Published: Thu, September 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Declassification of Russian Federation probe docs underway after Trump order

Declassification of Russian Federation probe docs underway after Trump order

Trump's comments come less than a day after he responded to calls from his allies in Congress and ordered the declassification of part of a secret surveillance warrant application as well as the text messages of senior Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials.

Trump further ordered the declassification of "all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G Ohr prepared in connection with the Russian Federation investigation".

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Trump's latest decision in a written statement Monday evening, saying the president had directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department to declassify the documents.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump's move a "clear abuse of power" meant to intervene in the Russian Federation investigation by "ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defence team and thinks will advance a false narrative".

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted Monday, "Transparency wins".

In a letter Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, four top Democrats called Trump's action "a brazen abuse of power". The Department of Justice released a redacted version of the FISA earlier this year, but lawmakers said it was not enough to show the American people what had actually taken place.

It's not yet clear when and how the declassified documents and texts will be released.

Though there are other instances of government officials or contractors spilling government secrets, Chesney said, "What's remarkable about this is it's the White House that's doing it".

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Regardless of what happens, the release of these documents will not come instantly. "There will be no sources and methods being exposed here but what will be disclosed, the American people will find out that there was no basis for these FISA warrants", he said.

Pages 17 to 34 of the application deal with Page's possible coordination with Russian government officials on activities created to influence the 2016 election.

"What I want is I want total transparency", Trump said.

Trump gave his orders at the behest of some of the most conservative members of the U.S. House, who maintain that the FBI's investigation was tainted at the start due to anti-Trump bias.

William Banks, a Syracuse University national security expert, said that by making the information public, Trump is essentially overruling the decisions of career officials intent on keeping it from foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups and other adversaries.

It was not immediately clear how soon any of the material could be made public.

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.

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