William Barr, the US attorney general, held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that Donald Trump hopes will discredit US intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of his presidential campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries.
But the high-level Justice Department focus on intelligence operatives’ conduct will likely cheer Mr Trump and other conservatives for whom “investigate the investigators” has become a rallying cry.
Mr Barr has voiced his own concerns, telling lawmakers in April that he believed “spying did occur” when it came to the US investigation of the Trump campaign.
The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Mr Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing US intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath.