The investigation into the origins of the Trump–Russia probe is broad in scope and includes actions taken by private actors, according to Attorney General William Barr.
Barr made the revelation in an interview with Fox News, aired on Dec. 18. He appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham earlier this year to look into the origins of the counterintelligence investigation of the campaign of Donald Trump and whether the spying on Trump campaign associates was legal and free of improper motive.
“He’s not just looking at the FBI,” Barr said. “He’s looking at other agencies and departments and also private actors. So it’s a much broader investigation.”
Private actors figured prominently in the investigation of the Trump campaign. Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled an opposition research dossier on Trump that played a central role in the FBI’s decision to apply for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Meanwhile, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee ultimately funded Steele’s work by retaining the Fusion GPS research firm through Perkins Coie, a law firm.
At the time of Durham’s appointment, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was wrapping up an extensive review of the actions taken by the FBI and DOJ in connection with the FISA warrants used to spy on Page. Horowitz released a report on that inquiry on Dec. 9, concluding that the applications for FISA warrants on Page included 17 significant errors. Horowitz faulted the entire chain of command involved in the FBI investigation.
Horowitz’s administrative review was limited to the officials at the FBI and the Justice Department. Durham’s probe extends to other agencies, including the CIA, and includes at least one criminal case.
“He is not just looking at the FISA aspect of it. He is looking at all the conduct both before and after the election,” Barr said.
The inspector general concluded that even though anti-Trump bias existed among some of the key FBI officials involved in the investigation of the Trump campaign, the review didn’t uncover evidence proving that the bias affected key investigative decisions, including the applications for the FISA warrants.
Barr and Durham both issued statements on Dec. 9 in response to the inspector general’s FISA report. Barr said the report exposed “malfeasance and misfeasance,” which reflected “a clear abuse of the FISA process,” while Durham said he disagreed with Horowitz’s conclusion that the start of the investigation of the Trump campaign was based on sufficient evidence.
In addition to Steele, a number of other private actors are connected to the investigation of the Trump campaign. Mystery continues to surround Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor whose conversation with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos led to a series of events that served as the formal predicate for the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI code name for the probe of the Trump campaign.