Trump Empowers Barr to Declassify Russia Probe Background

President Donald Trump holds up a stat sheet concerning the Mueller report Wednesday as he speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Eager to advance an investigation on the investigation of his campaign, President Donald Trump gave Attorney General William Barr expanded authority Thursday to review and declassify information about the beginnings of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

In a memo sent Thursday to the heads of the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, the CIA and other agencies, Trump gave Barr power to “declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading” of information relevant to the investigation. 

The memo says Barr should consult with intelligence community leaders before declassifying anything “to the extent he deems it practicable and directs the agency heads to “quickly and fully cooperate” with Barr’s work.  The authority to declassify the information ends when Barr leaves office. 

“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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Thursday.

Trump and his allies have claimed that federal authorities spied on his campaign, specifically pointing to a surveillance warrant against Carter Page, who worked as an adviser to the campaign. Barr has tapped Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to look into how the investigation began into Russian interference in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign.  

Democrats have meanwhile blasted Trump and Barr’s contentions of political spying as baseless attempts to undermine the credibility of the Russia investigation. 

Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, referred Thursday to Trump’s move as a “cover-up,” which he said “has entered a new and dangerous phase.” 

“While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice, Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies,” Schiff tweeted Thursday.

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