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

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William Barr AG

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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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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Joe Biden

President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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