STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump to declassify documents in Russia probe

President Donald Trump is asking the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to release unredacted, classified documents and text messages relating to the start of the Russia investigation. CNN's Evan Perez has the latest.

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 11:43 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 11:45 PM

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of various documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation, prompting new concerns about the increasing politicization of intelligence materials.

"For reasons of transparency" the President ordered the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to initiate the "immediate declassification" of selective portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application on former Trump foreign policy aide Carter Page, as well as "all FBI reports" prepared in connection with the FISA warrant request, according to statement Monday from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The President has floated the idea of declassification for several weeks, but Monday's statement from the White House was the first time the full breadth of his intentions was articulated, making clear that he expects materials to be released despite the fact that there's an active investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into any links between his campaign associates and the Russian government.

The move is likely to further inflame tensions between the President and intelligence and law enforcement officials, who have been the target of presidential Twitter tirades and who have voiced concerns about potentially jeopardizing sources and methods in the past.

Trump quoted Rep. Peter King, R-New York, on Twitter Tuesday: "What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the 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."

"Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!," Trump added in his own voice.

Trump on Monday also ordered the Justice Department to release fully unredacted text messages "related to the Russia investigation" from former officials he's continually lambasted given their connections to the investigation, including FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr, a current Justice Department official.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency was already working with the ODNI to comply with the President's order.

"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 spokesperson said in a statement.

Polarizing decision

Trump's directive drew fierce criticism from Democrats and praise from a group of conservative Republicans, many who are members of the Freedom Caucus, who have urged Trump to take this declassification step.

"The President shouldn't be declassifying documents in order to undermine an investigation into his campaign or pursue vendettas against political enemies," said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "He especially shouldn't be releasing documents with the potential to reveal intelligence sources."

North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of the President, praised the move.

"It's time to get the full truth on the table so the American people can decide for themselves on what happened at the highest levels of their FBI and Justice Department," he tweeted.

Thousands of text messages between Page and Strzok have already been released with redactions for personal information and to protect parts of the ongoing investigation, but publicly releasing them in fully unredacted form could run afoul of the federal privacy law guarding against the disclosure of personal information.

Yet the declassification effort represents only the latest front in the larger partisan struggle over the Russia investigation.

Earlier this year, the FBI clashed with the President over a controversial Republican intelligence memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, which argued that ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier on Trump and Russia, harbored anti-Trump motivations that were not disclosed in the FISA application and that the FISA court was not told that Steele's dossier was funded through a law firm by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Democrats responded with their own memo, which argued that the FBI's interest in Carter Page predated the FBI's knowledge of the Steele dossier. It also argued that it was not the dossier and the Page FISA warrant that prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia, but rather, an earlier conversation that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat about alleged Russian dirt on Clinton.

Eventually, in a highly unusual move, the FBI released highly redacted versions of the FISA applications in July after news organizations and advocacy groups sued for their disclosure.

Potential for backfire?

But since that time, certain House Republicans have called for the public release of specific pages, even though they have acknowledged they are not sure whether the documents will help or hurt their arguments about alleged improper conduct in the probe.

Their latest effort could backfire and upend the narrative House Republicans have spent months crafting, should the declassified documents confirm the FBI had more than the dossier to justify the surveillance of Page.

The redacted versions of the FISA warrant applications showed that the agency did raise concerns that Page was a target of Russian recruitment and might have been working with the Kremlin. Page has denied the allegations. A footnote also disclosed a political motivation behind the Steele dossier and said the person behind it was likely looking for information to discredit Trump's campaign, but Trump did not order the vast majority of that portion of the October 2016 FISA declassified Monday.

Some 30 members of Congress have reviewed largely unredacted versions of the highly sensitive FISA applications, but several of the most vocal members of the current declassification campaign have not.

CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 495464

Reported Deaths: 33422
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens762207291
Kings745537383
Bronx550114986
Nassau493122208
Suffolk486632019
Westchester401311470
New York357233192
Rockland17685683
Richmond170481094
Orange13457505
Erie12819713
Monroe7111300
Dutchess5438163
Onondaga5309207
Albany3577136
Broome336883
Oneida2681128
Ulster247195
Niagara2041101
Putnam179463
Sullivan174348
Chemung16403
Schenectady154650
Saratoga130817
Rensselaer108042
Steuben96257
Chautauqua88413
Columbia68038
Ontario64435
Oswego6164
Tompkins6030
Tioga57230
Madison55917
Cortland5100
Greene49018
Cattaraugus4616
Warren45033
Wayne4485
Orleans39354
Otsego3905
Herkimer38710
St. Lawrence3864
Chenango3817
Genesee3805
Cayuga3642
Fulton36124
Washington33214
Livingston2808
Allegany2711
Montgomery2614
Clinton2405
Jefferson2020
Essex1970
Wyoming1825
Delaware1697
Seneca1403
Schuyler1160
Yates1127
Schoharie1090
Lewis1080
Franklin790
Hamilton160
Unassigned021
Utica
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 46°
Oneonta
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 50°
Herkimer
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 48°
Thendara
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 48°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
VOTE OCTOBER 22-30
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left