On Thursday night, President Trump issued a memo allowing Attorney General Barr the authority to declassify any of the documents related to surveillance of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump also ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with AG Barr. In the memo, Trump wrote: “The heads of elements of the intelligence community… and the heads of each department or agency that includes an element of the intelligence community shall promptly provide such assistance and information as the Attorney General may request in connection with that review.”
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: “Today, at the request and recommendation of the Attorney General of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 Presidential election.”
Sanders continued by saying: “The Attorney General has also been delegated full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with the long-established standards for handling classified information. Today’s action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last Presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions.”
Late Thursday, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, write a Twitter post to defend the president’s action. “The President @realDonaldTrump made a wise decision to let AG Barr on the documents. I don’t know for sure but I seriously doubt there’s any national security concern but some of it could affect pending investigations. I’m sure AG and DOJ will make a very appropriate decision,” wrote Giuliani.
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the move as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information.” Trump has claimed that his campaign was the victim of “spying,” even though the intelligence committee insists that it acted according to the law in following the leads during the Russia investigation. In early May, President Trump told Fox News that he would permit declassification “soon.” Trump said: “I didn’t want to do it originally because I wanted to wait, because I know what they — you know I’ve seen the way they play. They play very dirty.”
In April, Barr encountered a whole bunch of criticism from Democratic lawmakers media personalities for testifying that “spying did occur” during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Despite receiving backlash, Barr was apparently speaking about the intelligence collection that had already been reported and confirmed.
The warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) against former campaign aide to President Trump, Carter Page, are the current subject of a Justice Department inspector general investigation that’s looking at possible misconduct in the issuance of those warrants. The review is apparently also looking at the role of an FBI informant who had contacts with Trump’s advisers during the early stages of the investigation into Russia.
The use of the term “spying” as it applies to the FBI’s surveillance in 2016 has been fiercely disputed. The New York Times, even as it reported last year on how the FBI sent an informant to speak to campaign advisers amid concerns about suspicious Russia contacts, stated that this was to “investigate” Russia ties and “not to spy.” The use of the term “spying” when it comes to the FBI’s surveillance in 2016 has been disputed. Even the New York Times, who reported last year about how the FBI sent an informant to speak to advisers, has stated that this was to “investigate” Russia ties and “not to spy.”
Last month, Barr testified, saying: “I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. He added that he believed it is his “obligation” to review whether there was misconduct in the original investigation. “Congress is usually very concerned with intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane.” He continued by saying that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”
President Trump agreed with Barr’s testimony, saying the same day that Barr testified that what Barr had said “was absolutely true.” He added: “There was absolutely spying into my campaign.” Democrats claimed that the testimony indicated that Barr was a compromised witness. In an interview with the Associated Press last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that she doesn’t “trust Barr,” but she trusts Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Barr of “peddling conspiracy theories.”