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Trump orders intelligence agencies to cooperate with Barr investigation
Gage Skidmore / CCL
President Donald Trump has ordered the intelligence community to co-operate with U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the surveillance on the Trump campaign.
In a memo Thursday, Trump ordered several agencies, including the CIA, the Defense Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to “promptly provide such assistance and information as the Attorney General may request in connection with” his review.
Agencies ordered to cooperate with Barr investigation
“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,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday.
“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,” Sanders said.
Angry Democrats push back
Like they have been doing since Barr said that “spying occurred,” anti-Trump Democrats rushed to bury the investigation and accused Trump of promoting a conspiracy theory that the intelligence community tried to sabotage Trump. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) blasted the move as an “un-American” attempt to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information” as he declared that Trump’s “coverup” of the Robert Mueller’s investigation has “entered a new and dangerous phase.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called the move part of a “plot to dirty up the intelligence community” and to “pretend that there’s something wrong with the beginning of Mueller’s investigation.”
The Democrats have been targeting Barr for weeks, slandering him as untrustworthy and treacherous. But as Republicans have suggested, the Democrats may be attacking Barr’s integrity because they are afraid of what he may find.
Barr infuriated the Democrats when he told Congress last month that “spying did occur,” prompting them to accuse him of promoting a “pro-Trump conspiracy theory” that senior intelligence officials attempted to sabotage Trump’s campaign and presidency. Although spying factually did take place, Democrats, journalists and top officials like former FBI director James Comey challenged Barr’s use of the term, saying that Barr threw a bone to Trump and his base. Barr has never claimed that spying was improper, but said that he has an “obligation” to look carefully into it, since spying on a political campaign is a “big deal.”
Republicans want accountability for Russiagate
Republicans have long alleged that senior intelligence officials acted improperly in the counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, which is currently known to have begun in July of 2016. Republicans have accused the anti-Trump “deep state” of relying on the infamous Steele dossier as evidence to get FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The dossier was funded in part by the Democrats and Clintons, and Republicans allege that the intelligence community did not disclose that the salacious document was political and unverified to the FISA court.
Senior intelligence officials have also been criticized for using informants and uncover agents to spy on Trump campaign members. Former intelligence officials, most of all Comey, have defended the FBI’s actions as perfectly normal and above-board. Comey said recently that the FBI doesn’t “spy” but rather investigates.
But Barr indicated that he finds the origins of the Russia probe unusual, telling Fox News recently that he wants to discover whether government officials put their “thumb on the scale.” Barr suggested that much remains shrouded in secrecy and that answers have not been forthcoming from the intelligence community.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that we know a lot about what happened. The fact of the matter is Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities,” Barr said. “I have more questions today than I did when I first started. Some of what things don’t hang together, some of the explanations of what occurred.”
The current FBI director, Christopher Wray, has disputed Barr’s usage of “spying” and previously opposed Trump’s efforts to declassify the FISA documents.
Intelligence community on alert
The conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in March with no finding of collusion triggered immediate cries for accountability from Republicans, as Trump vowed retaliation for the perpetrators of the failed “coup.” Shortly after the Mueller probe ended, Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he would fully declassify all documents related to the probe. Trump partially declassified the FISA documents in July 2018, but held off on declassifying more while Mueller’s probe was underway.
In November, Trump told the New York Post that it would be “much more powerful” to wait to declassify the documents until Democrats go down a “presidential harassment” track. And the Democrats have done exactly that, pursuing the president with multiple investigations and threatening impeachment over his refusal to co-operate.
Barr has indicated that he is working with the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is conducting an internal investigation of misconduct in the Russia investigation. That investigation is expected to conclude in May or June, Barr said.
As Barr’s review gets underway, former top officials who played a role in Russiagate have begun pointing fingers at each other. A dispute erupted recently over whether Comey or former CIA chief John Brennan pushed the Russia dossier. And the panicked reactions of the FBI and CIA have raised expectations that the likes of Comey and former CIA chief John Brennan could soon be in legal jeopardy.
It looks accountability may finally be coming for the Russia fraudsters.
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