President Trump, “Will expose really bad things at the FBI”
US President Donald Trump wants to declassify secret documents in the Russia investigation, an extraordinary move he says will ensure that “really bad things” at the FBI are exposed.
His decision may expose sensitive sources and methods and brush up against privacy law protections, experts say.
The order is likely to further divide the president from the intelligence agencies he oversees and raises new concerns that President Trump is disclosing government secrets for his own political gain.
Critics of the move say the President has a clear conflict by trying to discredit an investigation in which he himself is a subject.
The US Justice Department says it has begun complying with the order, though it’s not clear when the documents might be released. It’s also unclear if the multi-agency review now underway might find ways to try to withhold certain information or limit whatever damage, such as outing sources or scaring off would-be ones, that may arise from the release.
President Trump and Republican supporters want the records out in hopes they will reveal law enforcement bias in the early stage of the Russia investigation and prove the probe was opened without good reason.
Democrats say the material is too secret for disclosure and object to any meddling in an ongoing investigation.
In a letter Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, 4 Top Democrats called Trump’s action “a brazen abuse of power.”
The letter said, “Any decision by your offices to share this material with the President or his lawyers will violate longstanding Department of Justice policies.” It was signed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees, Adam Schiff and Mark Warner.
The documents the President ordered declassified include a portion of a secret surveillance application for a former Trump campaign adviser, materials by default treated as highly secret and withheld from public view.
He said, “Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!” At the White House he said he wants “total transparency,” insisting again that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt.”
In this case, the materials may shed new insight into why federal agents suspected the aide, Carter Page, of being the agent of a foreign power. But it may also identify specific sources of information for the FBI or disclose previously classified information about Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election, which remains the center of an ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Warrants to monitor the communications of a suspected agent of a foreign power are a common tool in counter-terrorism and counterintelligence investigations, but they’re applied for before FISA, a secret court.
Monday’s order was extraordinary but not entirely unprecedented.
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