Trump Orders Declassification of Intelligence Community and FBI FISA Documents
As I have been saying for some time now, President Trump would eventually authorize and require the declassification of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications initially prepared by senior Intelligence and Justice Department officials of the Obama administration. For months the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees have been seeking, declassification, and release of these documents.
On Monday, President Donald Trump ordered the immediate declassification of redacted materials in the FBI’s application to spy on Carter Page, as well as various FBI reports of interviews related to that matter, including ones conducted with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, as well as material from former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr. Further, President Trump has directed the Department of Justice to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation without redactions.
In a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the decision in a statement noting Trump’s decision comes “at the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency.”
The FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on Page, who worked for Trump’s campaign, in part by submitting a now questioned dossier compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS. Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, had multiple conversations with Steele about the dossier and the Russia investigation. In addition the President’s order to declassify includes materials involving Page and Ohr, without redaction, of Comey, McCabe, Strzok and Page.
Specifically, the President has directed that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, provide for the ‘immediate declassification’ of the following materials:
- pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter pertaining to that of Carter W. Page.
- all FBI reports of interviews known in bureaucratic parlance as Form 302s) with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation.
- all FBI reports of interviews (Form 302s) prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.”
Further, the President has ordered the documents to be declassified also include 12 FBI reports on interviews with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and all FBI reports of interviews (Form 302s) prepared in connection with all other applications to surveil Carter Page. Numerous Republican members of Congress have called on President Trump to declassify the previously and in some cases heavily redacted sections of FISA applications.
- President Trump also ordered the Justice Department to declassify materials involving release text messages from a number of the key players in the Russia investigation, as previously mentioned “without redaction” — including former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.
Earlier this month,12 Republican members of Congress publicly asked President Trump to declassify the FISA application for a warrant against Carter Page, as well as the FBI reports of interviews with Ohr.” Conservative lawmakers have long alleged that the documents will reveal widespread abuse of the FISA system by the highest levels of the FBI during the 2016 campaign. Lawmakers also point to the documents relating to Ohr’s contacts with salacious dossier author Christopher Steele, along with his wife’s connections to Fusion GPS.
While it was not immediately clear when or how the declassified documents would be released, we can anticipate some initial portions perhaps as early as the later part of this week. Normally, depending on the amount, extent and level of classification of the material requires the determination of risk to the sources and method of how the material was collected. But since these are the FISA Applications, the most damaging evidence will be the revelation of who requested the warrants, who prepared the applications, and of course who in the various agencies approved the submission to the FISA Court. It must also be remembered that while the President can declassify anything he deems necessary, there are statutes that prevent and protect certain information from actually being released to the public.
Likewise, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, (R-CA), in an interview said he did not know how soon he and his committee will get the documents. He noted that this is a direct order, and that the President’s order covers for the most part pretty much everything that he wanted. He also said that the release without redaction of the text messages are a bonus.
On Sunday, Nunes said in interviews that witness interview transcripts and other documents from that committee’s now-concluded Russia investigation should be made public before November’s midterm elections. He noted that; “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.”
Similarly, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, (R-SC), said last week that it would be “beneficial” for Americans to see those documents. President Trump himself said in an Oval Office interview where he discussed and referred to declassification of such documents in early September, indicated that; “We’re looking at it very seriously right now because the things that have gone on are so bad.”
So the question is, what is the impact? Blanket declassification of information related to the FISA warrant and counterintelligence work will have significant consequences beyond the Russia investigation. President Trump’s supporters believe this will vindicate the President’s claims that the Russia investigation was broken from the start, while his detractors believe the release will constitute an unprecedented compromise of a national security investigation for political purposes. While the latter is totally incorrect, it’s obvious the first is indeed fact, but for this whole relentless effort, my focus is on what comes next.
And after the dust has settled and the Russia collusion investigation is either crippled or compromised (depending on your perspective), the question is what other ramifications will this decision have? In my opinion, all along — that is what should be driving the President’s decision-making — not how this will affect this particular investigation, but how it will affect others. And it will quite dramatically affect others. What precedent will be set for the future of the branches of government involved in it – it will certainly show the arrogance of power and this that this is the biggest abuse of power scandal in the modern history of America.