The Justice Department will request interviews with senior Central Intelligence Agency officers as part of Attorney General William Barr’s review of the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation and surveillance surrounding then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The interview plans indicate the department is focused partly on the conclusion by the US intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Trump in the 2016 presidential election, the Times reports.
The Justice Department review, while not a criminal inquiry, has provoked anxiety within the CIA, former officials tell the Times. Senior agency officials question why the CIA’s analytical work should be scrutinized by a federal prosecutor, according to the Times.
The interview requests have not been formally submitted, the Times reports, but US Attorney John Durham will seek the interviews. Durham is a career federal prosecutor in Connecticut who was tapped by Barr to lead the effort to examine the origin of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
CIA Director Gina Haspel has told senior officials that the agency will cooperate, current and former US officials tell the Times, while protecting sources and critical pieces of intelligence. The CIA and Justice Department declined to comment to the paper.
For months, Trump and his GOP allies had demanded Justice formally examine the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Barr’s review will be “broad in scope and multifaceted,” examining actions by US and foreign intelligence agencies, “as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals,” according to a recent letter from the department to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.
Trump, in a stunning rebuke of the US intelligence community, previously declined to endorse the US government’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and in July 2018 said he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be responsible.
Standing next to Putin at a summit in Helsinki, Trump touted Putin’s vigorous denial and pivoted to complaining about the Democratic National Committee’s server and missing emails from Clinton’s personal account.