(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’s “so proud” of Attorney General William Barr over his decision to investigate the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“They want to look at how the whole hoax got started,” Trump said Tuesday as he departed the White House for an event in Louisiana. “I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it. I think it’s great.”
Trump denied that he ordered Barr to launch the investigation, though he has repeatedly encouraged it in public remarks.
Trump has insisted that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and concocted from false allegations to spy on his campaign and ultimately undermine his presidency. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before a Senate panel last week that he wasn’t aware of any improper spying, a comment Trump said he found “ridiculous.”
Barr told the Senate Judiciary panel that his team will determine whether there was any improper “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016, including whether intelligence collection began earlier than previously known and how many confidential informants the FBI used. He suggested his focus was on senior leaders at the FBI and Justice Department at the time.
The review will also examine whether a dossier that included salacious accusations against Trump was fabricated by the Russian government to dupe U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI, Barr has said.
Barr has chosen Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to head the review into whether there was improper spying on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Durham is a career federal prosecutor who has handled high-profile investigations before, including a probe into the destruction of CIA tapes in 2005 of detainees being interrogated. Trump selected him to be the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, and he was confirmed by the Senate in 2018.
The review that Barr has commissioned is broad-based and includes working with Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, according to the person. Barr has already talked with Wray and Haspel about the review, the person said.
Just as Durham gets going, other Justice Department probes into spying are coming to an end. That means allegations of improper spying will stay alive for many months and possibly through the presidential election next year.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is expected in the coming weeks to complete a probe into whether any abuses were committed when the FBI obtained a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The warrant was obtained in October 2016, after Page left the Trump campaign, and the surveillance continued into 2017.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also appointed Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber to review whether political bias tainted decision making in the Justice Department and FBI in 2016, including with regard to the Page warrant and the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Huber was also tasked with looking into the Clinton Foundation and whether Clinton played a role in the Obama administration’s decision to let a Russian-backed company, Uranium One, purchase U.S. uranium mines in 2010.
Huber is expected to complete his review of the Clinton matters in the coming weeks and has handed off everything related to spying on the Trump campaign to Durham, the person said.
(Updates with more details of Barr’s review starting in the ninth graph.)
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