Attorney General William Barr’s expanding review of the Russia probe has turned into into a criminal investigation, giving a federal prosecutor who is leading the inquiry the ability to subpoena witnesses and use a grand jury, the Wall Street Journal reports. It wasn’t immediately obvious what evidence of a crime Barr and the federal prosecutor leading the probe, John Durham, may have found. When the inquiry was announced in May, Justice Department officials described it as a review that could lead to changes in counterintelligence investigations of political campaigns. The development comes as Congress pursues an impeachment inquiry centered on President Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Trump and his allies have long urged the Justice Department to determine whether the president and his associates were unduly targeted for surveillance during the 2016 campaign by politically biased investigators. Barr wants to understand if intelligence-gathering efforts in the probe’s early stages were legal and appropriate. “These reports, if true, raise profound new concerns that the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump’s political revenge,” said Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) chairmen of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Meanwhile, Italy’s prime minister and high-ranking officials in Australia defended their participation in the investigation in the face of attacks by opposition parties.