori­gins of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, nam­ing a U.S. at­tor­ney to over­see the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and work­ing with in­tel­li­gence chiefs to see how sur­veil­lance was con­ducted.

Barr tapped John Durham, the U.S. at­tor­ney in Con­necti­cut, to lead the in­quiry, but re­mains di­rectly in­volved in the probe, which he ini­ti­ated about three weeks ago, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. The per­son could not dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly and spoke Tues­day on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ex­am­in­ing in­tel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance used dur­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion that shad­owed Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency for nearly two years. Barr is work­ing with CIA Di­rec­tor Gina Haspel, Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats and FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray as part of the probe.

With Durham’s ap­point­ment, Barr is ad­dress­ing a ral­ly­ing cry of Trump and his sup­port­ers, who have ac­cused the Jus­tice Depart­ment and FBI of un­law­fully spy­ing on his cam­paign.

Democrats have ac­cused Trump of us­ing the al­le­ga­tions to di­vert at­ten­tion from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s find­ings that 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.

As he left the White House Tues­day for a trip to Louisiana, Trump re­ferred to Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “hoax” — as he has fre­quently done in the past — and said he didn’t ask Barr to open the in­quiry and didn’t know about it in ad­vance. “But I think it’s a great thing that he did it,” Trump said. “I am so proud of our at­tor­ney gen­eral that he is look­ing into it. I think it’s great.”

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.

FBI Di­rec­tor Chris Wray said last week that he does not con­sider court-ap­proved FBI sur­veil­lance to be “spy­ing” and said he has no ev­i­dence the FBI il­le­gally mon­i­tored Trump’s cam­paign.

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.

For­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions had ap­pointed an­other U.S. at­tor­ney, John Hu­ber, in March 2018 to re­view as­pects of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fol­low­ing griev­ances from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

The re­view by Hu­ber, Utah’s top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion holdover, is a “full, com­plete and ob­jec­tive eval­u­a­tion” of Repub­li­can con­cerns, Ses­sions said at the time.

Both the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the probe be­ing con­ducted by Hu­ber are wind­ing down, the per­son fa­mil­iar with the in­quiries said.

JOSE LUIS MAGANA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr stepped up his probe into the ori­gins of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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