WASHINGTON -- Attorney General William Barr is getting assistance from intelligence chiefs in his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray are working with Barr to examine intelligence and surveillance used during the investigation into Russian election interference.
Barr has tapped John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, but remains directly involved in the probe, which he initiated about three weeks ago, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
President Donald Trump and his supporters have accused the Justice Department and FBI of unlawfully spying on his campaign.
Democrats have accused Trump of using the allegations to divert attention from special counsel Robert Mueller's findings that Russia aided Trump's 2016 campaign and that the report could not exonerate the president on the question of whether he tried to impede Mueller's investigation. Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin.
As he left the White House Tuesday for a trip to Louisiana, Trump referred to Mueller's investigation as a "hoax" and said he didn't ask Barr to open the inquiry and didn't know about it in advance.
"But I think it's a great thing that he did it," Trump said. "I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it. I think it's great."
Last month, 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 gathering a team to look into the origins of the special counsel's investigation.
Barr provided no details about what "spying" may have taken place but 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.
Wray said last week that he does not consider court-approved FBI surveillance to be "spying" and said he has no evidence the FBI illegally monitored Trump's campaign.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters on Tuesday that his panel would postpone its plans to examine the origins of the Russia investigation now that Durham had been appointed.
"Seems like a good choice. Seems to have a reputation of being fair-minded," Graham said.
Durham's inquiry, which will focus on whether the government's methods to collect intelligence relating to the Trump campaign were lawful and appropriate, is separate from an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The agency's watchdog is also examining the Russia probe's origins and Barr has said he expects the watchdog report to be done in May or June.
Separately, the House Judiciary panel has set a May 21 hearing for testimony from former White House counsel Donald McGahn, a key figure in Mueller's investigation. But it's unclear if he'll show.
The committee posted notice Tuesday of the hearing. McGahn told Mueller of Trump's attempts to thwart his investigation and remove Mueller.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has said the committee would hold McGahn in contempt if he does not appear at the hearing.
Information for this article was contributed by Catherine Lucey and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press; and by Devlin Barrett, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky, Julie Tate and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post.
A Section on 05/15/2019
Print Headline: Barr, intelligence chiefs team in probe