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The story was originally reported by the New York Times. Sipa USA/SIPA USA/PA Images

Trump's justice department opens criminal inquiry into Russia investigation, US media reports

The decision means the department is conducting an investigation into itself.

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT has opened a criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation that examined whether Donald Trump colluded with Moscow during the 2016 presidential election, US media reported yesterday.

Justice Department officials have switched an administrative review of the investigation, overseen by Attorney General William Barr, to a criminal inquiry, The New York Times said.

The newspaper cited two sources close to the matter.

The move gives lead prosecutor John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, the power convene a grand jury, file criminal charges and issue subpoenas for witness testimony and documents.

The decision to open the inquiry means that the Justice Department is essentially conducting a criminal investigation into itself, though it is not clear what potential crime is being investigated, nor when the criminal inquiry began, the Times added.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation since it began in 2016, denying allegations of collusion and accusing those involved of treason.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, published in March, did support the president’s repeated assertions that he never colluded with Russian intelligence efforts to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.

However, the report – based on nearly two years of interviews by Mueller’s team with Trump’s inner circle – emphasised that, contrary to the Republican president’s claim, he was not cleared of obstruction of justice.

© – AFP 2019

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