Attorney General William Barr launched a review into the origins of the Russia investigation and it has expanded significantly in the midst of concerns about whether the probe has any legal or factual basis, multiple current and former officials told NBC News.
Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham is the prosecutor conducting the review, and he has expressed his intent to interview a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. This will include former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, Brennan told NBC News.
Durham has also requested to talk to CIA analysts involved in the intelligence assessment of Russia’s activities. This has prompted some of them to hire lawyers, according to three former CIA officials familiar with the matter. There is also tension between the CIA and the Justice Department over what classified documents Durham can examine, two people familiar with the matter said.
Barr has given approval for Durham to expand his staff and the timeframe under scrutiny, according to a law enforcement official directly familiar with the matter. And he is now looking into conduct past Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, a Trump administration official said.
The probe did not begin as a criminal investigation, but Justice Department officials won’t comment on whether it has morphed into one.
The FBI began investigating Russian election interference in July 2016. The firing of FBI Director James Comey led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. Republicans have suggested the investigation stemmed from a plot by members of the Obama Administration and career intelligence officials in what they call the “Deep State,” to undermine Trump.
But Barr has said he believes an IG inquiry is not sufficient to answer the questions he has about how the investigation began. In doing so, he made comments suggesting Durham had authority only a criminal investigation could provide.
Credit: NBC News