Attorney General Bill Barr (shown above right), speaking to the Fox News program “America’s Newsroom” on Monday, asserted the independence and integrity of the white-hot criminal probe that U.S. Attorney John Durham is now leading into the handling of the Russia investigation and the 2016 presidential election.

The probe into the 2016 origins of the Russia meddling case went from a review to a criminal investigation last week.

Some Democrats have alleged this is part of President Donald Trump’s so-called “political revenge,” as Fox News noted.

But Barr affirmed that Durham “is in charge of the investigation. And I understand that he is making great progress.”

Among the other comments Barr made to Fox News exclusively on Monday: “[John] Durham, who is the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, is in charge of the investigation. And I understand he is making great progress. As you know, he’s a 35-year veteran of the department. Great reputation for nonpartisanship. He was selected by two Democratic attorney generals to do sensitive investigations for them.”

“He is by-the-book kind of guy,” added Barr on “America’s Newsroom.”

“He’s thorough and fair. And I’m confident he’s going to get to the bottom of things.”

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Regarding former intelligence officials who have criticized the investigation, Barr said, “We’ll let the chips fall where they may. I think they all know John Durham’s reputation, and we’ll just see how it how it turns out. But I do want to say that one of the reasons Mr. Durham is able to make the kind of progress he’s making is because Director [Christopher] Wray and his team at the FBI have just been outstanding in the support and responsiveness they’ve given.”

On the issue of why he traveled recently with Durham to Italy, the attorney general said, “Some of the countries that John Durham thought might have some information or be helpful to his investigation wanted preliminarily to talk to me about the scope of the investigation … So I initially discussed these matters with those countries, then introduced them to John Durham and established a channel by which Mr. Durham can obtain assistance from those countries.”

“But he is in charge of the investigation,” Barr asserted. “I’m not doing the investigation.”

Barr spoke to Fox while on the sidelines of a law enforcement event in Chicago on Monday at which Trump was speaking, the outlet noted.

Durham’s probe into potential FBI and Justice Department misconduct in the run-up to the 2016 election through the spring of 2017 became a criminal investigation last week.

“One source [familiar with the investigation said] that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s upcoming report on alleged FBI surveillance abuses against the Trump campaign will shed light on why Durham’s probe has become a criminal inquiry. Horowitz announced on Thursday his report would be available to the public soon, with ‘few’ redactions,” Fox News noted last week.

Durham — given this new status — can subpoena witnesses, file charges, and put fact-finding grand juries in place.

Barr first launched the investigation earlier this year to answer questions he had about why the FBI began the counterintelligence investigation that eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

“However, escalating Barr’s inquiry from a management review to a criminal matter means current and former FBI and Justice Department officials face the possibility of criminal charges arising from some aspect of their work on the Russia investigation,” as Politico pointed out.

Durham’s investigation expanded significantly based on new evidence that was uncovered during the recent trip to Rome with Barr, as Fox News reported earlier this week.

Among those who will be under the newly hot microscope: former FBI director Jim Comey.

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