Trump says he did not order AG Barr to launch new Russiagate probe

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Attorney General William Barr was not ordered to open a new inquiry into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, President Donald Trump said, adding that Barr did so on his own initiative.

The president reiterated his view that he was the victim of a “hoax” while speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, and praised Barr for his willingness to take a closer look at the FBI counterintelligence probe into his 2016 campaign that ended up becoming a special counsel investigation.

“It was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of and you know what? I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it,” Trump said.

The AG has expressed concern that the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s alleged Russia ties was mishandled, and that federal agencies may have illegally “spied” on American citizens during the inquiry.

Barr recently appointed US attorney John Durham to examine the special counsel’s intelligence collecting methods to determine whether they were “lawful and appropriate.” Durham has been working on his review for “weeks,” according to a source at Fox News.

Last year, the Department of Justice also launched an inspector general investigation into the FBI’s use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts, among other controversies surrounding the ‘Russiagate’ probe. That review, led by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, is ongoing.

The FBI was accused of misleading the FISA court in 2016, while seeking a warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, by basing its warrant request on the unverified information collected by retired British spy Christopher Steele, but telling the courts the information was “corroborated” and “reliable.” Internal memos obtained by conservative group Citizens United have revealed that the Bureau was not confident in Steele’s findings, but used his “dossier” anyway.

Horowitz is also looking into former senior FBI agent Peter Strzok, who worked on both the Clinton email probe, the initial FBI probe into Trump, and the Mueller’s investigation. Strzok was quietly removed from the Mueller probe after the discovery of his text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page – with whom he was having an extramarital affair – revealed revealing intense personal bias against Trump, raising concerns of a prejudiced investigation.