President Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of select classified documents relating to the Russia investigation, including the secret court order and supporting interviews that allowed for the surveillance of former campaign adviser Carter Page. The selection of documents, which includes unredacted text messages from former government officials Trump has pegged as mortal enemies—including former FBI director James Comey, deputy director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as interviews with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr—amount to a one-sided data dump under the auspices of “transparency” that’s designed to provide ammunition to Trump allies in congress to discredit and derail the Mueller investigation.
Trump allies in the House have for months been sparring with the intelligence community in its efforts to try to obtain what are essentially cherrypicked documents to validate Trump’s claims that he is the subject of some sort of widespread conspiracy, rather than an investigation into wrongdoing by Trump or his associates. It’s a political fight that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has faced most publicly, telling congress the DOJ “is not going to be extorted” in select members’ push to gain access to classified records. “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 Department of Justice said in a statement Monday. “The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”
The circumstances surrounding the FISA warrant granted to monitor Carter Page have been used by the right as evidence that the agencies were out to get Trump dating back to the campaign and the current investigation is therefore inherently biased. “The Justice Department had turned over thousands of pages of materials to Congress, though its leaders had made clear there was a line they would not cross because making some materials public might put sources at risk or harm an ongoing investigation,” the Washington Post notes. “The Justice Department already has released thousands of texts from Lisa Page and Strzok, and it has also made public a heavily redacted version of its application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order to monitor Carter Page.”
“Legal experts and former government officials said the move represented an extraordinary level of presidential involvement in an investigation that has notched guilty pleas from five of Mr. Trump’s associates,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Former government officials said the documents wouldn’t necessarily immediately become public but would instead likely be transmitted to committees in Congress that have requested the information, particularly the House Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers could then choose to release the information. It also would become subject to freedom of information laws.”