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Barr taps U.S. attorney in Connecticut to investigate origins of Russia probe

John Durham, shown in 2006, will examine the origins of the Mueller investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Bob Child/AP)

Attorney General William P. Barr has tapped John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Barr picked Durham in recent weeks to work on the review, which is designed to ensure the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump campaign were “lawful and appropriate,” a person familiar with the decision said.

Barr had confirmed the review publicly, though the person leading it was not previously known. Durham’s selection was first reported by the New York Times.

Durham was confirmed as a U.S. attorney in February 2018 and had previously earned a reputation as a dogged career prosecutor tapped by previous attorneys general for other high-profile roles.

A redacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report was released to the public on April 18. Here's what's in it. (Video: Brian Monroe, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Durham to investigate law enforcement corruption in Boston, and more recently, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called on him to investigate the treatment of CIA detainees and the destruction of videotapes.

In its 448-page report, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team wrote that while its investigation established that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from” information stolen in Russia-backed efforts, it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Mueller also found 10 “episodes” of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump but ultimately concluded that it was not his place to determine whether the president broke the law.

In the weeks since the release of the report, Trump and his allies have launched a new rallying cry: “Investigate the investigators.”

Trump’s campaign is publicly calling for criminal investigations into former FBI officials and is making “spygate” fundraising pitches, seeking to turn the tables and transform the Russia investigation into a political asset instead of a liability.

Trump and other Republicans have argued that the FBI “spied” on Trump’s campaign by surveilling former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page under a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Page’s communications were surveilled in late 2016 and early 2017, after he left the Trump campaign. Barr has said government “spying” occurred on the Trump campaign, though he has insisted he did not intend the word to carry a pejorative meaning.

Critics contend that the allegations are an effort by Trump to divert public attention away from his own actions.

Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.