Attorney General William Barr's appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel appeared to violate Department of Justice regulations, top Democrats said Tuesday.
"On its face, this appointment appears to violate the Department’s own regulations—which stipulate, among other requirements, that 'the special counsel shall be selected from outside the United States government.' The sitting U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut is simply not eligible for the job," House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Because the appointment isn't consistent with the law, it could be rescinded by the next attorney general, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) argued during a virtual appearance on MSNBC's "The Beat."
“I think the next attorney general will have every opportunity to examine, to repeal, or to allow the investigation to continue if the next attorney general thinks there is anything, any part of it that has any merit," said Schiff, one of the fiercest defenders of former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Barr in his order said he made the appointment "by virtue of the authority vested in the attorney general, including 23 U.S.C §§ 509, 510, and 515." He also referred to 28 CFR, which outlines grounds for appointing a special counsel, jurisdiction for the counsel, and other matters.
The Department of Justice didn't respond to a request for a response to lawmakers questioning the appointment.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was among those defending Barr's decision.
"Based on hearings we held in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is obvious the system failed and the FISA court’s rebuke of the Department of Justice and FBI was more than warranted," he said in a statement, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's approval of spy warrants against President Donald Trump's campaign associate Carter Page, despite the warrants being riddled with errors.
Graham said it would restore credibility to the Department of Justice and FBI to have people held accountable and professed complete confidence in Durham.
"I hope my Democrat colleagues will show special counsel Durham the same respect they showed special counsel Mueller. This important investigation must be allowed to proceed free from political interference. The American people deserve a full accounting of this wrongdoing," he added.