The U.S. Department of Justice’s administrative review into the origins of the Russia investigation has a taken a major turn into a full-fledged criminal investigation.
The review, led by U.S. attorney John Durham, has shifted from being an administrative review into being a criminal investigation, The New York Times reported, noting that the move gives Durham “the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to impanel a grand jury and to file criminal charges.”
The Times immediately tried to frame the move as being seen by many that Trump is “using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.”
“Mr. Barr’s reliance on Mr. Durham, a widely respected and veteran prosecutor who has investigated C.I.A. torture and broken up Mafia rings, could help insulate the attorney general from accusations that he is doing the president’s bidding and putting politics above justice,” The Times added.
DOJ guidelines state that federal investigators must have a “reasonable indication” that a crime has been committed before they can open up an investigation, and that “there must be an objective, factual basis for initiating the investigation; a mere hunch is insufficient.”
“Mr. Durham has indicated he wants to interview former officials who ran the C.I.A. in 2016 but has yet to question either Mr. Brennan or James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence,” The Times added. “Some C.I.A. officials have retained criminal lawyers in anticipation of being interviewed.”
Fox News reported on Tuesday that Barr’s investigation had “expanded based on new evidence uncovered during a recent trip to Rome with Attorney General Bill Barr.”
“The sources said Durham was ‘very interested’ to question former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan, an anti-Trump critic who recently dismissed the idea,” Fox News added. “The two Obama administration officials were at the helm when the unverified and largely discredited Steele dossier, written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, was used to justify a secret surveillance warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page.”
The Daily Beast reported at the start of the month that Barr and Durham were interested in “what the Italian secret service knew about Joseph Mifsud, the erstwhile professor from Malta who had allegedly promised then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign aide George Papadopoulos he could deliver Russian ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.”
“The Italian justice ministry’s public records show that Mifsud had applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University, where he worked and, in doing so, had given a taped deposition to explain just why people might want to harm him,” The Daily Beast continued. “A source in the Italian Ministry of Justice, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were played the tape.”
The Daily Beast added that another source with the Italian government confirmed that Barr and Durham “were shown other evidence the Italians had on Mifsud.”
Barr and Durham have also reached out to Australia and the United Kingdom as part of their investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign.