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US Justice Department opens criminal probe into Russia’s election interference

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The US Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the way it launched an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, which weighed on the first part of President Donald Trump’s term, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The daily, citing two sources close to the dossier, said an investigation that had so far been administratively under the supervision of Attorney General Bill Barr had been turned into a criminal investigation.

The change allows prosecutor John Darham, who is in charge of the investigation, to call witnesses, issue orders to obtain documents, form a grand jury and file charges.

The newspaper said the Justice Department’s decision meant in practice that the ministry was conducting an investigation into the ministry itself, although it was unclear what possible crimes the investigation was about or when it had begun.

The Wall Street Journal and NBC News confirmed the information.

The US Justice Department declined to comment when asked by AFP.

The move could spark criticism of the ministry, which Donald Trump accuses of using a weapon against his opponents.

Trump has repeatedly called for an investigation into the roots of the Russian investigation, which he considers a “rampant campaign” launched by his opponents against him. He had said in the past that the investigation had started “illegally”.

In July 2016, the FBI opened an investigation into Moscow’s alleged interference in the presidential campaign before it was interested in contacts between those around the Republican candidate and Russia.

Prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate suspicions against the president. Last spring, after a 22-month investigation, he presented a nearly 450-page report that absolved Trump of accusations of collusion with Moscow but talked of pressure from the president to block the work of the judiciary.

Shortly after the report was delivered, the attorney general said he was seeking to “gather all the information” available on “the roots and functioning of intelligence activities against the Trump campaign in the 2016 elections.”

“I think there was espionage,” he told a Senate hearing in early April. “The question is whether this is justified. I’m not saying it wasn’t, but I have to check it.”

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