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AP: AG Barr has appointed a special counsel in investigation of Russia probe

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This story has been updated to include Sen. Lindsey Graham’s statements

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that in October he had appointed Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel under the same federal statute that oversaw special counsel Robert Mueller during the initial probe into claims of Russian election interference.

Furthermore, he told The AP that Durham’s investigation into the origins of that initial Russia probe has been tightening its scope to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

This relates to text messages of two FBI agents assigned to the probe in which they criticized President Donald Trump and for which Mueller removed them from the probe’s team. Republicans have claimed that these texts, which were publicized in December 2017, are proof that Mueller’s Russia probe was politically motivated against Trump.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement after Attorney General William Barr notified the committee that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham with the powers and authority of a special counsel.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday in a press release that he agreed with Barr’s decision to appoint Durham as a Special Counsel in the investigation related to the “Department of Justice and FBI’s conduct in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”

Graham said that ‘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.”

The chairman stated that the only way to restore credibility to the DOJ and FBI “after this disgraceful episode, people have to be held accountable – either through criminal prosecution or administrative action.” 

“I have complete confidence that Mr. Durham is the right man at the right time to be appointed special counsel,” Graham said. “I hope his work product will help restore confidence in the Department of Justice and FBI after the debacle called Crossfire Hurricane.”

RELATED: Graham: Durham investigation report expected after election

Additionally, Barr has provided extra protection to Durham, The AP also reported, giving him the authority of a special counsel to complete the work without being easily fired.

Under federal regulations, according to The AP, a special counsel can only be fired by the U.S. attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty, or conflict of interest. On top of that, an attorney general must document such reasons in writing.

For more on the story, read The AP’s full story here.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Trump: Tanks to Ukraine could escalate to use of ‘NUKES’

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Former President Donald Trump stated bluntly on Truth Social,  “FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES. Get this crazy war ended, NOW. So easy to do!”

Trump was referring to the escalation of war in Ukraine. He, like many other commentators and lawmakers, are warning that the decision to continue sending weapons – and now tanks – could potentially lead to the use of “nuclear weapons.”

It’s mission creep and it’s dangerous, they say.

Why? Because Russian President Valdimir Putin has indicated in two different speeches that he would use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, if needed. Those warnings are not just bluster but a very real possibility.

And the escalation of war is visible.

Russia launched 55 missiles strikes across Ukraine Thursday, leaving 11 dead. The strikes come one day after the United States and Germany agreed to send tanks to Ukraine in an effort to aide the country. 47 of the 55 missiles were shot down according to Ukraine’s Air Force command.

Eleven lives were lost and another 11 were injured additionally leaving 35 buildings damaged in the wake of the attacks. According to The New York Times, Denys Shmyhal, said in a post on Telegram. “The main goal is energy facilities, providing Ukrainians with light and heat,” he said.

Ukraine is now demanding that they need F-16 fighter jets. In a post on twitter Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksiy Goncharenko said, “Missiles again over Ukraine. We need F16.”

The US has abstained from sending advanced jets in the chances that a volatile decision could foster more dangerous attacks like former President Trump’s post on Truth referred to. If the US did authorize the decision to lend Ukraine the F-16 jets Netherlands’ foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, would be willing to supply them. According to The New York Times, Hoekstra told Dutch lawmakers, “We are open-minded… There are no taboos.”

F-16 fighter jets are complex to work on, they are not the average aircraft that can be learned in a matter of weeks. It can take months for pilots to learn how to fly these birds. European and US officials have the concern that Ukrainian forces could potentially use the jets to fly into Russian airspace and launch attacks on Russian soil.

Western allies are trying to avoid such a provocation, because that could lead to nuclear warfare in reference to what Putin has said he would do to defend his country.

 

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