U.S. President Donald Trump has assigned sweeping power to the attorney general, not to an intelligence agency head, in review of confidential information regarding the 2016 presidential campaign and its disclosure, only leading to fierce controversy.
Finding out how an investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on the “Russia Scandal” was sparked in the beginning, President Trump issued a directive on Friday to order Attorney General William P. Barr to have the unilateral authority to deal with confidential information and declassify related documents. The U.S. president also ordered intelligence agencies to cooperate on swift and comprehensive investigations. Since Mueller announced a report with few outcomes in March, President Trump has expressed anger and complaint over the special report. Against this backdrop, U.S. media have considered the recent executive order a retaliatory measure.
Some point out that it is inappropriate that the attorney general has such sweeping control given that he has not led any intelligence agency and he is not specialized in the field. In particular, controversy increases regarding some issues that require prior discussion with the intelligence agency chief but are classified under control of the attorney general. This implies that heads of intelligence agencies decide on whether to disclose intelligence information according to Mr. Barr. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats took an implicit tone, saying that Mr. Barr will discuss disclosure intelligence, which can put national security at risk, with intelligence agency chiefs.
Concerns are also rising that President Trump’s latest measure will render the heads of intelligence agencies powerless. Citing former intelligence agency officials, The Washington Post reported that it is an unprecedented case where a government official who is not in charge of intelligence is given the authority to disclose confidential documents and information providers could be infringed. Former FBI General Counsel James Baker criticized that it is an outright insult right in the face of the leaders of intelligence agencies. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell also expressed criticism that the presidential decision can disturb the rules of intelligence agencies, questioning whether U.S. allies and partners want to share sensitive information with Washington.
The opposition Democratic Party, which took control of the House of Representatives, also criticized the president. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democratic secretary of the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized CBS for "the fact that President Trump and the minister did not politicize the intelligence gathered by intelligence agents." Adam Siff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, "The president is abusing power. He is trying to politicize and weaponize state secrets. "
White House spokesperson Serah Sanders said in a NBC interview on Tuesday that "We already know that there has been a lot of corruption in the FBI. They (FBI) leaked information and lied to them, "he said.