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Schiff requests briefings from intel chiefs on Barr 'spying' probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday asked for in-person briefings from U.S. intelligence chiefs regarding President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE’s directive that they comply with Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report MORE’s inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation.

Schiff sent letters to agency heads requesting “all documents, material, or information” provided or made available to Barr as part of his review. The attorney general is reviewing the intelligence collected on the Trump campaign in 2016 — which Barr has described as “spying” — to determine whether it was adequately predicated.

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Friday's letters to the Office of Director of National Intelligence, CIA, FBI and National Security Agency come roughly a week after Trump directed the intelligence community (IC) to comply with Barr’s review. The president also gave Barr broad powers to declassify and potentially release documents related to the inquiry.

Schiff and other Democrats have been highly critical of the move, accusing Trump of attempting to politicize U.S. intelligence.

“This approach threatens national security by subverting longstanding rules and practices that obligate you and other heads of IC agencies to safeguard sources and methods and prevent the politicization of intelligence and law enforcement,” Schiff wrote in the letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHow President Biden can hit a home run Former Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security MORE.

Schiff asked intelligence officials to give the committee advance notice of any effort by Barr to declassify documents related to the probe. He also requested that officials inform the House Intelligence Committee if Barr plans to declassify documents over objections from the intelligence community, and to “provide an assessment of the harms to national security.”

“In the wake of the directive, the Committee will conduct rigorous, ongoing oversight of your agency and others in the IC to ensure that the Attorney General does not abuse his new and sweeping authority,” Schiff wrote in the Coats letter.

Schiff asked for a response by June 6. He sent similar letters to the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, according to a committee official.

A spokesman for Coats confirmed the office had received the letter but didn't comment further. An NSA spokesman also confirmed the agency received the letter.

Both the FBI and CIA declined to comment. 

Trump and other Republicans have long suggested that the Russia investigation was improperly started by FBI agents biased against Trump in 2016.

Trump, who has claimed that former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report Tina Fey, Amy Poehler to host Golden Globes from separate coasts amid pandemic MORE and others engaged in “treason,” has been accused of trying to go after his political enemies by supporting Barr’s investigation. Last week, Trump said he issued the directive for the purpose of transparency.

“I don’t care about payback,” the president told reporters. “I think it's very important for our country to find out what happened.”

Former officials say the directive could create tension between Trump and the intelligence community and potentially chill existing intelligence sources or make it difficult to cultivate new ones going forward.

Coats said in a statement last week that he would provide Barr with the “appropriate information” in his review, adding that he had confidence the attorney general would work with the intelligence community “in accordance with the long-established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information that, if publicly released, would put our national security at risk.”

In a CBS interview that aired Friday, Barr did not go into detail about his inquiry but said he has “more questions” about the collection of intelligence on the 2016 campaign.

“In fact, I probably have more questions,” Barr told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford. “Some of the facts I have learned don’t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.”

—Updated at 6:29 p.m.