AP source: Barr launches new look at origins of Russia probe

In this May 1 photo, Attorney General William Barr appears at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was "lawful and appropriate," according to a person familiar with the issue.

Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry, the person said. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke Monday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

With the appointment, Barr is addressing a rallying cry of President Donald Trump and his supporters, who have accused the Justice Department and FBI of unlawfully spying on his campaign.

Democrats have accused Trump of using the allegations to divert attention from special counsel Robert Mueller's findings that Russia aided Trump's 2016 campaign and that he could not exonerate the president on the question of whether he tried to impede Mueller's investigation. Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin.

Durham's appointment comes about a month after Barr told members of Congress he believed "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016. He later said he didn't mean anything pejorative and was gathering a team to look into the origins of the special counsel's investigation.

Barr provided no details about what "spying" may have taken place but appeared to be alluding to a surveillance warrant the FBI obtained on a former Trump associate, Carter Page, and the FBI's use of an informant while the bureau was investigating former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

FBI Director Chris Wray said last week that he does not consider court-approved FBI surveillance to be "spying" and said he has no evidence the FBI illegally monitored Trump's campaign.

Democratic contenders face economic challenge in Wisconsin

NEW BERLIN, Wis. (AP) — Business was good at the merchandise table as Republicans meeting at a suburban Milwaukee bowling alley picked out their Trump 2020 "Keep America Great" hats, now available in pink, blue and camouflage in addition to the trademark red. Bruce Kudick, a proud Donald Trump supporter with a little extra money in his pocket these days, bought two.

The 60-year-old says he hoped to retire and move to Florida in 2014 after he sold the bar and bowling alley he owned. But health insurance got too expensive and his insurer pulled out of the individual market "because of Obamacare," so Kudick got a job with a Wisconsin blood center setting up blood drives.

He just got a $3.75-per-hour raise — an example, he says, of how the economy is booming with a businessman in the White House.

"You can't tell me if you walked up to anybody and asked, 'Is your life better?' they can say anything other than 'yes,'" Kudick said.

The economy already is at the center of the 2020 fight for president, particularly in Midwestern states that supported Trump in 2016 and that Democrats are determined to recapture next year. The Democrats' challenge may be especially difficult in Wisconsin, a toss-up state that has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Trump boasted of the job numbers during a rally in Green Bay last month, also noting the U.S. economy's better-than-expected 3.2% growth in the first quarter. Nationally, unemployment is at 3.6% – a 50-year low. Wisconsin's is 2.9%.

Democrats insist that Wisconsin families should still be aggrieved: that they should be seeing more of the economy's benefits, but wealthy people and corporations are taking too much.

The Democratic group Priorities USA launched ads ahead of Trump's visit — part of a $100 million early investment planned for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan. The group noted Wisconsin's average annual wage was more than $4,000 below the national average.

How people feel is the key question. In AP VoteCast, a national survey of voters in last year's midterm election, 68% of Wisconsin voters rated the economy as good or excellent and about as many said their family was holding steady financially.