The prosecutor Attorney General William Barr personally appointed to oversee the Justice Department’s probe into the origins of the Russia investigation is reportedly unable to provide evidence to support the right-wing conspiracy theory that the investigation was a setup by U.S. intelligence officials.
U.S. Attorney John Durham told Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that he has nothing to back the conservative claims that a Maltese professor was a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to trap members of President Donald Trump’s campaign, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post in a report published Wednesday.
Barr specifically tapped Durham to scrutinize the basis of the Russia investigation. The attorney general is one of many Trump allies to criticize the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, especially when the investigation was taken over by then-special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has repeatedly demanded a new probe to investigate those who investigated him.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Republicans have tried to claim that Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud was a CIA plant used to trap members of the Trump campaign. Mueller identified Misfud in his report as the person who first informed Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had dirt on Trump’s 2016 political rival Hillary Clinton. The communication between Mifsud and Papadopoulos jump-started the investigation into Russian interference after Papadopoulos bragged about his interactions with Mifsud to an Australian diplomat who reported what he’d heard to the FBI, according to the Mueller report.
To investigate whether Mifsud was a U.S. intelligence asset, Horowitz’s office reportedly reached out to several intelligence agencies, which all said the professor was not an asset of theirs.
Horowitz then reached out to Durham, who had no evidence supporting the claim that the Russia investigation was a setup, the Post reported.
Durham and Horowitz’s interaction is reportedly included in a draft of the inspector general’s Dec. 9 report on the Russia investigation, which concludes that the FBI indeed had enough cause to launch its probe. However, Barr has told associates that he disagrees with that conclusion, according to the Post.
While Horowitz’s draft reportedly details significant misconduct by the FBI, the inspector general does not conclude that political bias against Trump tainted how top officials at the bureau handled the Russia investigation, The New York Times reported earlier this month.
Mueller’s investigation found evidence that Russia worked to help Trump win the presidential election in 2016 and that the Trump campaign welcomed the assistance. The Mueller report notes that investigators did not find enough evidence to conclude that Trump was involved in a criminal conspiracy with Russia, though they did find several instances of potential obstruction of justice by the president and his administration.
Barr originally opened an administrative review into the origins of the Russia probe, but in October changed it into a criminal inquiry. An administrative review would have allowed Durham to question those who volunteered to speak and to examine some government documents, but a criminal inquiry gave him the power to subpoena witness testimony and documents, as well as file criminal charges.
The Justice Department is meant to be an independent agency, but Barr’s appointment has led to the increased politicization of the department because of his repeated efforts to win Trump’s favor. The attorney general had expressed skepticism about the Russia investigation before even joining the Trump administration.