WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 to The Associated Press 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