The Slatest

Trump Wants Classified Russia Memo Released Despite Justice Department Objections

President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on December 15, 2017 in Quantico, Virginia, before participating in the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony.
President Donald Trump sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on December 15, 2017 in Quantico, Virginia, before participating in the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony.

President Trump is making clear that he wants a controversial memo to be released that Republicans say will at least partly discredit the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Trump’s desire put him at odds with the Justice Department, which had said it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release of the memo without an official review. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly went as far as to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the president’s view on the memo, even though Congress is the one that has to approve the release of the document, reports the Washington Post.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short acknowledged on Sunday that Trump wants the memo to be released. “We don’t know what’s in the memo. But I think the president generally sides on the side of transparency,” Short said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.
“I’m sure he’s very concerned about some of the appearances of conflict of interest at the top of the agency.”

Although the warning from the Justice Department that releasing the memo could reveal classified information involves “rational concerns,” Short added that for now, “I think the president is more inclined for transparency in this investigation. To the extent that the House is advocated that its public release, I think the president is receptive to that.”

The memo, which was written by Republican staffers in the House Intelligence Committee, claims that FBI agents underplayed the role of politically motivated and questionable sources to justify a surveillance warrant. Democrats have said the memo is misleading and Republicans want to declassify documents for partisan gain.

The way in which Kelly reportedly reached out to Sessions on the issue is yet another example of how the president is angry that he can’t have more influence on the ongoing Russia investigation. The Post explains:

Trump, appearing frustrated and at times angry, has complained to confidants and aides in recent weeks that he does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to “my guys” at what he sometimes calls the “Trump Justice Department,” two people familiar with the president’s comments said.

Such complaints, and Trump’s repeated attempts to pressure senior law enforcement officials through firings or other means, have now become one of the main focuses of the investigation — including Trump’s order last summer to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which prompted White House counsel Donald McGahn to threaten to quit before Trump backed down.

The Post also confirms that, as CNN first reported, Trump has even raised the possibility of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is charged with supervising Robert Mueller’s investigation. And he has also expressed optimism that he’ll be able to make changes at the Justice Department thanks to all the questions that are swirling around about the probe.

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