Reporting by Paula Reid
Attorney General William Barr has asked the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to review the origins of the Russia investigation, a source familiar with the assignment confirmed to CBS News on Monday.
In congressional testimony last month about the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia probe, Barr expressed concern about the possibility of “improper surveillance” of the Trump campaign.
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all,” Barr said.
He told the Senate panel, “I just want to satisfy myself that there were no abuse of law enforcement or intelligence powers.” Barr also said, “I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. And I’m not just talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”
During his testimony before the Senate committee, Barr also at one point said he believed the Trump campaign had been subject to “spying” during the 2016 presidential election. Last week, asked about this in an appropriations hearing on the hill, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that “spying” is “not the term I would use,” and under questioning, also said he didn’t think he had “any evidence” that the FBI had conducted any illegal surveillance into campaigns or individuals associated with campaigns.
This is the third investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. The Justice Department’s inspector general is examining the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation, and the U.S. attorney in Utah was previously asked to review aspects of the investigation. The inspector general’s report, which is focusing on the handling of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process during the Russia probe, should be complete in “May or June,” Barr told Congress in early April.
Durham, according to the source, has been tasked by Barr with ensuring that the U.S. government’s intelligence collection efforts related to the Trump campaign — leading up to President Trump’s 2017 inauguration — were both lawful and appropriate.
When Durham was appointed Connecticut U.S. attorney by President Trump, he was given a positive recommendation by both of the state’s senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who consider him to be a “fierce and fair” prosecutor.
His career with the Justice Department spans several decades, working under Republic and Democratic administrations alike. In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Durham to investigate law enforcement corruption in Boston.
Under Attorney General Eric Holder, Durham examined the CIA’s destruction of videotapes and its treatment of detainees.