Trump Gives Barr Authority to Selectively Release Classified Information

During a press event on Thursday, a reporter asked Trump to name who, specifically, he was accusing of treason, after noting that the Constitution says the crime is punishable by death. The president reinforced his accusation and provided names.

But he didn’t just name names. In the context of a question about a crime that is punishable by death, Trump referred to Mueller’s team of investigators as “killers.” While it has almost become passé to do so, it is important to note that his remarks were both dangerous and unprecedented from a president.

Those comments came in the context of the president providing his attorney general with sweeping power in an investigation of the people Trump has already pronounced guilty of treason.

The significant portion of that statement is about delegating to the attorney general “full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I would assume that there are already procedures in place for the attorney general and anyone he tasks with an investigation to be granted access to classified information. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the purpose of Trump’s action is to allow Attorney General Barr to decide what information gets declassified in order to be selectively released to the public. He will do so at the same time that the administration uses every argument they can dream up in order to prevent congress from getting access to the information they require to perform their constitutional duty of oversight.

Barr has already made his intentions clear via his statements that “spying on the Trump campaign did occur,” that the Mueller report found no evidence of collusion, and that a president basically can’t be guilty of obstruction of justice. In this context, it is also worth noting that the attorney general previously said that “he sees more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia.” In other words, he bought the “corrupt Clinton” lie hook, line, and sinker.

During Barr’s press conference prior to the release of the Mueller report, he affirmed the president’s view of the investigation with these remarks.

President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.

Given all of that, it is unlikely that the investigation Barr has launched will be to determine the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, which have already been made clear. What he will be doing is searching for material that can be selectively leaked to the public in order to further the president’s claims that it was all a treasonous hoax by his political opponents designed to take down his presidency.

Remember when I said that things are only going to get worse? This is part of how that will happen.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.