The inquiry Trump launched to clear his name on Russia collusion ended up investigating him for potential financial crimes: NYT
By Brent D. Griffiths,
Special counsel John Durham's team reportedly opened up a criminal probe into Trump's financial dealings.
New details of the investigation came to light in a New York Times report.
It is not clear what happened to the probe, which started as a result of a tip by Italian officials.
In 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr sought to look into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation in hopes of proving it was a "witch hunt," but his efforts took an unexpected turn, The New York Times reported on Thursday. Instead, a tip from Italian officials led the Justice Department to quietly open a probe into shady financial deals linked to then-President Donald Trump.
According to the Times, special counsel John Durham pressed Italian and British officials about any tips they could have shared that may have set off the Russian collusion investigation. The US allies were outraged by the insinuation that they would have conspired against a major political candidate.
But, according to the Times, Italian officials responded by telling Durham's team about allegations of financial crimes that were serious enough that the DOJ opened a criminal investigation.
The Times reported that Barr made the call to empower Durham to follow up on the Italian's tip. Durham never filed any charges. It is unclear what, if anything, came of the investigation.
The Times also reported it is unclear if Trump's own White House learned of the probe. The new information about the criminal probe was part of a lengthy report on Durham's overall investigation.
At the time, vague reports about Durham's new criminal probe lit up conservative media. Barr had tasked Durham, a respected US attorney, with investigating whether US officials improperly moved to open the initial probe that became the Russia investigation, which finally became special counsel Robert Mueller's purview. The possibility that Durham might file criminal charges buoyed Trump allies, who long suspected a conspiracy against Trump.
But the Times reports that the opposite happened, with no evidence of a conspiracy found against Trump and questions swirling about the political motives of Barr's investigation.
The news underlines yet again how the legal issues around Trump often came from his own Justice Department as the agency tried to navigate the thorny task of dealing with probes related to a sitting president.
Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington in a statement to Insider on Thursday slammed The Times for printing "propaganda," and doubled down on the assertion that the Russia probe was the result of "illegal spying."
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