Rep. Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement Thursday condemning the Department of Justice for reportedly opening up a criminal investigation into the Trump-Russia probe.
The New York Times, citing two sources, reported Thursday that the Justice Department is shifting its review of the Russia investigation into a criminal inquiry. The review is being closely monitored by Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, and looking at whether the FBI's probe into Trump's ties to Russia was influenced by anti-Trump sentiments.
According to The Times, the move gives John Durham, the prosecutor leading the administrative review, the power to subpoena documents and witness testimony. It also creates a bizarre scenario where the Justice Department is essentially criminally investigating itself.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that the review was being changed into a criminal investigation, citing a person familiar with the matter. It was unclear what prompted the change, or if any evidence of criminal conduct was found by Durham.
In their joint statement Thursday, Nadler and Schiff said that if The Times' report is true, the Justice Department is operating as a "vehicle for President Trump's political revenge."
"These reports, if true, raise profound new concerns that the Department of Justice under AG Barr has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge," the statement, which was posted on Twitter.
"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."
Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation and has referred to it as a "witch hunt."
Robert Mueller's 448-page report into Trump's activities during the 2016 election did not identify any evidence of criminal conduct, but also did not exonerate the president from wrongdoing.