The Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday declassified a trove of documents related to the early days of the FBI’s Russia investigation, including a portion of a secret surveillance warrant application and former FBI Director James Comey’s text messages.
Trump made the extraordinary move in response to calls from his allies in Congress who say they believe the Russia investigation was tainted by anti-Trump bias within the ranks of the FBI and Justice Department. It also came as Trump continued his efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in the wake of the guilty plea of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and amid the ongoing grand jury investigation into a longtime associate, Roger Stone.
Trump’s decision will result in the release of text messages and documents involving several top Justice Department and FBI officials who Trump has repeatedly attacked over the last year.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Trump’s decision in a written statement, saying the president had directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department to declassify the documents “at the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency.” It was unclear how soon the documents would be released.
In statements Monday evening, the Justice Department and the office of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said they are working together to comply with Trump’s order, which triggers a declassification review by various agencies “to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests.” That review is now ongoing.
According to the statement, Trump declassified 21 pages of the 101-page June 2017 application to renew a warrant obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.
Those pages only make up a small part of the 412 pages of FISA applications and court orders related to Page released by the FBI earlier this year in heavily redacted format.
The June 2017 application was the last of four filed by the Justice Department in support of FISA court orders allowing the monitoring of Page. His communications were monitored for nearly a year starting in October 2016.
According to the redacted version, three of the declassified pages involve information included in a section titled “The Russian Government’s Coordinated Efforts to Influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.” That section includes reference to potential coordination between people associated with Trump’s campaign and the Russian election interference effort.
The other 18 pages appear to relate to information the government submitted that came from ex-British spy Christopher Steele before the presidential election. Steele was a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier that has become a partisan lightning rod since its publication in January 2017.
In addition to the FISA applications pages, the president is declassifying all FBI reports documenting interviews in connection with the Page surveillance warrant as well as those documenting interviews with senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who was in contact with Steele.
According to Sanders’ statement, Trump also directed the Justice Department to publicly release in full the text messages of Comey, Ohr, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI special agent Peter Strzok that are related to the Russia investigation.