TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club(YJC)_The person who confirmed the criminal investigation spoke to several news organizations on Thursday. on condition of anonymity. The development was first reported by the New York Times.
The shift is likely to raise concerns that Trump and his allies may be using the powers of the government to go after their opponents.
It is not clear what potential crimes are being investigated, but the designation as a formal criminal investigation gives prosecutors the ability to issue subpoenas, potentially empanel a grand jury and compel witnesses to give testimony and bring federal criminal charges.
US Attorney General William Barr, who heads the Justice Department, launched a review earlier this year to investigate Trump’s complaints that his election campaign was improperly targeted by US intelligence agencies during the 2016 election.
Democrats say Barr is using the Justice Department to exploit conspiracy theories that could benefit the Republican president’s reelection campaign and undermine former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a two-year federal inquiry that concluded in March.
Barr appointed Connecticut State Attorney John Durham to lead the review of whether US intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted properly when they examined possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, which ultimately led to the Mueller investigation.
Mueller’s investigation found that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump, and led to criminal convictions of several former campaign aides. But Mueller concluded that he did not have enough evidence to prove there was a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia.
Trump, who calls the Russia investigation a witch hunt and a hoax, says U.S. officials launched the probe to undermine his chances of winning the White House, although he and his supporters have provided no evidence.
Trump is also struggling with an impeachment inquiry focused on his request in a July telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election.
The Judiciary and Intelligence committees in the US House of Representatives, which are headed by Democrats, are leading the impeachment inquiry. The chairmen of the two House committees said in a statement Thursday that the reports "raise profound new concerns" that Barr's DOJ "has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge.