Monday, October 5, 2020

UPDATED: Trump Back, Pushing For Declass

COS Mark Meadows spoke with Fox News this morning and indicated that President Trump is already getting close to returning to a pretty normal work schedule. In welcome news, and as an example of Trump's involvement with ongoing matters, Meadows stated:

He [Trump] has already tasked me with getting some *declassification rolling* in a followup to some of the requests that Devin Nunes and some others have made.


So, we don't know the specifics of what may be involved, but the declassifications will be made in response to requests by Devin Nunes and others. The reference to Devin Nunes almost certainly is a reference to the Igor Danchenko interview, which debunked the entire Steele "dossier," but we can only speculate as to who "some other" requesting declass--and what documents are involved. There's plenty of possibilities.

Presumably this will be happening before the election, so we'll be following the news closely.

ADDENDUM: What I find so interesting about this is the fact that the President is directing his COS to get involved. We all know--or in the case of some, think they know--that Trump put AG Barr in charge of declassification for the Russia Hoax investigation. The reality isn't so simple as some think.

Contrary to those who seem to think that Barr was made a sort of dictator for declassification, that isn't really the case. Barr was made the ultimate authority for purposes of the investigation, but he still needs to go through normal processes. You can see that from the terms of Trump's executive order, which I will append below. Crucially, agency heads retain a voice in the process and can--as in the case of the FBI's Wray and CIA's Haspel, throw up barriers and slow things down. Thus the need for the president to get involved, because only the president can issue direct orders to agency heads when the agency head retains authorities. 

For example. What does "promptly" mean? As in "promptly provide such assistance and information as the Attorney General may request"? COB today? Tomorrow? Next week? As soon as the agency head deems it practicable? Note, too, that Barr must follow certain standards and is required to "consult with the head of the originating intelligence community element or department." And those agency heads retain their lawful authorities. The AG, then, is more a coordinator than a head cracking dictator.

Therefore, I read Meadows' remark to mean that, most likely, AG Barr himself has requested the President to get involved because of roadblocks that he's having difficulty overcoming.

SUBJECT:  Agency Cooperation with Attorney General’s Review of Intelligence Activities Relating to the 2016 Presidential Campaigns

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:

Section 1.  Agency Cooperation. The Attorney General is currently conducting a review of intelligence activities relating to the campaigns in the 2016 Presidential election and certain related matters. The heads of elements of the intelligence community, as defined in 50 U.S.C. 3003(4), and the heads of each department or agency that includes an element of the intelligence community shall promptly provide such assistance and information as the Attorney General may request in connection with that review.

Sec. 2.  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.

Sec. 3.  General Provisions.   (a)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  The authority in this memorandum shall terminate upon a vacancy in the office of Attorney General, unless expressly extended by the President.

(d)  This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(e)  The Attorney General is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


This, I believe, is what's behind Nunes' call to "shut down" the intel agencies until they proceed with declassification. Obviously, Barr can't shut them down. Only Trump can take the kind of drastic action that may be required. I'm quite sure Barr has communicated that to the president.

UPDATE: Apologies for not getting this complete the first time through. To properly understand where Barr stands in all this, note that the executive order has three sections. 

The first section requires agency cooperation with Barr's review. That means the agencies are required to promptly provide the materials that Barr needs to conduct his review. As far as that goes, I have no doubt at all that Barr has had whatever access he needs. So, for example, I don't doubt that Barr and his investigators have seen the unredacted original of Neil Eggleston's 1/19/2017 TOP SECRET letter to James Comey. However, access to those documents emphatically does NOT involved declassification. Barr and his investigators will all have the clearances to view such documents, but the documents remain agency property.

Thus, section 2 addresses the question of declassification--which is totally separate from the question of investigative access. And it's in this area that the limits of Barr's authorities become apparent. His right to view the documents he needs doesn't give him unilateral authority to declassify those documents--as section 2 makes clear. The documents still remain agency property and Barr is required to consult before the documents can be declassified. 

This is the point at which we are now. Notice that neither Nunes nor anyone else that I'm aware of are pointing fingers at Barr over declassification matters. Barr may well want to control the flow of declassification for prosecutorial or investigative reasons. But that's not the real problem--which lies with the intel agencies delaying. This is why Barr needs Trump to be involved.


  1. Typo? Was "CIA's Haspel, through up barriers"
    supposed to be
    "CIA's Haspel, throw up barriers"?

  2. I find it wryly amusing that these so-called Washington Elites are apparently not elite enough to notice and apparently since they don't notice they think we don't notice that just like all the FISA process "mistakes" all the classification stonewalling stonewalls in one direction namely in response to Republican requests for information when it is classified information helpful to democrats out it leaks.
    The general trend is so stark as to be laughable.

  3. "And others"

    DNI problem with Haspel?

  4. Much information has become available about the shenanigans in DOJ/FBI.

    Practically no information has become available about the Intelligence assessments that the Russian Government "meddled" in the USA's 2016 election.

    Beyond Crowdstrike's finding of Russia-like computer viruses in the DNC computers, is there other evidence that the Russian Government hacked the DNC computers? Has NSA proved it? Has some CIA source said so?

    The dropping of charges against Concord Management indicates that the US Intelligence Community might have practically no compelling evidence that the Russian Government had anything at all to do with buying political ads on Facebook, etc.

    What is the US Intelligence Community's real evidence for the joint assessment that was published in January 2017? That is the bubble that needs to be popped.

    1. Right. And at that level Barr needs Trump's backing to get it done.

    2. See the new post, in that regard.

  5. Lots of complaints about Haspel. For what it is worth, much less complaining about Wray. Wray may have slow walked some things, but perhaps he acceded to Barr's pressure to do the right thing...eventually. Sounds like Haspel is just digging in.