New details of Barr far-reaching probe into 'spying' on Trump 2016 campaign

Image: William Barr
Attorney General William Barr, in an interview that aired Thursday, said he "personally felt" that Robert Mueller could have decided whether President Trump had broken the law. Copyright Mark Thiessen AP
Copyright Mark Thiessen AP
By Mike Memoli with NBC News Politics
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The review will determine whether the counter intelligence investigation complied with the law, DOJ told lawmakers.


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday offered new insight into what it called a "broad" and "multifaceted" review of the origins of the Russia investigation, and sought to assure lawmakers that the probe ordered by President Trump would work to protect sensitive intelligence at the heart of it.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said the investigation — referred to throughout as a "review" — would evaluate whether the counterintelligence investigation launched in 2016 into potential contacts between foreign entities and individuals associated with Donald Trump's campaign "complied with applicable policies and laws."

"There remain open questions relating to the origins of this counter-intelligence investigation and the U.S. and foreign intelligence activities that took place prior to and during that investigation. The purpose of the Review is to more fully understand the efficacy and propriety of those steps and to answer, to the satisfaction of the Attorney General, those open questions," Boyd wrote.

DOJ announced in May that Attorney Gen. William Barr had assigned John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to oversee a review long called for Trump into whether the Russia probe, launched in the heat of the presidential election campaign, was influenced by politics and whether established protocols were followed involving the surveillance of Trump campaign officials.

Barr sparked controversy in April when he told a Senate panel that "spying did occur" during the campaign, and that there was a "failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelons" of the intelligence community.

"I'm not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it's important to look at that. I'm not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly," Barr said at the time.

Trump issued a memorandum May 24 giving Barr broad authority to declassify information as part of the review. In the letter Monday, Boyd said that Barr had directed Durham and his team "to work closely with the intelligence community to ensure that national security equities of the U.S. and its foreign intelligence partners are adequately protected."

The review will primarily be conducted in the Washington area, Boyd added, even as Durham will continue to serve in his current post.

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