By Zachary Stieber
The U.S. attorney probing the flawed counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign was appointed a special counsel in October, Attorney General William Barr revealed on Dec. 1.
Barr directed U.S. Attorney John Durham last year to review the investigation. Durham’s review later turned into a criminal probe, which remains ongoing.
In an Oct. 19 order just made public, Barr wrote that “in light of extraordinary circumstances relating to these matters, the public interest warrants Mr. Durham continuing this investigation pursuant to the powers and independence afforded by the Special Counsel regulations.”
Durham’s appointment gives him the authority to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, people associated with the campaigns, and the administration of President Donald Trump.
The authority is not limited to Crossfire Hurricane—the FBI’s code name for the counterintelligence probe into Trump’s campaign—but does include it. It also includes the investigation carried out by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
If Durham “believes it is necessary and appropriate,” he is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from his investigation.
Durham will also issue a final report to Barr, and interim reports as he sees fit, “in a form that will permit public dissemination,” according to the order.
Barr cited 28 U.S. Code § 509, 510, and 515, which state in part that the attorney general “may from time to time make such provisions as he considers appropriate authorizing the performance by any other officer, employee, or agency of the Department of Justice of any function of the Attorney General.”
“I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr told the Associated Press.
Barr was spotted entering the White House in Washington on Tuesday afternoon. He hasn’t spoken to the public since Election Day.
Barr on Tuesday sent a letter to the chairpersons and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, alerting them to his appointment of Durham as a special counsel.
He said he was providing the alert “having previously determined that it was in the public interest to toll notification given the proximity to the presidential election.”
Durham’s work has plodded along behind the scenes since May 2019. His team has rarely leaked or announced updates.
The only person charged so far in Durham’s criminal probe, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty in August. Clinesmith altered an email from the CIA to state that Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate, was not a CIA asset when the agency had stated that he was.
Following the plea, Barr said more criminal charges were possible.
Page sued the FBI, the DOJ, and former FBI Director James Comey last week, alleging wrongdoing in how he was spied on. A Department of Justice inspector general found warrants submitted to a secretive court to spy on Page were riddled with errors, though he couldn’t prove intent.
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