Review Underway After Trump Orders Russia Probe Docs Release

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump ordered a series of documents and text messages related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe to be declassified immediately, a decision that many conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill have sought for months.

The request was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders late Monday afternoon.

For “reasons of transparency,” and with the support of several congressional committees, Trump directed the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to promptly declassify over a dozen pages connected to the June 2017 surveillance application submitted by the FBI as a pre-text to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The president also ordered the un-redacted release of all Russia probe-related FBI reports containing interviews with former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr.

A release of text messages sent by former FBI directors James Comey and Andrew McCabe and two former FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, has also been ordered by the White House.

Strzok and Page, who were the focus of the president’s ire on Twitter as recently as Monday morning, exchanged a series of texts that were critical of the president before the 2016 election.

Eventually, Strzok was taken off the investigation when an internal agency probe discovered the messages. Strzok was fired in August.

Though the order from the White House specifically calls for “immediate” action, according to a Justice Department spokesperson, a specific process must first take place.

“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 and ensure the safety of America’s national security interests,” the spokesperson said in a statement Monday.

The Justice Department and FBI are “already working” with Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, to comply with Trump’s order, the spokesperson added.

It has been widely reported that the declassification process could take a several days.

The order is a boon for conservative lawmakers and congressional committees that have argued that a release of the FISA application and FBI texts would prove bias against the president reached the very top level of the FBI.

The release of Bruce Ohr’s text messages could potentially answer questions by those Republicans who have long scrutinized the nature of Ohr’s relationship with the FBI and Christopher Steele.

Ohr acted as a kind of conduit for Steele, a former British spy who produced a salacious dossier containing information about Trump’s alleged intimate relationship with the Kremlin.

Steele was hired, in part, by Democrats to drum up opposition research on Trump ahead of the 2016 election. This factor, Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued, means Steele’s findings should be entirely discredited.

The FBI did not immediately return request for comment on Tuesday morning.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have argued since February that the Justice Department also abused its surveillance powers when obtaining its warrant to monitor Page.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a staunch and vocal critic of the Russia investigation, celebrated the order Monday night, saying on Twitter: “Transparency is a good thing.”

As recently Friday the lawmaker echoed sentiments oft-repeated by Republican lawmakers who decry the Steele dossier. Just days ago, Jordan warned on Twitter the dossier was “the big lie” legitimizing the Russia probe.

Several Democrats have argued that a release of the documents is an attempt by the president to thwart Mueller’s investigation.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday that the release of the classified surveillance application an text messages was a “desperate, dangerous and misleading attempt to undermine” the probe.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who serves as ranking democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed Pelosi’s sentiment, saying that the move to declassify the documents was a way for the White House to “pursue vendettas against political enemies.”

“He especially shouldn’t be releasing documents with the potential to reveal intelligence sources,” Warner tweeted Monday. “This is how you lose valuable intelligence relationships that keep Americans safe.”

On Tuesday morning Trump doubled down on his request on Twitter, writing that the disclosure of documents would show there was “no basis” for the FISA warrants and that “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 campaign which is unprecedented in our history,” Trump tweeted, quoting Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who appeared on a Fox News program Monday night to discuss the warrants.

“Really bad things were happening but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!” Trump tweeted.

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