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Curiouser and curiouser

The Justice Department's review of the Russia probe is now reportedly a criminal investigation

The Justice Department has shifted its administrative review of the origins of the 2016 Russia prove into a criminal investigation, The New York Times and other news organizations reported Thursday night. Attorney General William Barr opened the counter-investigation in May and handed control of it to U.S. Attorney John Durham. It is unclear when Durham's investigation, closely overseen by Barr, was upgraded to a criminal probe or what potential crimes are being examined. The new status will allow Durham to subpoena witnesses, convene a grand jury, and file criminal charges.

The revelation was met with concern that President Trump is using the nominally independent Justice Department to target his perceived enemies or try to show that, contrary to detailed evidence released by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russia did not try to help him win in 2016. Trump has long railed against the investigation, placed into Mueller's hands after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and an entire cast of law enforcement and intelligence officials. "Trump is already facing scrutiny about a potential abuse of power, including a House impeachment inquiry" into how much he bent U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine toward his own political benefit, The Associated Press notes.

"When you consider all the legal issues facing the United States of America, that the attorney general has traveled to Italy and other places around the world on this — what seems to me — wild goose chase, is really remarkable," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Thursday night. "But it shows how much this obsession with showing that the Russia investigation was somehow illegitimate in its inception has been a guiding principle of this Justice Department."

Also Thursday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Congress that his parallel investigation into the use of surveillance in the Russia investigation is "nearing completion" and should be released to the public within weeks and "with few redcations." Horowitz's report "will shed light on why Durham's probe has become a criminal inquiry," one source tells Fox News.