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What's behind Trump's spying claim and his AG's new powers to investigate

U.S. President Donald Trump has granted Attorney General William Barr new sweeping powers to investigate Trump's claim that U.S. intelligence agencies engaged in treasonous "spying" on his 2016 election campaign.Trump ordered intelligence agencies on Thursday to "promptly provide" all material that Barr seeks in the attorney general's pledge to review the investigations of the 2016 election.The directive, which strips the heads of intelligence agencies of their command over classified documents, delighted Trump allies like Sebastian Gorka. In a video released Thursday, the former Trump campaign aide proclaimed: "The Kraken has been released," referencing the mythical sea monster.Barr now has the authority to pick and choose material to declassify in his inquiry into surveillance of Trump's campaign, raising fears selective revelations could tell a politically slanted story.House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, blasted Trump for trying to "weaponize" classified information to use against his political foes."Barr obviously got a view of his job that has to do with being a political partisan for the president," said Harry Litman, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general. "A good way to do that would be to take good little snippets and ... reveal them to tell a certain narrative."The power is worrisome."But what's behind the president's allegation of illegal "spying" in the first place?Where does Trump's spying claim come from?Former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, shown Dec. 12, 2016, was the subject of a court order monitoring his communications. (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)Mainly, the accusation references FBI intelligence-gathering on two Trump campaign associates — former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — in 2016.The FBI intercepted Page's electronic communications. The bureau also used a confidential informant and an undercover investigator to reach out to Papadopoulos. Both were initially investigated due to suspected links with Russian operatives.What does Barr say about this?In April, Barr testified before Congress that he believed "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign during the 2016 race.Barr's probe has become known in Washington as an "investigation into the investigators," a reference to Trump's demands to look into what gave rise to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference.Critics have pointed out that Barr should be familiar with the precise parlance of intelligence officers given his years serving as counsel in the CIA. But Barr defended his use of the word "spying" as "a good English word.""I don't think the word 'spying' has any pejorative connotation at all," he said.What is Trump saying?U.S. Attorney General William Barr, right, who was confirmed into the position three months ago, has been given wide latitude by Donald Trump to probe what the president sees as a politically motivated investigation that began in 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)After Barr's testimony last month, the president doubled down."There was absolutely spying into my campaign," he said. "I'll go a step further. In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying, and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again."Trump has also accused FBI officials of "treason" without evidence.On Thursday, Trump defended his move to give Barr authority to reveal secrets gathered by intelligence agents in the Russia probe, saying the directive was necessary "so everything that they need is declassified, and they'll be able to see how this hoax — how the hoax or witch hunt — started and why it started."Trump told reporters he believes the surveillance was part of "an attempted coup" against his presidency.What did the FBI do?Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for lying to investigators in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Papadopoulos came to the FBI's attention after he allegedly told an Australian diplomat he knew that Russians were in possession of emails belonging to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary C ...Read more

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