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Law & the Courts

Trump Gives Barr Green Light to Declassify Docs Related to FBI Campaign Surveillance

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, May 1, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

President Trump issued a memo on Thursday granting attorney general William Barr the authority to declassify all documents related to the FBI’s surveillance of his campaign in 2016.

The memo also instructs all intelligence-community officials to cooperate with Barr in his investigation into the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and its alleged ties to Russia.

“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 memo reads.

In a statement released on Thursday evening, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued that the declassification was both in keeping with precedent and necessary to provide the public with answers about whether the FBI’s probe was tainted by partisanship.

“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,” the statement read. “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.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff lashed out at Trump in response to the memo, which he cast as part of the administration’s concerted effort to distract from the Mueller report itself by impugning the motivations of the investigators who eventually produced it.

Top Democrats have lambasted Barr for his use of the term “spying” to describe the surveillance the FBI conducted on the Trump campaign.

“I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated,” Barr testified last month, after announcing that he had formed a team within the Department of Justice to investigate the matter.

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