The review, initiated by Attorney General William Bar, of the origins of the investigation in Russia has expanded significantly amid concerns the probe has any legal or factual basis, numerous current and former officials told NBC News.
The prosecuting prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham, expressed his intention to interview a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in the study of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Brennan told NBC News.
Durham also asked to speak with CIA analysts involved in the intelligence evaluation of Russia's activity, prompting some to hire lawyers, according to three former CIA officials familiar with the matter. And there is tension between the CIA and the Justice Department over what classified documents Durham may be investigating, said two people familiar with the matter.
With Bar's approval, Durham expanded its staff and term of control, according to law enforcement officials, an officer directly familiar with the matter. And now he's looking to hold on to the post-Donald Trump administration in January 201
Although the investigation did not start as a criminal investigation, the officers the Justice Department would not comment on whether it came in one.
When White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvani asked Thursday to justify President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine, he called Durham's review "an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the 2016 election."  Mulman added: "So you are saying that the President of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer, cannot ask anyone to assist in a continuing public inquiry into misconduct?" "Said Mulvey.
The FBI began an investigation into Russian election interference in July 2016. The dismissal of FBI Director J. ames Comey led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special advisor in May 2017. In the end, Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign had coordinates with Russian electoral interference efforts, though it documents dozens of what critics say are inappropriate contacts between Trump aides and Russians
Republicans have suggested an investigation stemming from a plot by Obama administration officials and serving they want career intelligence in what they call the "deep state" to undermine Trump.
Michael Horowitz, Inspector General of the Department of Justice,
But Bar said he felt the IG's investigation was not enough to answer questions about the way the investigation began. In doing so, he made comments suggesting Durham had powers that could only provide a criminal investigation.
In an interview with
May told CBS News, Bar said Horowitz "has no power to impose testimony, he really cannot investigate beyond the current line of heroes at the Justice Department. Its ability to receive information from former employees or other agencies outside the department is very limited. "
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Bar also said in an interview that the purpose of the Durham review was to make sure that there was no inappropriate observation of Trump's campaign.
"I had a lot of questions about what's going on," he said. "Some of the facts I have learned are not related to the official explanations of what happened."
He declined to elaborate.
If Durham conducts a criminal investigation, it is not clear what allegations of misconduct are being investigated. The Justice Department did not elaborate and a spokesman declined to comment on the story.
"I don't know what the legal basis is," Brennan says, calling the probe "weird."
Greg Brouwer, a former FBI assistant congressional director and former U.S. Attorney, said no it is normal for a US attorney to conduct an investigation without referring criminal charges to the FBI. That's the role of the inspectors general, he said.
"It's unusual to look political and bad to look like the DOJ is doing something for political reasons," Brower said, adding that it seems "for political purposes, the White House wants to be able to say through the election. cycle
Justice Department officials said Durham had found something significant and that critics should be careful.
Skeptics trying to track Durham's movements claim that he has not yet interviewed key figures, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Agent Peter Strock and former FBI James Bax General Counsel .
"No one who knows anything has been interviewed," said a person who contacts these former employees.
But Durham is busy on other fronts. He traveled with Bar to the United Kingdom and Italy in an attempt to study the contribution of foreign countries to Russia's probe. The Justice Department spokesman said the list of countries being investigated included Ukraine, but she declined to say whether Durham was investigating "corruption related to the DNC server", as Mulvani said in a press conference Thursday.
Mulvaney appears to be referring to a theory of conspiracy mentioned by President Trump in a July telephone conversation with the Ukrainian president that a computer server of the Democratic National Committee hacked by Russian intelligence agents is in fact in Ukraine.
According to this discredited theory, Ukraine, not Russia, hacked Democrats in 2016. To believe this, one must question the unanimous assessment of the intelligence community and the findings of congressional intelligence committees that looked at classified evidence, including a Republican Trump supporter.  Irvine adviser on presidential security Trump, Tom Bosser told ABC last month that it was disappointed by the embrace of the president for this lie.
"This is not only a conspiracy, it is completely debunked," said Bossert, "And at this point I am deeply disappointed with what he and the legal team are doing, and I repeat this debunked theory of the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it again and again and for clarity here … let me just reiterate that it is not valid. "
He went on:" The United States Government reached its conclusion on Russia's attribution of the DNC hack in 2016. ., before even reporting it to the FBI, long before the FBI even knocks on the DNC door. a rift inside the DNC is irrelevant to our determination to attribute it. It has been drafted up front and in advance. "
A Western intelligence officer, familiar with what Durham wants from foreign officials, says his investigations are closely monitoring issues raised by Russia's investigation into right-wing media.
Many of these questions stem from the accusations of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He declined to comment on Friday.
Contested in the courtroom, Papadopoulos emerged from prison for assaulting what he calls a Deep State Conspiracy to set him up in an attempt to obtain Trump.
Papadopoulos claims in his book that the professor who told him that the Russians had Democratic emails – Joseph Mifsud, identified by the FBI as an asset to Russian intelligence – was in fact working for Western intelligence.
He charges similarly with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who relays the story of emails to the FBI and Cambridge professor, Stefan Halper, whom Papadopoulos says he gnawed at for what he knew about the Russians.
The New York Times and Washington Post report that Halper is an informer to the US government, and Durham appears to be investigating whether the spy agency or the FBI breached all rules on how to deal with the matter and other aspects of the case.
The Senate Intelligence Committee considered Downer, Mifsud and Halper's allegations as part of its bilateral investigation into the intelligence community's assessment that Russia was responsible for the 2016 election attack and found nothing to confirm anything and that it was an unlawful violation, said an assistant to the committee.
"I'm very pleased with everything I've been involved in," Brennan said.