President Trump ordered the declassification Thursday night of certain intelligence to aid Attorney General William Barr in his investigation of the origins of government spying on the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
In a directive to the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon and several other federal agencies, Mr. Trump said Mr. Barr has the authority to declassify or downgrade “information or intelligence that relates to the attorney general’s review.”
The president directed the agencies to “promptly provide such assistance and information as the attorney general may request in connection with that review.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the order “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.”
Mrs. Sanders said the attorney general has been delegated “full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with the long-established standards for handling classified information.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, called the president’s move “un-American.”
“The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase,” Mr. Schiff said in a statement. “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.”
Mr. Barr has begun a probe of how and why the FBI started a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign code-named “Crossfire Hurricane” in the summer of 2016 to determine whether campaign officials were conspiring with Russians to meddle in the election. The FBI probe included wiretaps on a Trump campaign official.
That probe three years ago evolved into special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling, $35 million investigation that ultimately found no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Moscow.
The attorney general said last week that his new investigation is necessary to make sure that top federal law enforcement officials weren’t trying to “put their thumb on the scale” in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry.
The president reiterated Thursday that he believes several former Obama administration officials committed treason by spying on his campaign.
“They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House.
Asked by a reporter to name specific individuals who may have committed treason, the president mentioned former FBI Director James B. Comey; former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; former FBI agent Peter Strzok and his FBI paramour, Lisa Page; and “probably people higher than that.”
The president noted that Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok, who ended up working on the Mueller investigation, exchanged text messages about creating an “insurance policy” in case Mr. Trump won the election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“That’s what they said, and that’s what they meant,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s treason. They couldn’t win the election, and that’s what happened.”
He added that he believes House Democrats are carrying out a similar effort “without the ‘treason’ word” to remove him from office via impeachment, with several investigations of his finances and other matters.
“That’s what’s happening now,” the president said. “They don’t feel they can win the election, so they’re trying to do the thousand stabs. Keep stabbing.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, hailed the president’s order as “outstanding.”
“Americans are going to learn the truth about what occurred at their Justice Department,” Mr. Meadows tweeted.
Republican lawmakers have been pressing to make public a pending Justice Department inspector general’s report on the possible abuse of surveillance courts in the FBI’s initial probe.
Mr. Meadows has said he expects the Inspector General to issue criminal referrals related to the FBI’s possible abuse of power.