Attorney General William Barr has appointed John Durham as special counsel, granting the veteran federal prosecutor protection to pursue his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe into the incoming Biden administration.
Barr made the move in October, two weeks before the election, according to a letter he sent to Congress on Tuesday. The attorney general said he appointed Durham as a special counsel "to provide him and his team with the assurance that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election."
Barr originally tapped Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, in 2019 to look into the genesis of the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
It began as a review of the probe but later was elevated to a criminal investigation. So far, one individual has been charged as part of Durham's work: former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty to altering an email that was used in seeking surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser.
The order appointing Durham a special counsel authorizes him to investigate whether any federal official or employee broke the law in connection with the investigation into the 2016 presidential campaigns and people associated with the Trump administration.
It also stipulates that Durham will submit a final report to the attorney general "in a form that will permit public dissemination."
In his letter to Congress, Barr acknowledged he had expected Durham to finish his work by summer. But he said the pandemic and other information that his investigation uncovered pushed back the timeline.