- The Washington Times
Sunday, May 26, 2019

The White House and congressional Republicans on Sunday defended the president’s move to allow the declassification of material tied to the origins of the Russia probe as an effort at transparency, while Democrats questions Mr. Trump’s motives and said his action could hamper U.S. intelligence agencies.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the public deserves answers, after Attorney General William P. Barr had opened an inquiry into the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation that involved surveilling Trump campaign officials to see if they were working with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

“The bottom line here is there was a lot of corruption at the FBI and the DOJ,” Mrs. Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We see constantly more and more things that have come out of that. And the president wants transparency and he’s given the attorney general the ability to put that transparency in place, make those decisions.”

Mr. Trump last week announced he was granting Mr. Barr authority to declassify intelligence as part of the attorney general’s investigation into government surveillance of the Trump campaign.

Mr. Barr has asked a special prosecutor to look into the origins of the probe into whether the Trump campaign plotted with Russians to influence the election.

Asked if Mr. Trump would accept “exoneration” if that’s what Mr. Barr finds, Mrs. Sanders said she wasn’t going to get ahead of the final conclusion.

“But we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place,” she said. “There’s a lot more there that we still need to know. And we’re going to let the attorney general do his job.”

Mr. Trump named former FBI Director James B. Comey, among others, when he was asked last week who he was referring to when he said people committed “treason.”

Asked if the president expects Mr. Comey to be arrested, Mrs. Sanders said they’re going to leave things to Mr. Barr.

“But we certainly expect the people that were responsible and that were part of this unprecedented obstruction and corruption at the FBI, those people should certainly be held responsible and be held accountable and the president expects that to take place,” she said.

Rep. Liz Cheney, who chairs the House Republican Conference, said the public needs to know more, including Mr. Comey’s role.

She pointed to former FBI officials and paramours Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who had exchanged thousands of text messages, some of them disparaging the president.

“They were saying things like, ‘We must stop this president. We need an insurance policy against this president,’” Ms. Cheney, Wyoming Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “When you have people that are in the highest echelons of the law enforcement of this nation saying things like that, that sounds an awful lot like a coup. And it could well be treason.”

Meanwhile Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he thinks Mr. Barr can be trusted.

“We’re not compromising national security here. We’re trying to create a system to make sure this never happens again,” Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

He said the idea is to shine a light on the FBI’s 2016 counterintelligence investigation, as well as the process to apply for wiretap warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“Did they have a lawful reason to surveil President Trump’s campaign? Did they lie to the FISA court? Every American should want to find that out,” he said.

Democrats, though, said the president’s move will hurt U.S. intelligence agencies‘ ability to do their jobs, and that Mr. Trump has ulterior motives in granting Mr. Barr the new authority.

“For the president of the United States to instruct the attorney general to do that … it looks like he’s using the attorney general to be his personal lawyer, rather than having the attorney general look at whether there are still ongoing threats to our country,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that selectively declassifying intelligence sources and methods to serve a political agenda makes it harder for the intelligence community to protect the United States.

“People risk their lives to gather the intelligence material that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are so eager to politicize,” said Mr. Warner, Virginia Democrat.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.