National Security

Trump orders intel agencies to cooperate with Barr probe into ‘spying’ on 2016 campaign

President Trump has ordered U.S. intelligence officials to cooperate with Attorney General William Barr‘s investigation into “surveillance activities” directed at the president’s 2016 campaign, the White House said Thursday.

Trump also gave Barr “full and complete authority” to declassify information related to the investigation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

The notice comes as Barr is conducting a review of what he has described as “spying” on members of the Trump campaign during the investigation into Russia’s election interference.{mosads}

Sanders said Trump had directed the intelligence community to “quickly and fully” cooperate with the investigation at Barr’s own request. 

“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. 

Barr told senators last month that he was reviewing the “genesis and conduct” of intelligence collection on members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, saying he believed the campaign was spied on.

Barr’s use of the term triggered massive protest from Democrats, who viewed it as legitimizing a conspiracy theory.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump to replace James Comey, seemed to distance himself from Barr’s use of the term earlier this month when he told a Senate panel that he wouldn’t use the term “spying” to describe government investigations.

Trump and Republicans, who have long alleged the Russia investigation was started by FBI agents biased against the president, have heralded Barr’s decision to look into the origins of the investigation.

The White House sent a memo Thursday evening directing the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the heads of departments and agencies that include elements of the intelligence community to “promptly provide such assistance and information as the Attorney General may request in connection with” his review into intelligence activities related to the 2016 presidential campaigns. 

The memo also stipulates that Barr has the authority to declassify information or intelligence relating to his review and instructs him to consult with the intelligence community before taking such steps “to the extent he deems it practicable.”

The memo was sent to Barr as well as the directors of National Intelligence and CIA, and the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Energy and Homeland Security. 

The Justice Department inspector general has already been reviewing whether the FBI followed applicable rules in applying for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a probe Barr expects to be completed in May or June.

Barr has tapped John Durham, a U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead his new inquiry into the origins of the investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Trump has previously sought to declassify and release materials from the Russia investigation, including the application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveil Page, but backed off after U.S. allies objected. 

News of Barr’s inquiry into the origins of the Russia counterintelligence investigation came after special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller did not find evidence to charge members of Trump’s campaign with conspiring with Russia. The special counsel also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, and Barr later ruled the evidence to be insufficient to accuse Trump of obstruction.

Barr has faced deep scrutiny from Democrats over his handling of the investigation, which has been further exacerbated by his decision to look into the origins of the Russia investigation.

Barr has said he wants to ensure that the surveillance was done properly.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said in April congressional testimony. “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred, I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all.” 

— Updated Thursday at 9:51 p.m.

Tags Christopher Wray Donald Trump James Comey John Durham Robert Mueller Sarah Huckabee sarah huckabee sanders William Barr
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