Intelligence and law enforcement experts are stunned after President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he has just handed his Attorney General strong powers to declassify intelligence on “surveillance activities” undertaken during the 2016 presidential election. That would include actions taken by the FBI, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
Trump’s order giving Barr carte blanche came just hours after he literally called prosecutors who worked on the Mueller investigation “killers,” and accused FBI, DOJ, and possibly President Barack Obama of “treason” immediately after a reporter reminded him that the punishment for that crime is the death penalty.
Trump is insisting, as he has done for over two years, that President Barack Obama had then-candidate Trump’s “wires tapped,” an accusation the Dept. of Justice actually investigated and reported it could find no evidence to support President Trump’s claim.
Trump expanded that claim to say that the FBI spied on his campaign, despite having no evidence. Attorney General Bill Barr during an open and live-televised congressional hearing told lawmakers, “I think spying did occur.”
The deliberate use of the word “spying” rankled the intel community and many lawmakers.
This via Maddow tonight:
NEWS: David Laufman, former chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at the DOJ calls Trump’s new directive “a grotesque abuse of the intelligence community.” pic.twitter.com/iTVpl4DnKD
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) May 24, 2019
Here’s how some experts are responding to the President’s order and accusations.
Former U.S. Attorney, now a law professor and MSNBC contributor:
National security takes a back seat to Trump demands that Barr gin up an investigation into public servants at DOJ & FBI. Also today, Trump called prosecutors killers & accused people by name of treason after a reminder the punishment is execution. There’s no way this ends well. https://t.co/6cGLtPzbXq
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) May 24, 2019
Former Chief of Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at Justice Dept.:
When the Dept. of Justice becomes a handmaiden to a political purge, it betrays both its core ideals and the countless prosecutors and agents dedicated to carrying out the rule of law without fear or favor.https://t.co/K9Vfxq0sXS
— David Laufman (@DavidLaufmanLaw) April 10, 2019
Former Director of the Office of Government Ethics:
Barr is the most dangerous member of Trump’s team in terms of the threat he poses to democracy and national security, which is really saying something when Bolton is a member of that team.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 24, 2019
Former CIA officer and former National Security Council spokesperson, currently an NBC News contributor:
Needless to say, Trump hasn’t made any effort to declassify anything related to Russia’s assault on our democracy. Everything we know, we learned from the intelligence assessment Obama ordered, the speaking indictments / report Mueller filed, and investigative reporting. https://t.co/EiVO0fDjxl
— Ned Price (@nedprice) May 24, 2019
Former Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice, and a current MSNBC Justice & Security Analyst:
Whoa. So Barr has the sole authority to declassify info related to the Trump investigation over the objections of the original classifying authority – CIA, NSA, etc. A huge accumulation of power and discretion to the AG that I believe is unprecedented. https://t.co/xDTiurMyff
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 24, 2019
Professor at the U.S. Naval War College and academic specialist on international affairs:
This is just crazy. https://t.co/eKtc4HSIvx
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) May 24, 2019
New York Times editorial board writer on law and justice issues (and yes, he is being sarcastic):
Totally normal thing to include in a presidential memorandum: This thing expires “upon a vacancy in the office of the Attorney General.” https://t.co/pvl3fNoClg
— Cristian Farias (@cristianafarias) May 24, 2019
Vox co-founder and editor:
Some cool things about this:
1) Selectively declassifying things can be very misleading
2) Barr likes to deliberately mislead the public to help Trump
3) Reporters are aware of (2)
4) When (1) happens then despite (3) Barr’s deceptions will generate credulous headlines. https://t.co/UDJnrpfcSs
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) May 24, 2019
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Seven Florida Republicans File Slew of Anti-LGBTQ Bills
Seven Florida Republican lawmakers have filed four bills attacking the LGBTQ community.
NBC News reports “the bills would ban gender-affirming health care for transgender children, repeal municipal and county ordinances protecting LGBTQ workers, and legalize so-called gay conversion therapy in places that had banned the medically debunked practice.”
Conversion therapy has been compared to torture by those who have been victims of it, and states have been banning the practice given its ties to suicide and attempted suicide.
The lawmakers are Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Sen. Dennis Baxley, Rep. Bob Rommel, Sen. Joe Gruters, Rep. Michael Grant, Sen. Keith Perry, and Rep. Byron Donalds (images above, in order of NBC’s reporting.) (NCRM has added links to their Twitter accounts.)
Orlando Weekly’s Solomon Gustavo reports on House Bill 136, filed by Sabatini and Baxley, “which would make it a second-degree felony for health care practitioners to administer treatment for transitioning or changing a child’s sex.”
Elizabeth Warren Calls for Investigation Into Legality of Trump Tipping Off Mar-a-Lago Guests to Soleimani’s Killing
Elizabeth Warren is calling for financial regulatory agencies to investigate whether President Trump broke the law when he told guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort to expect something “big” in response to Iran’s killing of an American contractor in Iraq, The Daily Beast reports.
“Individuals who were guests at President Trump’s resort may have obtained confidential market-moving information,” a letter Warren sent to agencies read. “These private individuals … would have had the opportunity to obtain significant profits simply by being guests or members at President Trump’s private resort.”
Read the full report over at The Daily Beast.
Rupert Murdoch’s Son Rips Fox News for Pushing Falsehoods About Australian Wildfires
Rupert Murdoch’s younger son and his wife launched an attack on News Corporation for promoting conspiracy theories about Australia’s devastating wildfires.
Columnists and broadcasters from News Corp Australia — which dominates the country’s media — have questioned climate change’s role in the fires and downplayed the devastation, and James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn condemned the family business, reported The Daily Beast.
“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” said a spokesperson for the couple. “They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
James Murdoch is CEO of the investment firm Lupa Systems but sits on the board of News Corp, which publishes more than 140 newspapers in Australia, and his brother Lachlan runs the Fox News Channel in the U.S.
“They are pissing inside the tent and that’s unusual,” said a longtime News Corp executive. “It’s evidence of how high tensions are within the family over climate change. The majority of people who work here agree with James. We are hoping this may be the tipping point.”
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