Barr appoints special advocate in Russia investigation | United States and Canada


Attorney General William Barr has granted additional protection to the prosecutor he appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia inquiry, giving him the authority of a special advocate to complete the job without being easily fired.
Barr told the Associated Press news agency he appointed US attorney John Durham as special advocate in October under the same federal law that governed special advocate Robert Mueller in the original Russia investigation. .

Barr said the Durham investigation had narrowed down to focus on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as the Crossfire Hurricane.

Under federal regulations, a special advocate can only be dismissed by the Attorney General and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document these reasons in writing.

The FBI began in July 2016 investigating the coordination of the Trump campaign with Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential election. This investigation was inherited nearly a year later by Mueller, who ultimately was unable to find enough evidence to accuse Trump or one of his associates of conspiring with Russia.

Attorney General William Barr revealed in an interview with The Associated Press that he appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special advocate in October. [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

But the early months of the investigation, when agents obtained secret surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide, have long come under scrutiny by the president and other critics of the investigation who said the FBI had made significant mistakes.

An inspector general report last year corroborated this criticism, but found no evidence that errors in surveillance apps or other problems with the investigation were motivated by partisan bias.

Barr said he had decided that “the best thing” would be to appoint investigators for the investigation “under the same regulations that covered Mueller, in order to give Durham and his team assurance that they would be in. able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election ”.

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team did not immediately comment on the appointment.

In a statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, called the appointment a “distraction.”

“This order only further erodes the credibility of the Justice Department under Attorney General Barr,” Nadler said.

“This order is yet another desperate attempt to fuel President Trump’s fixation on events that have been investigated time and time again, including by the department’s independent inspector general,” he said. declared.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said appointing Durham as special advocate to continue investigating the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation violated DOJ regulations [File: Kevin Dietsch via AP Photo]

The current investigation, a criminal investigation, had started very broadly but has since “shrunk considerably” and now “really focuses on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI,” Barr said.

He said he expected Durham to detail whether further prosecutions will be taken and will release a report on the investigation’s findings.

In an Oct. 19 order obtained by the PA, Barr said Durham was authorized to “investigate whether any federal official, employee or any person or entity has violated the law in relation to intelligence activities, Counterintelligence or Law Enforcement “directed against the 2016 Presidential Campaigns, anyone associated with the campaigns or the Trump administration.

A senior Justice Department official told the AP that although the order states that it “includes, but is not limited to, Hurricane Crossfire and the investigation of Special Advocate Robert S Mueller III ”, the Durham investigation did not expand.

The official said this line was specifically for FBI personnel who had worked on the Russia investigation prior to Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, an area of ​​critical oversight for both Durham and the ministry’s Inspector General. of Justice, which identified a series of errors and omissions in the monitoring. apps targeting a former Trump campaign associate.

The focus on the FBI, rather than the CIA and the intelligence community, suggests that Durham may have moved past some of the more inflammatory allegations that Trump supporters hoped would lead to allegations of misconduct, if not outright. crimes – namely, the question of how intelligence agencies came to the conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections


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