Justice gives Congress new details on 'spying' probe

The Justice Department on Monday offered more details to Congress on the investigation that Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump MORE ordered into the intelligence collection on the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

In a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said that the inquiry is being primarily conducted by U.S. attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Trump denies knowledge of Barr meeting in Italy, says it would be appropriate Cornyn makes waves with tweet about Justice investigating Biden MORE out of Justice Department offices in Washington, D.C.

Boyd wrote that Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is receiving assistance from a “number of U.S. Attorney’s Office personnel and other Department employees.”

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“The Department has made existing office space in Washington available for this work,” Boyd wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing Barr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday MORE (D-N.Y.). “Mr. Durham’s Review will be funded out of the U.S. Attorney’s Salaries and Expenses appropriation.”

Barr said earlier this year that he intended to review the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia's election interference and intelligence collection directed at members and associates of the Trump campaign. It later became known that he tapped Durham to lead the review. 

Barr has said he believes the campaign was spied on and that he’s interested in ensuring that the investigative steps were adequately predicated. Barr has faced blowback for his use of the word “spying” from Democrats and other Trump administration critics who argued he was amplifying a conspiracy theory.

In the letter Monday, Boyd described Barr’s review as “broad in scope and multifaceted" and said it is "intended to illuminate open questions regarding the activities of U.S. and foreign intelligence services as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals.”

“As the Attorney General has stated publicly at congressional hearings and elsewhere, 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,” Boyd wrote.

“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. Among other things, the Review will seek to determine whether the investigation complied with applicable policies and laws,” he wrote.

The letter comes weeks after Trump ordered U.S. intelligence leaders to cooperate with Barr’s investigation. Trump also gave Barr broad authorities to declassify and potentially release sensitive documents related to the probe.

Boyd described the review as a “collaborative” effort between the department and the intelligence community as well as “certain foreign actors.”

He also wrote that the department had requested certain unnamed intelligence community entities preserve relevant records, make available witnesses who may be “pertinent” to the inquiry and begin “identifying and assembling materials” relevant to the review consistent with Trump’s order and federal law.

Boyd also wrote that, while Barr had been granted the declassification powers, “it is of great importance to the Department to protect classified information by preventing the unwarranted disclosure of sensitive sources, methods, techniques and materials where such disclosure would endanger personal safety of U.S. government employees or friendly foreign partners, harm U.S. national security interests, or compromise the ability of U.S. government agencies to conduct their important work to protect the American people.”