Trump to Escalate Probe of Intel Groups05/24 06:32
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. intelligence
community to "quickly and fully cooperate" with Attorney General William Barr's
investigation of the origins of the multiyear probe of whether his 2016
campaign colluded with Russia.
The move Thursday marked an escalation in Trump's efforts to "investigate
the investigators," as he continues to try to undermine the findings of special
counsel Robert Mueller's probe amid mounting Democratic calls to bring
impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump is delegating
to Barr the "full and complete authority" to declassify documents relating to
the probe, which would ease his efforts to review the sensitive intelligence
underpinnings of the investigation. Such a move could create fresh tensions
within the FBI and other intelligence agencies, which have historically
resisted such demands.
Barr has already asked John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to
examine the origins of the Russia investigation to determine whether
intelligence and surveillance methods used during the probe were lawful and
appropriate. Still, Barr has been directly involved, according to a person
familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly, and is
working with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan
Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Trump has frequently claimed his campaign was the victim of "spying," though
the intelligence community has insisted it acted lawfully in following leads in
the Russia investigation and conducted surveillance under court order.
Wray vocally opposed the release by Congress last year of details from a
secret surveillance warrant obtained by the bureau on a former campaign
adviser, Carter Page. The White House had eagerly encouraged Republicans on the
House intelligence committee to disclose that classified information, believing
it could help undermine the Russia investigation.
Wray, though cooperating with Barr in a review of the origins of the Russia
probe, would presumably balk at declassifying classified information that could
reveal sensitive sources or methods of investigators.
Despite Mueller finding no evidence to support criminal charges against
Americans related to Russia's actions, his report documented extensive Russian
efforts to interfere in the 2016 campaign and willingness on the part of some
in Trump's orbit to accept their aid.
Thursday's move further solidifies Barr's position in Trump's eyes as a
legal warrior on fighting on his behalf.
After Mueller submitted his report to Barr in March, the attorney general
released a four-page summary to Congress. Barr's letter framed the debate about
the probe over the next few weeks and, White House officials believe, allowed
Trump to declare victory before the release of the full report, the contents of
which are far more ambiguous.
Trump also appreciated Barr's combative stance with lawmakers and reporters
as he defended the Justice Department's handling of the report, and again when
he declined to appear before Congress and defied a subpoena, drawing a possible
contempt charge. Trump has told close confidants that he "finally" had "my
attorney general," according to two Republicans close to the White House who
were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
"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,"
Two of Trump's congressional allies, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, were
seen by reporters earlier Thursday at the Justice Department.