Thursday 17 October 2019

Attorney general is given powers to declassify Russia probe secrets

William Barr: Trump's Attorney General is carrying out probe review. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
William Barr: Trump's Attorney General is carrying out probe review. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Devlin Barrett

US President Donald Trump has granted Attorney General William Barr "full and complete authority" to declassify government secrets, issuing a memorandum that orders US intelligence agencies to co-operate promptly with Mr Barr's audit of the investigation into Russia's election interference in 2016.

The president's move gives Mr Barr broad powers to unveil carefully guarded intelligence secrets about the Russia investigation, which the attorney general requested to allow him to quickly carry out his review, according to the memo.

"Today's action will 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 White House said in an accompanying statement, which Mr Trump then tweeted.

The president has labelled the investigation of his campaign a "political witch hunt".

His Republican allies in Congress who have reviewed some of the related files argue that the FBI investigation was opened based on flimsy and questionable evidence of wrongdoing, and that surveillance of campaign advisers to Mr Trump was improper.

"This is candidly part of the president wanting to make sure the American people have the entire story of what went on and what will be construed by most people as improper activity within the FBI.

"It's also the very first step in rectifying and repairing the damage done by certain people at the FBI," said Mark Meadows, one of the president's biggest defenders on Capitol Hill.

Mr Meadows said he discussed with the president how granting Mr Barr this authority would provide answers about whether the investigation was biased.

Conservative lawmakers, such as Mr Meadows, have insisted to friends in the administration that declassifying these documents will help Mr Trump protect his presidency and further distance himself from any political fallout from the Russia investigation, according to multiple people involved in those discussions.

The move is likely to further anger Democrats who have said that Mr Barr is using his position as the nation's top law enforcement official to aggressively protect the president and attack his critics.

© Washington Post

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