Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate,” the Associated Press reports. Durham’s appointment comes after Barr told members of Congress he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016. He later said he didn’t mean anything pejorative and was assembling a team to look into the origins of the special counsel’s investigation.
Barr provided no details about what “spying” may have occurred, but he appeared to be alluding to a surveillance warrant the FBI obtained on a former Trump associate, Carter Page, and the FBI’s use of an informant while the bureau was investigating former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Trump and his supporters have seized on both to accuse the Justice Department and the FBI of unlawfully spying on his campaign. The Justice Department inspector general also is examining the Russia probe’s origins and Barr has said he expects the watchdog report to be done soon. Congressional Republicans intend to examine how the investigation that shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years began and whether there are any legal concerns. Durham is a career prosecutor who was nominated for his post as U.S. Attorney by Trump. He has investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters.