Review Underway for Russia Probe Docs 09/18 06:26
President Donald Trump declassified a trove of documents related to the
early days of the FBI's Russia investigation, including a portion of a secret
surveillance warrant application and former FBI Director James Comey's text
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump declassified a trove of documents
related to the early days of the FBI's Russia investigation, including a
portion of a secret surveillance warrant application and former FBI Director
James Comey's text messages.
Trump made the extraordinary move Monday in response to calls from his
allies in Congress who say they believe the Russia investigation was tainted by
anti-Trump bias within the ranks of the FBI and Justice Department. It also
came as Trump continued his efforts to undermine special counsel Robert
Mueller's probe in the wake of the guilty plea of his former campaign chairman,
Paul Manafort, and amid the ongoing grand jury investigation into a longtime
associate, Roger Stone.
Trump's decision will result in the release of text messages and documents
involving several top Justice Department and FBI officials who Trump has
repeatedly attacked over the last year.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Trump's
decision in a written statement, saying the president had directed the Office
of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department to
declassify the documents "at the request of a number of committees of Congress,
and for reasons of transparency." It was unclear how soon the documents would
In statements Monday evening, the Justice Department and the office of
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said they are working together to
comply with Trump's order, which triggers a declassification review by various
agencies "to seek to ensure the safety of America's national security
interests." That review is now ongoing.
According to the statement, Trump declassified 21 pages of the 101-page June
2017 application to renew a warrant obtained under the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor the communications of former Trump
campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.
Those pages only make up a small part of the 412 pages of FISA applications
and court orders related to Page released by the FBI earlier this year in
heavily redacted format.
The June 2017 application was the last of four filed by the Justice
Department in support of FISA court orders allowing the monitoring of Page. His
communications were monitored for nearly a year starting in October 2016.
According to the redacted version, three of the declassified pages involve
information included in a section titled "The Russian Government's Coordinated
Efforts to Influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election." That section
includes reference to potential coordination between people associated with
Trump's campaign and the Russian election interference effort.
The other 18 pages appear to relate to information the government submitted
that came from ex-British spy Christopher Steele before the presidential
election. Steele was a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research
into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier that has become a
partisan lightning rod since its publication in January 2017.
In addition to the FISA applications pages, the president is declassifying
all FBI reports documenting interviews in connection with the Page surveillance
warrant as well as those documenting interviews with senior Justice Department
official Bruce Ohr, who was in contact with Steele.
According to Sanders' statement, Trump also directed the Justice Department
to publicly release in full the text messages of Comey, Ohr, former acting FBI
Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI special
agent Peter Strzok that are related to the Russia investigation.
The move comes after a small group of Republicans in Congress, all staunch
allies of Trump, held a news conference last week asking him to declassify the
documents. Democrats criticized the effort, saying the GOP lawmakers are trying
to discredit the Justice Department in an effort to protect Trump from
Trump made a similar move in February when the White House, over the
objections of the FBI and intelligence community, cleared the way for the
Republican-led House intelligence committee to release a partisan memo about
the surveillance warrant on Page. Democrats weeks later released their own memo.
The disclosures were unprecedented given that surveillance warrants obtained
from the secret court are highly classified and are not meant to be publicly
disclosed, including to defendants preparing for or awaiting trial.
The declassification of the documents was quickly praised by Trump allies in
Congress and attacked by Democrats.
"Transparency wins. This is absolutely the right call from @POTUS," said
Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, on Twitter. Meadows, who had
pushed for the documents' release, said it will allow the American people to
decide "what happened at the highest levels of their FBI and Justice
And the No. 3 Republican in the House, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, tweeted
that Trump made the right call.
"Americans deserve the truth about these egregious actions by government
officials," Scalise said.
But Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House
intelligence committee, called Trump's decision a "clear abuse of power"
intended to advance a "false narrative" to help in his defense from Mueller's
Schiff said the FBI and Justice Department had said releasing the documents
would cross a "red line" because doing so would compromise sources and methods.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the
ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, said in a
statement that Trump's actions were a "direct and frantic response" to
Manafort's recent guilty plea and cooperation agreement with Mueller.
"With the walls clearly closing in on him, President Trump is lashing out
with this extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible release of classified
information in a desperate attempt to distract from the seven guilty pleas and
the mounting evidence of multiple criminal enterprises among his closest
advisors," they said.