The Director of National Intelligence has just issued a thinly-veiled warning to Attorney General Bill Barr to not overstep now that President Trump has created unprecedented, sweeping powers for the head of the Dept. of Justice. Thursday night the intelligence community and intel experts were stunned when Trump announced he had given Barr total authority to declassify any information related to any investigation of the 2016 election.
Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) warned Barr in a public memo to work “in accordance with the long-established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information,” and not “put our national security at risk.”
Those are strong words that indicate President Trump did not consult with Coats, and likely did not consult with FBI Director Chris Wray or CIA Director Gina Haspel before tweeting out Barr’s new powers, then heading to Japan barely 12 hours later.
Coats added that the Intelligence Community “will continue to faithfully execute its mission of providing timely, apolitical intelligence to the President and policymakers,” again, clearly suggesting that Trump’s actions, and possibly Barr’s, are entirely partisan.
Interestingly, Coats characterized Barr’s investigation into how the Russia investigation was started as a “review of intelligence activities related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” which is not what Barr is conducting.
Trump’s decision to hand Barr the keys to the Intelligence Community’s kingdom is seen as just the latest in a long line of actions – albeit possibly the most dangerous to date – of Trump using the presidency to attack the Intel community – and to “investigate the investigators.”
Intelligence experts have begun to weigh in on Coats’ memo.
Former Intelligence Community attorney, now the Executive Editor of Lawfare, and a Brookings Senior Fellow, and CNN National Security and Legal Analyst:
This does not read to me like a supportive statement from Coats at all. The intelligence committees should seek to have Coats and Haspel answer whether anyone in their agencies was consulted or raised objections to this plan to the White House. https://t.co/30iOEKAXCK
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) May 24, 2019
CBS News Intelligence and National Security Reporter:
Battle lines are drawn:
DNI Coats pledges to provide DOJ with “all of the appropriate information” related to 2016 and expresses confidence that AG Barr will make efforts to “protect highly sensitive classified information.”
The devil is most certainly in the details here. pic.twitter.com/wOc7F7sQBJ
— Olivia Gazis (@Olivia_Gazis) May 24, 2019
We’ll add more reactions from experts as they come in.