FBI’s in­quiry is un­der re­view

Barr gives Rus­sia case to top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin John­son

WASH­ING­TON – At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr tapped Con­necti­cut’s chief fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, John Durham, to as­sist in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the Rus­sia in­quiry and the FBI’s sur­veil­lance ac­tiv­i­ties, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said Mon­day.

Durham, a Mob-bust­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor for more than three decades, has as­sisted the at­tor­ney gen­eral for sev­eral weeks to de­ter­mine whether fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors acted ap­pro­pri­ately in the early stages of the now­com­pleted in­quiry into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

“It’s in­con­ceiv­able to me that the ap­point­ment of some­one with John Durham’s record would be con­sid­ered un­less the use of a grand jury was con­tem­plated.”

Michael Mukasey For­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral

Barr an­nounced he had launched the re­view last month in an ap­pear­ance be­fore a Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee. He ex­pressed con­cern about the FBI’s sur­veil­lance of as­so­ci­ates of Don­ald Trump dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign as au­thor­i­ties sought to un­der­stand Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence ef­forts. Barr said he did not know whether of­fi­cials had done any­thing wrong.

“Spy­ing on a cam­paign is a big deal,” Barr told law­mak­ers. “I think spy­ing did oc­cur. The ques­tion is whether it was ad­e­quately pred­i­cated.”

The at­tor­ney gen­eral said he planned to ex­am­ine the “ge­n­e­sis and the con­duct” of the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ties be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia. “I am not say­ing that im­proper sur­veil­lance oc­curred,” he told the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee. “I am con­cerned about it. There is a ba­sis for my con­cern.”

Durham has led sev­eral high-pro­file

spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion of the FBI’s han­dling of crim­i­nal in­for­mants in Boston dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, which led to the pros­e­cu­tion of for­mer agent John Con­nolly. He led an in­quiry dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion into the CIA’s de­struc­tion of video­tapes de­pict­ing the tor­ture of ter­ror de­tainees.

“It’s in­con­ceiv­able to me that the ap­point­ment of some­one with John Durham’s record would be con­sid­ered un­less the use of a grand jury was con­tem­plated,” said for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Michael Mukasey, who chose Durham for the CIA re­view.

Pres­i­dent Trump en­thu­si­as­ti­cally en­dorsed Barr’s ac­tion. “I am so proud of our at­tor­ney gen­eral that he is look­ing into it,” he said Tues­day.

Democrats have seized on Barr’s use of the term “spy­ing,” assert­ing that the at­tor­ney gen­eral sided with Trump to dis­par­age the 22-month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which the pres­i­dent re­peat­edly de­scribed as a “witch hunt.”

Last week, FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray said he was un­aware of any ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing the FBI abused its au­thor­ity, dis­tanc­ing him­self from the at­tor­ney gen­eral. “That’s not the term I would use,” Wray told the same Sen­ate panel, re­fer­ring to the “spy­ing” ref­er­ence.

Rod Rosen­stein, un­til re­cently the Jus­tice 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 marks the third such in­quiry into as­pects of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller. It was first re­ported late Mon­day by The New York Times.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral is re­view­ing sur­veil­lance war­rants au­thor­i­ties used to eaves­drop on a for­mer cam­paign aide, Carter Page, in Oc­to­ber 2016. Barr said that ef­fort should be com­pleted by late May or June. The chief fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Utah, John Hu­ber, is in the midst of a sep­a­rate re­view.

Trump and Repub­li­cans in Congress have com­plained that the FBI tar­geted the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, re­veal­ing text mes­sages be­tween two se­nior of­fi­cials in­volved in the in­quiry who ex­pressed their personal con­tempt for Trump. Crit­ics fo­cused on the FBI’s reliance on in­for­ma­tion from a for­mer Bri­tish spy who had been hired in­di­rectly by Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to con­duct re­search on Trump be­fore the elec­tion.

2006 FILE PHOTO BY AP

John Durham has led high-pro­file in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

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