Last week, Donald Trump announced that he was gifting Attorney General William Barr with unprecedented and unchallenged authority to declassify any document he wanted—so long as it contained something that might hurt Trump’s perceived opponents. It’s a move that challenges the ability of the United States to conduct intelligence operations, threatens access to information from allies, and endangers national security. So it seems like it should be not just reasonable, but mandatory, to keep the House Intelligence Committee informed of Barr’s actions.
As Politico reports, Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff has sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats noting that the authority given to Barr raises “grave concerns about inappropriate and misleading disclosures of classified information.” After recounting some of the actions Trump and Barr have already taken to distort the results of the Russia investigation, Schiff warns that the committee will conduct “rigorous, ongoing oversight” and insists that the committee be provided:
- An in-person briefing on any information requested by Trump and Barr.
- A copy of all documents made available to Barr.
- Advance notification of any document which Barr intends to declassify.
- Any objections to declassifying a document, and an assessment of potential damage.
Considering the way that Trump and Barr have resisted any congressional oversight and ignored subpoenas to this point, it’s questionable that Barr and Coats will agree to these demands. But … more subpoenas, and contempt charges, are available.