Washington: President Donald Trump took extraordinary steps on Thursday to give Attorney General William Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia were investigated.
US President Donald Trump delivers a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House.Credit:AP
The move significantly escalates the administration's efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny. It comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed the potential need for an “intervention” with Trump.
In a directive, Trump ordered the CIA and the country's 15 other intelligence agencies to cooperate with the review and granted Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify their documents.
The move gave Barr immense leverage over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.
The order is a change for Trump, who last year dropped a plan to release documents related to the Russia investigation amid concerns from Justice Department officials who said making them public could damage national security.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.Credit:AP
At the time, Trump was being encouraged by a group of Republican Congress members to declassify the information.
One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said previously that Barr wanted to know more about what foreign assets the CIA had in Russia in 2016 and what those informants were telling the agency about how President Vladimir Putin of Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 election.
Barr, who has used the word "spying" to describe how the Trump campaign was investigated, has been deeply involved in the department's review of how the intelligence was collected on it.
Barr has told Congress that he personally authorised the review.
While he has asked John H. Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to spearhead it, a Justice Department official said Barr has personally met with the heads of the intelligence agencies to discuss the review and that the project is a top priority after the rollout of the Mueller investigation.
The CIA on Thursday referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. A spokesman for the office did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The directive is likely to irk the intelligence community, which has long prized its ability to determine what information about its operations can be released to the public.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly questioned President Donald Trump's fitness for office on Thursday, suggesting a family or staff "intervention" after a dramatic blow-up at a White House meeting the previous day.
Pelosi said Trump has established a pattern of unpredictability and at one point even joked about the 25th Amendment, the Constitution's provision laying out the procedure for replacing a president.
"I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, adding again that she prays for him and the nation.
"Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence," she said. Asked whether she's concerned about Trump's well-being, she replied, "I am."
In a tit-for-tat response to Pelosi's comments, Trump questioned Pelosi's mental fitness.
"I tell you what, I've been watching her and I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it," Trump said during remarks about an aid package for farmers hit by the trade war with China.
The New York Times, Reuters, AP
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