Attorney General William Barr to release docs on Obama White House spying
President Donald Trump issued a memo on Thursday night giving Attorney General William Barr full authority to declassify and release the documents relating to the surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016 by the Obama White House.
The president also ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr during the process.
The memo from Trump reads: “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.”
The news was confirmed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said in a statement:
“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.”
Statement on Presidential Memorandum signed tonight pic.twitter.com/wHx6l2lL5c
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) May 24, 2019
“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.”
In a Twitter post late Thursday, President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani defended the move.
“The President @realDonaldTrump made a wise decision to let AG Barr on the documents,” Giuliani wrote.
“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.”
The President @realDonaldTrump made a wise decision to let AG Barr on the docunents. 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.
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) May 24, 2019
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, anti-Trump Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), blasted the move as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information.”
While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice,
Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.
The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase.
This is un-American.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 24, 2019
Trump insists that his campaign was the victim of “spying” by Obama-era agencies, though the intelligence community claims it acted lawfully in following leads in the Russia investigation.
Earlier in May, President Trump told Fox News that he would allow declassification “soon.”
Elaborating, he 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.”
Barr ran into a tidal wave of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and media for testifying last month that “spying did occur” against Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Despite the backlash, however, Barr appeared to be referring to intelligence collection that already has been widely reported and confirmed.
According to Fox News, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page are currently the subject of a Justice Department inspector general investigation looking at potential misconduct in the issuance of those warrants.
That review also reportedly is scrutinizing the role of an FBI informant who had contacts with Trump advisers in the early stages of the Russia investigation.
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.”
“I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated,” Barr testified last month, adding 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 added that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”
President Trump backed the attorney general’s testimony, saying the same day Barr testified last month that he thinks what Barr said “was absolutely true,” adding, “There was absolutely spying into my campaign.”
Democrats, though, charged that the testimony indicated Barr was a compromised witness.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Barr of “peddling conspiracy theories.”