Attorney General Bill Barr is changing the rules on how the Dept. of Justice and the FBI can open investigations into possible foreign interference in presidential campaigns or counterintelligence investigations of presidential candidates.
The FBI opened the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, including Russia’s interference, with the approval of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But Attorney General Barr wants to make any future investigations harder to open. On Monday he told reporters that any counterintelligence investigations into presidential campaigns will require his approval, and that of the FBI Director, The Hill reports.
“One of the things that we agreed on is that the opening of a counterintelligence investigation of a presidential campaign would be something that the director of the FBI would have to sign off on and the attorney general,” Barr said.
CNN reports Barr’s decision “is also certain to renew criticism that Barr has undermined the Justice Department’s independence and is injecting politics into a significant and sensitive decision-making process.”
Barr’s announcement came on the same day The New York Times reported Russia hacked Burisma, the Ukraine gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment, meaning Russia is already interfering in the 2020 election.
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DOJ Spokesperson Tells Fox News Bill Barr Is Opening Investigation Into Unmasking by Obama Administration During 2016 Election
Dept. of Justice Spokesperson Kerri Kupec says Bill Barr has authorized the opening of an investigation into “unmasking” that took place before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election by the Obama administration. It is the latest move by the Attorney General to further politicize the DOJ in an effort to re-write history as President Donald Trump would like it told.
Barr has tasked John Dash, a U.S. Attorney in Texas, with conducting the investigation.
Kupac made the announcement on Fox News Wednesday night, telling host and frequent Trump advisor Sean Hannity that Barr has concerns about the “frequency” and the “motivation” of unmasking requests.
“When you’re looking at unmasking as part of a broader investigation,” Kupac told Hannity, “who was unmasking whom, can add a lot to our understanding about motivation and big picture events.”
Unmasking, the act of requesting to learn the identity of a U.S. individual caught up in Intelligence Community telephone intercepts of foreign actors, is perfectly legal, which Kupac noted.
The Trump administration escalated unmasking requests, nearly doubling them in 2018, as this LA Times Legal Affairs Columnist notes:
Authorized NSA "unmasking" (I think we need a new word for this) requests in last 4 years:
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) May 15, 2020
But Sean Hannity painted a far different picture for his Fox News supporters.
“I have been told by my sources now Kerri, for years, that there have been unmasking at an increase of three-fold in the second term of the Obama administration. Um… I’ve been told that even members of Donald Trump’s family have been unmasked. Members of the media have been unmasked.”
Hannity could have actually done some basic research to get actual facts.
It’s important to note that in administrations that don’t politicize intelligence and turn the Dept. of Justice into a weapon for the president’s re-election, any announcement of a major investigation would be made in a non-partisan environment like the DOJ’s press briefing room, and all regular media outlets would be included.
DOJ spokesperson announces an unmasking probe pic.twitter.com/5ibxOxZR4H
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 28, 2020
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