- Associated Press - Thursday, October 24, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has shifted its review of the Russia probe to a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday, a move that is likely to raise concerns that President Trump and his allies may be using the powers of the government to go after their opponents.

The revelation comes as Trump is already facing scrutiny about a potential abuse of power, including a House impeachment inquiry examining whether he withheld military aid in order to pressure the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

The person who confirmed the criminal investigation was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.


SEE ALSO: Schiff, Nadler condemn elevating Durham’s Russia probe into criminal investigation


It is not clear what potential crimes are being investigated, but the designation as a formal criminal investigation gives prosecutors the ability to issue subpoenas, potentially impanel a grand jury and compel witnesses to give testimony and bring federal criminal charges.

The Justice Department had previously considered it to be an administrative review, and Attorney General William P. Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead the inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. It’s not clear when Durham’s inquiry shifted to a criminal investigation.



Durham is examining what led the U.S. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and the roles that various countries played in the U.S. probe. He is also investigating whether the surveillance methods and intelligence-gathering methods used during the investigation were legal and appropriate.

Mueller’s investigation shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years and outraged the president, who cast it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Mueller determined that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election but did not have sufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Mueller also outlined 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice on the president’s part.

The New York Times first reported that Durham’s inquiry had become a criminal investigation.

The Justice Department has said Trump recently made several calls at Barr’s request to foreign leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to help the attorney general with the Durham investigation.

Barr also traveled with Durham to Italy in August and September, and the two met with Italian intelligence officials to seek information about the activities of FBI agents assigned there, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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