President Donald Trump ordered Thursday that key documents be declassified to aid Attorney General William Barr as he tries to determine whether government surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016 originated unlawfully.
“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 president’s order reads, according to Fox News.
Barr’s review began earlier this month after more questions regarding the origins of the probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia arose following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Barr drew no shortage of criticism when he testified on the matter in April, as he was unwilling to rule out an investigation into the origins of the U.S. government’s surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Barr later appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut to look into the matter.
“We should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale,” Barr told Fox’s Bill Hemmer last week.
“I’m not saying that happened, but I’m saying that we have to look at that.”
With Trump’s Thursday order, which was directed at the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon and a number of other federal agencies, according to The Washington Times, the scope of Barr’s probe will no doubt widen.
Barr now has full authority to declassify any and all “information or intelligence” pertaining to the matter.
Trump’s order prompted criticism from Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice,” Schiff tweeted Thursday, “Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”
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
“The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase,” he continued. “This is un-American.”
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump’s decision was made in accordance with “long-established standards for handling classified information.”
The order “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, according to The Times.
Speaking with reporters Friday, Trump echoed that sentiment.
“It’s not payback, I don’t care about payback,” Trump said, CNN reported.
“This is about finding out what happened. … We’re exposing everything.”
On Thursday, Trump said the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election had targeted “the wrong person” with the aim of keeping him out of office.
He also claimed continued attempts by House Democrats to conduct various oversight investigations were undertaken with similar goals in mind.
“They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person,” Trump said.
“That’s what’s happening now,” he added.
“They don’t feel they can win the election, so they’re trying to do the thousand stabs. Keep stabbing.”
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