Leading congressional Democrats are looking to stall the process to release documents related to the Russia investigation, which President Donald Trump ordered declassified on Monday.
Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner, sent a letter Tuesday asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to provide an “immediate briefing” to the Gang of Eight before declassifying and releasing the documents.
The four Democrats expressed “profound alarm” at Trump’s order to declassify the records. Trump ordered the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin the process to declassify 21 pages from a June 2017 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application taken out against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (RELATED: Here’s What You Need To Know About Trump’s Declassification Order)
Trump also ordered the declassification of FBI notes from interviews used in connection with the Page FISAs as well as notes from interviews with Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who met numerous times with Christopher Steele, the author of the anti-Trump dossier.
Trump also demanded the release of Russia-related text messages from former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page. He also ordered the release of Ohr’s text messages.
A small group of House Republicans have pressed Trump to declassify and release the documents. Led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, the Republicans claim that the documents show that the FBI abused the FISA process in order to surveil the Trump campaign.
The Democrats argue that Trump’s action is a “brazen abuse of power” aimed at undermining the special counsel’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
They further claimed that “absent an indictment,” the subjects of federal investigations “should not be able to access law enforcement or related national security information for any reason.”
In the requested briefing, Democrats want to find out what review process will be undertaken during declassification.
They also want to inquire about proposed redactions in the documents as well as “plans to protect investigative equities and sources and methods, including efforts to mitigate harm that may result from these disclosures.”
It is unclear whether the Democrats’ effort will delay the declassification process. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Monday that the agency was “already working” with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the declassification process.
Nunes said Monday that the release of most of the records should take only a few days at most. He said in an interview on Fox News that the process to release the Carter Page FISA was “very, very simple.”
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