President Donald Trump just made a move that could destroy the so-called “witch hunt” for good.
Trump made an extraordinary move and 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 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 the Justice Department. It also came as Trump continued to question special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
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.
The president tweeted Tuesday on the move, quoting a supportive congressman —
“What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there’s going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
….campaign, which is unprecedented in our history.” Congressman Peter King Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
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 remains unclear how soon the documents would be released.
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The Justice Department and the office of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Monday evening 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 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.
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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.”
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 partisan dossier that has become a lightning rod of criticism since its publication in January 2017.
Besides the FISA applications pages, the president is declassifying all FBI reports documenting interviews in connection with the Page surveillance warrant and 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 were trying to discredit the Justice Department in an effort to protect Trump from Mueller’s investigation.
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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 declassification of the documents was quickly praised by Trump allies in Congress and attacked by Democrats.
Transparency is a good thing. If we're protecting sources and methods in these documents, Americans deserve to know the full truth.
Bottom line: If people are trying to hide this information from you, it says far more about them than it does the President or anyone else.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) September 18, 2018
Meadows, the North Carolina Republican 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 Department.”
The No. 3 Republican in the House, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, tweeted that Trump made the right call.
— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) September 17, 2018
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 probe.
The Associated Press contributed to this article