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Top Federal Prosecutor in Connecticut Joins Barr's Efforts to Look into Russia Investigation Origins
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14 May 2019 12:47 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: John Durham (Image source: Public domain)

 

Attorney General William Barr was serious about looking into what prompted the FBI to begin investigating Russia's efforts to control the 2016 election and whether as a candidate the president was spied on. He's named the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to help him in that investigation.

 

While being asked about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, Barr started discussing his suspicions regarding the Russia investigation. It was seen at the time as a way to distract attention from what Mueller discovered and was also noted for the similarity in beliefs as Trump. 

He's officially launching this inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation and pulled Durham in to help him. However, he will not be acting as a special counsel in the way Mueller did but will instead be looking at whether the FBI's intelligence collection methods were lawful. A source said Durham has already been working on this for "weeks."

 

It's not surprising he would tap Durham to help in this effort. He was appointed U.S. attorney of Connecticut in February 2018 after being nominated by Trump a few months earlier. 

Additionally, he has done similar work before, investigating public corruption for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Former Attorney General Janet Reno appointed him in the late 1990s to investigate corruption in Boston with the use of FBI informants. In 2008 he was asked to investigate videotapes of detainee interrogations being destroyed by the CIA.

 

Barr has mentioned publicly that he's not launching an entire investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, but it's hard to deny he's doing something of major importance after he named Durham. 

He first mentioned his concerns when testifying before the House Appropriations Committee in April. He suggested Trump's campaign had been spied on but did not elaborate at the time on specifics or why he felt that way.

 

Trump has a difficult relationship with the FBI. He fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, touching off the special counsel investigation of Russia, which then expanded into obstruction of justice once it was suggested Comey was fired because he wouldn't end the FBI's Russia investigation. 

Less than a year later former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe who had become the acting director after Comey was fired. This was over actions he had taken while working under Comey in relation to the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails. McCabe talked to the media about it without being authorized and was accused of misleading agents who questioned him about his statements.

 

Trump also charged that there was a conflict of interest since McCabe's wife Jill, a pediatrician, ran for the Virginia state senate as a Democrat, charging that she received campaign funding from sources connected to Clinton. Both Andrew and Jill McCabe dispute this. 

Chris Wray was named the FBI director in August 2017, demoting McCabe back to deputy FBI director. But Trump hasn't been happy with him as of late either. He distanced himself from the country's leaders after Barr first questioned if the FBI was "spying" on Trump.

 

Durham and Barr's investigation will be the third that looks into the early days of the Russia investigation. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is probing the circumstances around the surveillance warrant and later renewal applications on Carter Page, a former aide to Trump.  

John Huber, Utah's U.S. attorney, is investigating allegations that the FBI abused it's surveillance powers with relation to Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. This probe is expected to be finished next month.

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