While Attorney General Barr suggests that the investigation he launched into the Russia probe is meant to ask questions about its origins, Trump and his enablers have already determined that the people involved are guilty and it is only a matter of determining how wide the corruption spread.
Last week the president gave the attorney general sweeping powers that raised concerns amongst those in the intelligence community.
….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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019
According to Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, the memo described in that tweet was, in fact, issued at Barr’s request. Here is one of his questions that causes concern among intelligence officials.
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.
A source described a similar concern to Shane Harris.
A senior official said Barr has expressed concerns privately that the CIA may not have done much to try to use its own source networks in Russia to figure out whether allegations in a document written by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele were accurate.
During testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Barr said that his investigation would examine whether the Steele dossier was a Russian disinformation campaign designed to sow chaos in our political system. That is very likely what he is attempting to examine with these questions. Should Barr find anything that he wants to selectively leak to the public about that, his efforts could compromise foreign assets within Russia. So he is playing a very dangerous game.
But contrary to what Trump and his enablers want us to believe, the Trump-Russia investigation did not begin with the Steele dossier. Our allies’ intelligence services began warning the CIA about suspicious interactions between people connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents beginning in late 2015. The first warnings came from GCHQ, or British intelligence. But that was followed by reports from Germany, Estonia, Poland, and the Dutch-French intelligence service DGSE. The final straw, as documented in Mueller’s report, came when Australian intelligence reported that George Papadopoulos told one of their agents that the Russian government had access to “dirt” on Clinton that could help Trump’s campaign.
It is important to keep that background in mind when reviewing what the president said on Friday.
What I’ve done is declassified everything. [Barr] can look. I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country. It’s the greatest hoax…probably in the history of our country and somebody has to get to the bottom of it.
The fact that Trump specifically named the UK, along with Australia, indicates that someone has probably briefed him on the role our allies played in warning the CIA about suspicious interactions between his campaign and Russian agents. Beyond going after the FBI as treasonous, that statement indicates that the president is also pointing the finger of blame at those countries. That is why former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell told Shane Harris that Barr’s investigation “is yet another step that will raise questions among our allies and partners about whether to share sensitive intelligence with us.”
We have yet to witness Attorney General Barr setting any limits on the president’s abuse of power. Until that happens, which seems unlikely, this investigation is sure to further alienate our foreign allies and harm national security. That isn’t simply a matter of the president’s revenge against those he considers enemies, it is yet one more way that Trump is doing Putin’s bidding.