Donald Trump routinely argues that federal officials "spied" on his campaign, committed "treason," and tried to "overthrow" a democratically elected administration. Most sensible observers realize that the president's hysterical rhetoric should not be taken seriously.
Attorney General Bill Barr is not one of those sensible observers. On the contrary, Trump's handpicked AG has begun a review of how the investigation into the Russia scandal began, as part of a process that treats the White House's conspiracy theories as if they have merit.
It's against this backdrop that Trump made some news fairly late last night, expanding Barr's power.
President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. intelligence community to "quickly and fully cooperate" with Attorney General William Barr's investigation of the origins of the multi-year probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
The move Thursday marked an escalation in Trump's efforts to "investigate the investigators," as he continues to try to undermine the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe amid mounting Democratic calls to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump.
A White House statement on Trump's new directive said the president has "delegated full and complete authority" to the attorney general "to declassify information pertaining to this investigation."
I think it's fair to say much of the political world is still coming to terms with the practical effects of what, exactly, the White House has done, though House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was understandably alarmed.
"While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice, Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies," Schiff wrote on Twitter. "The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase. This is un-American."
Meanwhile, David Laufman, who was the head of counterintelligence at the Justice Department under President Obama, told us last night that Trump's move is "a grotesque abuse of the intelligence community to further his goal of political retribution, made worse by the spectacle of the Justice Department as his handmaiden."