AG Bill Barr tries to discredit Trump Russia probe with yet another probe into its origin

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr has appointed Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor to review the steps the Justice Department took in launching an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Barr’s decision to tap John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, marks at least the third ongoing inquiry into whether the FBI made missteps when it applied to a special federal court for a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been conducting a similar inquiry, and is due to release his findings as soon as this month.

In addition, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions assigned Utah’s top federal prosecutor, John Huber, to conduct a review in order to determine whether it was necessary to hire another special counsel.

The status of Huber’s review is not yet known.

Barr has previously said he has some concerns about the origins of the Russia probe, which was started by the FBI in 2016 and transferred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller after his May 2017 appointment.

Mueller completed his probe in March. Although his report documented numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, he could not establish evidence that members of Trump’s campaign illegally conspired with Russia.

Barr angered Democrats last month when he told them he believed spying on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had occurred.

“I think spying did occur,” said Barr, during testimony before a U.S. Senate appropriations panel. “But the question is whether it was adequately predicated, and I am not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated.”

Barr acknowledged under sharp questioning by lawmakers that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, and later declined to elaborate on why he has concerns.

Barr has said publicly he planned to review how the Russia probe was started. However, it was not known until the New York Times first reported on Monday night that Barr had assigned Durham to the task.

Durham was appointed to the job several weeks ago, said the source, who confirmed it to Reuters anonymously because the Justice Department has not made a public announcement.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis)