Trump orders declassification of DOJ’s Russia investigation documents

UPDATE — 9/21, 4:07 p.m. EDT: President Trump tweeted Friday morning that the DOJ will not release documents related to the federal Russia election interference probe, and instead has asked the department’s IG to review relevant materials “on an expedited basis.”

 

President Trump ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday to release portions of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant (FISA), which sanctioned federal investigators to surveil 2016 Trump presidential campaign aide, Carter Page.

In the same order, Mr. Trump directed the DOJ to release reports outlining interviews senior FBI official Bruce Ohr held with Mr. Page.

In addition to the documents ordered released, Trump instructed the DOJ to release all unredacted text messages between Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators and James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr.

Under federal law, requests for the declassification of documents trigger a routine in which federal intelligence agencies examine material before deeming it appropriate for release.  The review is currently underway.

The review is expected to take days, if not months, before the documents are certified for public release.

In a statement saying he looks forward to reviewing the material, Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.), a well-known Trump supporter, released a statement which read:

“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.”

In sum, 21 pages of a 101-page FISA renewal application from an original 2016 application are expected to be released.

Documents long sought by congressional Republicans, Trump allies on Capitol Hill have long contended the basis for the FISA warrant was, in part, information gleaned from the now-infamous “Trump dossier.” That charge is disputed by U.S. officials who point to Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos’ claim a Russian representative told him personally the Kremlin possessed thousands of Hillary Clinton emails.

A portfolio of salacious material compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele for use as political intelligence, GOP House members claim it has biased origins and was funded by Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Ohr, it is known, met repeatedly with Steele during the campaign.  Mr. Ohr later admitted he failed to inform superiors over his contacts with Steele; he has since been demoted at the FBI.

Mr. Ohr’s wife previously worked at Fusion GPS, the firm which retained Mr. Steele to gather information and write the dossier.

The heart of a bitter partisan battle in Congress, the secret surveillance of Mr. Page began shortly after he departed the Trump campaign in 2016 and continued into mid-2017.

Critics of the surveillance say the FBI exceeded its authority in the observations of Mr. Page, and have denounced the dossier as a source to permit such clandestine observation.

Responding to the release, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California’s Adam Schiff, declared Trump’s move as a “clear abuse of power.”

Although the documents have been ordered declassified and released to the public, the information is only likely to be delivered to House committees requesting the information.

 

[Politico] [NPR] [NBC News] [Photo courtesy ALEX WONG/Getty Images via ABC15 Arizona]