Wednesday, August 28, 2019

UPDATED: Where Are We With Declass?

Paul Sperry has a comprehensive article today at Real Clear Investigations on the state of play re declassification: U.S. Intel Gatekeeper Dragging Feet on Trump-Russia Files, Insiders Say. It's worth reading but, overall, if I were the suspicious sort I'd say that this is an article that was fed to Sperry because he's been a bit of a squeaky wheel lately. Hey, nothing wrong with that. I'm always glad for information. The fact is, August is always a slow news time, with most of the big players gone from Washington, so we're all waiting to put Labor Day behind us and get some real news. Anyway, here's what's going on.

We all know that Trump gave Bill Barr authority to declassify whatever he needs, so why hasn't that happened? Why aren't we rolling in documentation? Has Barr been revealed to be a Deep State operative who doesn't really care about telling the American people what really happened with the Russia Hoax?

Of course not. His remarkably deft handling of the Mueller Dossier shows that. But as with everything else, the fact that Trump gave Barr all that authority doesn't mean the other agencies in Washington have ceased to exist and that all the regulations and guidelines no longer have any effect.

In reality, however, we've seen some real progress, although it's mostly in the setting-the-table stage. Dan Coats and Sue Gordon are both gone from ODNI. That's real progress. It's progress because, when ODNI was set up in 2005 it "became the gatekeeper of virtually all classified information in the federal government." That was done legislatively, so even the president--and ipso facto, Barr--has to jump through a few hoops. It's also progress because Coats and Gordon were totally creatures of the Intel Community and were ignoring Trump's legitimate interests--not to mention the legitimate interests of the oversight committees in Congress, who were irate at Coats' stonewalling:

Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee was so furious with Coats for refusing to share information he sought for his investigation of the origins of the Russia “collusion” probe that he put a confirmation hold on an intelligence community nominee. He accused the intelligence czar of attempting to “hide documents” — including ones related to Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who operated as a conduit between Steele and the FBI -- and he complained about it in a letter to Trump earlier this year.

According to Sperry's sources,

Intelligence officials don’t appear to be in legal trouble – yet. Barr has requested but not demanded the documents, hoping for their cooperation.

I suspect that's not simply "hoping" on Barr's part. I'm sure he's playing a consultative role in the restructuring of the IC that Trump is undertaking in his spare time--when he's not restructuring the world economy and security arrangements. For now, Barr is content not to step on toes, while the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire takes over and Trump mulls his choices for the new DNI--Pete Hoekstra and Fred Fleitz are mentioned as the front runners at this point. Trump is taking his time, because Sperry reports that the president is "suspicious of the intelligence establishment"--as well he might be. Whoever Trump nominates will have to go through Senate confirmation come September, and I have to believe that Trump has been consulting with Mitch McConnell on that.

What Barr's approach likely also means is that he intends to be in this for the longish term. In other words, he didn't take the AG gig just to handle the Russia Hoax investigation. He intends to be a major player in a number of areas and will hold off stepping on the toes of people whose cooperation he may want later on. I expect movement on declass in the Fall. Meanwhile, follow the link to Sperry's article for a general description of what awaits us.

The big picture on all this is that Trump is very much involved and will control the timing. Don't expect Barr to simply run wild. He'll be coordinating with Trump.

UPDATE: John Solomon tonight:

My sources tell me President Trump is putting the finishing touches on a White House initiative to declassify documents that have remained hidden from the public for far too long. 
This welcome effort to provide more public transparency and accountability almost certainly will focus early on the failings of the now-debunked Russia collusion probe. And I’m sure it will spread quickly toward other high-profile issues ...

"Almost certainly." That means "not certainly." So we'll just have to wait and see.


  1. Thanks as always for adding a lot of value to what was already a nice piece. I also thought Sperry's other piece, "The Russia Investigation Documents Barr Seeks to Uncover" (, was quite the eye-opener. What a list!

    1. Tx Brad. I started writing about the Russia Hoax without really considering myself to be a "blogger." I took the news as it came, but mostly tried to use my past experience to explain the legal and investigative dynamics of the Hoax. After I while I got more involved and found myself looking for items to write about--I got hooked. These lulls are hard to deal with, since I don't want to simply repeat what's available elsewhere. I do look to add value.

    2. > "I do look to add value".
      You succeed Mark, thank you. -MR

    3. Tx, also, MR. Breaking news tonight.

  2. Indeed a great deal of value.
    You know, when I was young there was an actual occupation that did this sort of thing. They were called "reporters", but it seems they went the way of buggy whip makers. Too bad. The country, if not the world, would be a better place if they hadn't gone extinct.
    Tom S.

  3. I must've taken away a slightly different understanding of Trump's authorization of Barr regarding declassification. I assumed it was Trump's way of ordering other departments/agencies to comply with DOJ's investigation/prosecution needs to see classified documents.

    And secondarily, to the extent that the investigation uncovered wrong-doing (ethical or legal) by gov't officials, it would eventually see the light of day, by publication or prosecution, in order that the public would learn what the gov't had been up to.

    The public announcement (by Trump) is a way to stir fear in the hearts and minds of men (and women) to cooperate--making them choose a side regarding culpability and responsibility--and prosecution or job security.

  4. Thanks for making the hard to understand a little more understandable.

    I agree, too, that you add value. As long as you don't get too full of yourself, ala Sundance.

    Kidding, just kidding.

  5. Another vote for the "lot of extra value"
    Since I discovered your site, I check it constantly for new posts. Your writing explains all this stuff very well.