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Review Underway for Russia Probe Docs  09/18 06:26

   President Donald Trump 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.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump 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 Monday 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.

   The move comes after a small group of Republicans in Congress, all staunch 
allies of Trump, held a news conference last week asking him to declassify the 
documents. Democrats criticized the effort, saying the GOP lawmakers are trying 
to discredit the Justice Department in an effort to protect Trump from 
Mueller's investigation.

   Trump made a similar move in February when the White House, over the 
objections of the FBI and intelligence community, cleared the way for the 
Republican-led House intelligence committee to release a partisan memo about 
the surveillance warrant on Page. Democrats weeks later released their own memo.

   The disclosures were unprecedented given that surveillance warrants obtained 
from the secret court are highly classified and are not meant to be publicly 
disclosed, including to defendants preparing for or awaiting trial.

   The declassification of the documents was quickly praised by Trump allies in 
Congress and attacked by Democrats.

   "Transparency wins. This is absolutely the right call from @POTUS," said 
Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, on Twitter. Meadows, who had 
pushed for the documents' release, said it will allow the American people to 
decide "what happened at the highest levels of their FBI and Justice 
Department."

   And the No. 3 Republican in the House, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, tweeted 
that Trump made the right call.

   "Americans deserve the truth about these egregious actions by government 
officials," Scalise said.

   But Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House 
intelligence committee, called Trump's decision a "clear abuse of power" 
intended to advance a "false narrative" to help in his defense from Mueller's 
probe.

   Schiff said the FBI and Justice Department had said releasing the documents 
would cross a "red line" because doing so would compromise sources and methods.

   Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the 
ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, said in a 
statement that Trump's actions were a "direct and frantic response" to 
Manafort's recent guilty plea and cooperation agreement with Mueller.

   "With the walls clearly closing in on him, President Trump is lashing out 
with this extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible release of classified 
information in a desperate attempt to distract from the seven guilty pleas and 
the mounting evidence of multiple criminal enterprises among his closest 
advisors," they said.


(KA)

 
 
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