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Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynsky/AFP via Getty Images

Four Democratic House committee chairs on Friday asked the Justice Department's inspector general to launch an "emergency investigation" into whether Attorney General Bill Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham, his appointee, are taking actions that could "improperly influence the upcoming presidential election."

Catch up quick: Last year, Barr tapped Durham to conduct a sweeping investigation into the origins of the FBI's 2016 Russia probe, after he and President Trump claimed that it was unjustified and a "hoax."

  • Although Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found "serious performance failures" by some FBI officials, he ultimately concluded that the FBI's investigation was not tainted by political bias.
  • Nora Dannehy, a senior prosecutor who worked with Durham on his investigation, abruptly resigned from the DOJ last week.
  • The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What they're saying: The committee chairs are concerned that Barr could make "public disclosures" or "issue reports" before the election about the Durham investigation in ways that "appear intended to benefit President Trump politically."

  • "Few actions would prove more damaging to public confidence in the integrity of the DOJ and our democratic process than the perception that federal prosecutorial power can be used to prejudice a pending investigation or influence an upcoming election," the committee chairs wrote to Horowitz.

The big picture: Congressional Democrats have ramped up accusations that Barr is working to benefit Trump's re-election, and in May went so far as to allege that he is doing the president's "political bidding" by interfering in ongoing criminal cases — including dropping the agency's prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Read the letter.

Go deeper

Updated Apr 18, 2019 - Politics & Policy

What the Mueller report tells us about Trump and Russia

President Trump at the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The first part of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report addresses Russian interference in the 2016 election and any role the Trump campaign may have played in those efforts.

What to know: Mueller defines election interference as comprising of 2 sets of efforts: The social media disinformation campaign carried out by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, and the hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails by Russian intelligence officers. He narrowly defines "coordination" as an "agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference."

This post is breaking news and will be updated.

Cyber war scales up with new Microsoft hack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week's revelation of a new cyberattack on thousands of small businesses and organizations, on top of last year's SolarWinds hack, shows we've entered a new era of mass-scale cyber war.

Why it matters: In a world that's dependent on interlocking digital systems, there's no escaping today's cyber conflicts. We're all potential victims even if we're not participants.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
31 mins ago - Science

Spaceflight contests and our future in orbit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wealthy private citizens are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who can go to space — and some of them want to bring the average person along for the ride.

Why it matters: Space is being opened up to people who wouldn't have had the prospect of flying there even five years ago, but these types of missions have far-reaching implications for who determines who gets to make use of space and for what.

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