WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump has issued a Memorandum giving declassification authorization to Attorney General William Barr. The memo noted that AG Barr has full authority to “declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence that relates to the Attorney General’s review.”
The memo was addressed to the Secretaries of the State, Treasury, Energy, Defense, and Homeland Security Departments—along with the Directors for National Intelligence and the CIA. Also included was the Attorney General, which by default inherently covers the FBI.
The subject line, “Agency Cooperation with Attorney General’s Review of Intelligence Activities Relating to the 2016 Presidential Campaigns,” was particularly notable in its use of plurals, denoting the investigation was potentially looking at interference into campaigns beyond that of just President Trump.
“Today, at the request and recommendation of the Attorney General of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 Presidential election. 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.
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.”
The language, “that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred”, carries a certain implication of the knowledge and information already obtained by AG Barr. Also notable was reference to the genesis of the declassification order—“At the request and recommendation of the Attorney General of the United States.” AG Barr apparently asked President Trump for the declassification authority.
The President has been stating for several weeks that he re-intended to declassify everything, after first raising the prospect of declassification during an April 25 interview with Sean Hannity, telling him, “Everything is going to be declassified and more, much more than what you just mentioned. It will all be declassified.”
In a May 2 interview with Catherine Herridge of Fox News, Trump addressed the pending declassification a second time:
Catherine Herridge: “Is there a timeline on when the public will see these Russia records declassified?”
President Donald Trump: “Yes, I’m going to be allowing declassification pretty soon. I didn’t want to do it originally because I wanted to wait, because I know what they—you know, I’ve seen the way they play. They play very dirty. So I decided to do it, and I’m going to be doing it very soon, far more than you would have even thought.”
Ms. Herridge: “May, June, July?”
Mr. Trump: “No, soon. I mean whenever they need it. Whenever they need it, I’ll be doing it. But I will be declassifying it. Everything.”
At the time of his comments, it was not entirely clear whether the president was referring to investigators such as DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. With hindsight, President Trump’s comments of “whenever they need it” suddenly make sense.
Despite these overt warnings, the President’s actual order appeared to catch many in our nation’s capital by surprise. Olivia Gazis, the Intelligence and national security reporter for CBS News, said she was told by “an intel source that the president’s order came as a complete surprise and generated widespread concern within the community about this trajectory.”
In a stroke of irony, the New York Times rushed out a story decrying Barr’s investigation and the pending declassification, citing potential risk to a CIA Asset from the declassification. The reality is the article by the New York Times appeared to be designed to actually burn that same CIA source in advance of the pending declassification.
The description provided by the New York Times—male, still alive, long-nurtured by the CIA, close to Putin, highly placed and provided information to the CIA about his involvement in Russia’s 2016 election interference—appears sufficient to allow for foreign intelligence agencies to determine the source’s underlying identity.
The source being discussed by the New York Times was not your run-of-the-mill CIA asset. Former CIA Director John Brennan viewed this source as so important that he “would bring reports from the source directly to the White House, keeping them out of the president’s daily intelligence briefing for fear that the briefing document was too widely disseminated, according to the officials. Instead, he would place them in an envelope for Mr. Obama and a tiny circle of aides to read.”
The article—and the description of the CIA asset provided in the article—appears to be a preemptive move to get information into the public domain in front of the impending release from Barr’s investigation.