Trump signs declassification memo

From the White House comes this announcement:

Today, at the request and recommendation of the Attorney General of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 Presidential election.

The Attorney General has also been delegated full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with the long-established standards for handling classified information. Today’s action 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.

Trump’s directive doesn’t mean that information will be declassified willy-nilly. The Attorney General is instructed to adhere to “long-established standards for handling classified information” — the same standards that those who made the initial classification decisions should have applied, but may not have in order to cover their tracks.

You can read the president’s memorandum here. The section on declassification reads as follows:

Declassification and Downgrading. With respect to any matter classified under Executive Order 13526 of December 29, 2009 (Classified National Security Information), the Attorney General may, by applying the standard set forth in either section 3.1(a) or section 3.1(d) of Executive Order 13526, declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence that relates to the Attorney General’s review referred to in section 1 of this memorandum. Before exercising this authority, the Attorney General should, to the extent he deems it practicable, consult with the head of the originating intelligence community element or department. This authority is not delegable and applies notwithstanding any other authorization or limitation set forth in Executive Order 13526.

Recognizing the danger to Democratic interests posed by a thorough and transparent investigation of surveillance against the Trump campaign, Rep. Adam Schiff wasted no time complaining about the declassification memo. He accused the president and the attorney general of conspiring to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”

But all they are really doing is providing access to information. If the information shows no wrongdoing, there will be nothing to “weaponize.” If the information shows wrongdoing, consequences should follow.

There is no reason to believe that Attorney General Barr will make improper declassification decisions. If he does — if he makes information publicly available that should be kept secret — it likely will be apparent, and he will have to be held accountable. ‬

Meanwhile, the president’s memorandum will help ensure that Obama-era intelligence officials will be held accountable for wrongdoing, if any, that they engaged in during the 2016 Presidential election and its immediate aftermath.

Holding them accountable is vital if the integrity of our elections is to be upheld. We can’t have one party or set of partisans using the power of the intelligence community to undermine the electoral prospects of the other party.

Thus, the investigation the Trump administration will conduct through Attorney General Barr is every bit as important as the investigation Robert Mueller conducted into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Indeed, it is probably more important. We can cope more easily with interference by outsiders than with partisan involvement by insiders using the immense powers of our intelligence agencies to favor one candidate over another.

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