President Trump has begun an effort to declassify and publicly release a huge amount of information regarding the Russia probe and the surveillance of his former campaign official Carter Page, according to Politico. The surprise order comes at a time when the White House is focused on securing the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation vote was delayed after an allegation of sexual assault.
Trump has asked for 20 pages of the security application filed to surveil Page, which many Republicans believe could help undermine the Russia investigation by showing bias at the FBI. In addition, Trump ordered the release of notes taken by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr regarding the Christopher Steele dossier, the document written by a former British spy that contained salacious accusations against the Trump campaign including their alleged collusion with Russia and the existence of the pee tape.
But that’s not all! “In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr,” the announcement from the White House read.
The FBI declined to comment on the order.
Many of Trump’s political supporters celebrated. “I can’t wait. To me it’s Christmas, my birthday and the Fourth of July all wrapped up into one,” former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who was questioned in the Russia investigation, told Politico. “Not only will this let Americans know how their country failed Carter Page and George Papadopolous, it will also let them understand how FISA has trampled all of our rights and never should be reauthorized again.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz similarly praised the decision.
“My colleagues in Congress and I have requested these documents for months, but have faced lengthy and unnecessary delays, redactions, and refusals from officials at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he told Politico. “These documents will reveal to the American people some of the systemic corruption and bias that took place at the highest levels of the DOJ and FBI, including using the tools of our intelligence community for partisan political ends.”
The order doesn’t mean that all of the materials will be declassified, according to a Justice Department spokesperson. “When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests,” the spokesman told Politico. “The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”
Whatever happens, both sides are sure to see this as an escalation in the ongoing war over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign. Democrats, in particular, see the order as a further obstruction of justice and use of intimidation by the president.
“The President shouldn’t be declassifying documents in order to undermine an investigation into his campaign or pursue vendettas against political enemies. He especially shouldn’t be releasing documents with the potential to reveal intelligence sources,” Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted.
“Trump has ordered the release of sensitive information into an ongoing investigation of himself and his friends—information that his own Justice Department did not want released because it would jeopardize ongoing investigations,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, told Politico. “That is corrupt, plain and simple.”