The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times and a person familiar with the matter said on October 25.
The reported launching of the criminal investigation comes after U.S. Attorney General William Barr in May opened an administrative review into Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The review, overseen by Barr and run by U.S. federal prosecutor John Durham, was initiated following U.S. President Donald Trump's complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the election.
Reports of the justice department's new criminal inquiry first appeared in The New York Times. It is unclear what potential crime is under investigation, the newspaper said.
The person familiar with the matter, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether a grand jury had been convened in the investigation.
Mueller's probe did not establish any criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign, but it did not clear the U.S. president of obstructing justice.
Trump has repeatedly said that the investigation was a "witch hunt."
The Democratic chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees criticized the reported move, saying it raised "profound new concerns" that Barr had turned the department into "a vehicle for President Trump’s political revenge."
"If the Department of Justice may be used as a tool of political retribution or to help the President with a political narrative for the next election, the rule of law will suffer new and irreparable damage," Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff said in a statement late on October 24.