President Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of several key documents related to the FBI’s probe of Russian actions during the 2016 presidential election, including 21 pages of an application for a renewed surveillance warrant against former campaign aide Carter Page, and text messages from disgraced FBI figures Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump had ordered the documents released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Justice Department “[a]t the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency.”
The documents to be declassified also include all FBI reports on interviews with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all other applications to surveil Carter Page.
Trump also ordered the Justice Department to release text messages from a number of the key players in the Russia investigation “without redaction” — including Ohr, Strzok, Lisa Page, former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The 21 pages only make up a small part of the 412 pages of FISA applications and warrants 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 for nearly a year.
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 former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier detailing the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The document has been a partisan lightning rod since it was published in January 2017.
It was not immediately clear when or how the documents would be released. A source familiar with the timing of the declassification told Fox News that they expected the Carter Page warrant application to be declassified first, followed by the FBI reports on agent interviews with Ohr.
The source added that the Justice Department is working on a “compressed timeline” and they expect the first release of records in days or sooner. The text messages are expected to take longer because of the sheer number involved and the fact that Trump ordered their release without redactions.
A Justice Department spokesperson told Fox News that the DOJ and FBI “are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”
ODNI spokesperson Kellie Wade told Fox News: “As requested by the White House, the ODNI is working expeditiously with our interagency partners to conduct a declassification review of the documents the President has identified for declassification.”
Congressional sources told Fox News that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know how soon he will get the documents, but said Trump’s order covers “pretty much everything that he wanted … and the text messages are a bonus.”
According to the sources, Nunes added: “Wow! This is a direct order.”
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called Trump’s decision “a clear abuse of power.”
“[Trump] has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative,” Schiff said. “With respect to some of these materials, I have been previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider their release a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.
“This is evidently of no consequence to a President who cares about nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest,” Schiff added.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, praised Trump’s order to declassify the documents.
“As Congress has investigated, we’ve continued to see more and more troubling evidence suggesting multiple senior level FBI and DOJ officials acted in a deeply unethical fashion during the 2016 campaign and throughout the early stages of the Trump administration,” Meadows said. “Enough is enough–the time for full transparency is now. Let’s bring the full truth to light, while protecting sources and methods, and allow the American people to judge for themselves.”
Meadows is one of 12 GOP members of Congress who earlier this month publicly asked Trump to declassify the June 2017 application for a warrant against Carter Page as well as the FBI reports of interviews with Ohr, known in bureaucratic parlance as “Form 302s.”
Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. — the ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, respectively — said Trump’s “reckless and irresponsible decision” was “a desperate attempt to distract from … the mounting evidence of multiple criminal enterprises among his closest advisors.
“For the past year, Republicans in Congress have been running interference for President Trump, promoting baseless conspiracy theories, mischaracterizing numerous documents, and attacking our law enforcement and intelligence officials,” Cummings and Nadler added. “This effort has been devoid of facts, but it has been incredibly destructive to our democracy.”
On Sunday, Nunes told Fox News that witness interview transcripts and other documents from the House Intelligence Committee’s now-concluded Russia investigation should be made public before November’s midterm elections.
“If the president wants the American people to really understand just how broad and invasive this investigation has been to many Americans and how unfair it has been, he has no choice but to declassify,” Nunes said on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said last week that it would be “beneficial” for Americans to see those documents.
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.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson, John Roberts and Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.