Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel

Source: The Hill | December 1, 2020 | Olivia Beavers and Morgan Chalfant

Attorney General William Barr has appointed the prosecutor investigating the origins of the 2016 Russia probe as a special counsel, a move that insulates U.S. Attorney John Durham from facing a swift removal in the incoming Biden administration.

Barr appointed Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut who has been investigating the origins of the Russia investigation since May 2019, as special counsel on Oct. 19, according to an order obtained by The Hill. Barr appointed Durham as special counsel under the same statute that governed Robert Mueller when he was tapped to serve as the special counsel overseeing the federal government’s Russia probe.

“Following consultation with Mr. Durham, I have determined that, in light of the extraordinary circumstances relating to these matters, the public interest warrants Mr. Durham continuing this investigation pursuant to the powers and independence afforded by the Special Counsel regulations,” the order states. 

Barr notified the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees of his decision in a letter sent Tuesday, a copy of which was also obtained by The Hill. 

Barr wrote in the letter to the congressional leaders that he expected Durham to complete the investigation by the summer of 2020 but that “the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as additional information he uncovered, prevented him from doing so.” Barr said he waited to notify Congress of the move until more than a month later after “having previously determined that it was in the public interest to toll notification given the proximity to the presidential election.”

“I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Mueller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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