Trump Gives Attorney General Sweeping Power in Review of 2016 Campaign Inquiry

Trump Gives Attorney General Sweeping Power in Review of 2016 Campaign Inquiry


President Trump took extraordinary steps on Thursday to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were investigated, significantly escalating the administration’s efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny.

In a directive, Mr. Trump ordered the C.I.A. and the country’s 15 other intelligence agencies to cooperate with the review and granted Mr. Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify their documents. The move — which occurred just hours after Mr. Trump again declared that those who led the investigation committed treason — gave Mr. Barr immense leverage over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.

The order is a change for Mr. Trump, who last year dropped a plan to release documents related to the Russia investigation amid concerns from Justice Department officials who said making them public could damage national security. At the time, Mr. Trump was being encouraged by a group of Republican Congress members to declassify the information.

One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said previously that Mr. Barr wanted to know more about what foreign assets the C.I.A. had in Russia in 2016 and what those informants were telling the agency about how President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 election.

Mr. Barr, who has used the word “spying” to describe how the Trump campaign was investigated, has been deeply involved in the department’s review of how the intelligence was collected on it. Mr. Barr has told Congress that he personally authorized the review. While he has asked John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, to spearhead it, a Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr has personally met with the heads of the intelligence agencies to discuss the review and that the project is a top priority after the rollout of the Mueller investigation.

The C.I.A. on Thursday referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. A spokesman for the office did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The directive is likely to irk the intelligence community, which has long prized its ability to determine what information about its operations can be released to the public.





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