- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2019

President Trump said Friday he granted Attorney General William Barr sweeping new powers to declassify intelligence about FBI spying on the Trump campaign in 2016 because the public needs to know “how they started and why it started.”

The president also said he hopes that Mr. Barr’s probe extends to the governments of the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Australia as investigators explore origins of what Mr. Trump called “an attempted takedown of the president of the United States.”

“We’re going to find out what happened and why it happened,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We want to be very transparent so as you know, I declassified everything.”

Mr. Trump signed an order Thursday night granting Mr. Barr the authority to obtain and declassify records from the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon and other federal agencies. The attorney general has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe in the summer of 2016, which included surveillance of Trump campaign officials to determine if they were conspiring with Russians to influence the presidential election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, has called the president’s order “un-American” and a dangerous attempt to punish his political enemies.

The president responded, “I don’t care about payback. I think it’s very important for our country, to find out what happened.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, said the president is undercutting the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.

“People risk their lives to gather the intelligence material that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are so eager to politicize,” Mr. Warner said. “Selectively declassifying sources and methods in order to serve a political agenda will make it harder for the intelligence community to do their jobs protecting this country from those who wish to do us harm.”

The early FBI probe evolved into special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year-long investigation that ultimately found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The president has pointed the finger at former FBI Director James B. Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and his FBI paramour, Lisa Page, among others.

The president said he might even discuss the matter with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May when he visits the United Kingdom in early June. She announced her resignation Friday, effective June 7.

“I may very well talk to her,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s word and rumor that the FBI and others were involved, CIA were involved with the U.K. having to do with the Russian hoax, and I may very well talk to her about that, yes.”

He said of Mr. Barr, “I hope he looks at the U.K., I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at the Ukraine. Somebody has to get to the bottom of it.”

Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled an infamous and discredited dossier about Mr. Trump that was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Steele met with FBI and Justice Department officials as their probe of the Trump campaign began in 2016.

An Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, also reported learning from Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in London in May 2016 that Russia had stolen emails that were damaging to Mrs. Clinton. Australian authorities later told the FBI about the conversation; Papadopoulos has suggested the meeting was a set-up.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement officials leaked financial records in 2016 about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in the hopes of swaying the U.S. election in favor of Mrs. Clinton. The FBI had investigated Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine two years earlier, but no charges were filed.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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