By Isabel Van Brugen
Attorney General William Barr’s special counsel appointee investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation has been granted the authority to use classified information “as he deems necessary” in his investigation, the White House said on Dec. 22.
John Durham, the U.S. attorney probing the flawed counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, is now authorized to use classified information in his review, the White House said in a statement. The powers were first granted to Barr prior to Durham’s appointment as special counsel in a memorandum first issued by President Donald Trump in May 2019.
“The Attorney General is authorized to use classified information as he deems necessary in connection with his review, including in a grand jury or other proceeding,” the memo states.
The move prevents intelligence community agencies from exercising a veto over whether classified information may be presented to a grand jury empaneled by the special counsel in review.
Barr, who is stepping down from his role before Christmas, revealed on Dec. 1 that he appointed Durham as special counsel in October. Durham was directed by Barr last year to lead the review. Durham’s review later turned into a criminal probe, which remains ongoing. His appointment ensures that the probe can continue into the next presidency.
Barr on Monday told reporters that Durham is “making good progress” in the investigation.
“Before the election, as you know, I designated John Durham as special counsel because I wanted to provide him and his team with assurance that they’d be able to finish their work,” Barr said. “They’re making good progress now and I expect they will be able to finish their work.”
The special counsel will, according to the U.S. Code, produce a “confidential report” and will send “to the Attorney General a final report, and such interim reports as he deems appropriate in a form that will permit public dissemination.”
Barr further noted that Durham “is authorized to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.”
Mueller’s investigation found there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign, and it found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy.
So far in Durham’s probe, one FBI official has been indicted. Kevin Clinesmith, a former lawyer for the law enforcement agency, was charged with altering an email that was used in the surveillance of former Trump aide Carter Page.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said earlier this year that he believes more indictments will be on the way.
According to Trump’s memorandum, Durham is authorized to use classified information in his review until his investigation comes to a close, or unless expressly extended by the president.
Zachary Stieber and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
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