Trump Orders Russia Investigation Documents Be Declassified – New York Times

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Trump Orders Russia Investigation Documents Be Declassified

President Trump ordered the declassification of documents related to the Russia investigation and to Bruce G. Ohr, center, a Justice Department official.CreditCreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

By Adam Goldman

  • Sept. 17, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered law enforcement and intelligence officials to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation and other inquiries, White House officials said on Monday, the latest instance of the president siding with Republican allies on Capitol Hill over federal law enforcement.

Mr. Trump decided to declassify text messages about the Russia inquiry from a handful of law enforcement officials, summaries of interviews in the case and documents related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide investigated for his links to Russia. For months, Mr. Trump and some of his most fervent congressional supporters have clamored for the material’s release against the protests of the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

The move is all but certain to further deteriorate Mr. Trump’s relationship with law enforcement officials. As part of their monthslong attacks on the Russia investigation, the president and his allies have accused law enforcement officials of improperly obtaining a secret warrant to wiretap the campaign adviser, Carter Page. Little evidence has emerged to back the Republicans’ assertions, and Democrats have accused them in return of politicizing a legitimate inquiry with major national security implications.

Justice Department officials originally received authorization to wiretap Mr. Page from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016. Among the materials being prepared for release are nearly two dozen pages of the Justice Department’s application. The wiretap was renewed three times, including once by Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who supervises the special counsel investigation.

Much of the application was previously released in July, angering the intelligence community and members of the law enforcement who believed that the information should not have been made public and that its release set a dangerous precedent by making public secret methods of investigation.

Former and current F.B.I. officials have expressed concern that the Republican efforts to out the materials could have long-lasting consequences, making it harder to recruit informants willing to help with investigations who are the lifeblood of law enforcement.

But without the president’s backing, the protracted fight over the materials has left the Justice Department and F.B.I. with little recourse to protect the materials from being made public.

Mr. Trump also told the Justice Department to release without redactions all text messages of four former F.B.I. officials who worked on the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired with it. Those officials included James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe.

A Justice Department spokesman said the F.B.I. and the department were working to comply with Mr. Trump’s order.

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and one of the president’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill, praised Mr. Trump’s decision in a statement and said it came in the face of “unnecessary delays, redactions and refusals.”

“These documents will reveal to the American people some of the systemic corruption and bias that took place at the highest levels of the D.O.J. and F.B.I., including using the tools of our intelligence community for partisan political ends,” Mr. Gaetz said.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused the president of abusing his power “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.”

In addition to parts of the application, Mr. Trump also ordered the director of national intelligence and law enforcement officials to declassify F.B.I. interviews about the case with Bruce G. Ohr, a Justice Department official who has been caught up in Mr. Trump’s attacks on national security officials.

Mr. Ohr, a veteran prosecutor who fought Russian organized crime for years, met repeatedly with a British spy who specialized in Russia, Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier of explosive, unverified claims about Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Steele was also an F.B.I. informant, but agents ended that relationship in late 2016 because he had spoken to journalists about the work he did for the bureau.

Mr. Steele investigated ties between Mr. Trump and Russia for the same research firm, Fusion GPS, where Mr. Ohr’s wife was a contractor.

Mr. Ohr met with Mr. Steele almost a dozen times from late 2016 to May 2017, according to congressional officials. F.B.I. agents interviewed Mr. Ohr after the meetings and documented the information.

Mr. Ohr was the only current official singled out by Mr. Trump when he announced this summer that he was reviewing the clearances of several national security officials. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly attacked Mr. Ohr, calling for him on Twitter to be fired.

Follow Adam Goldman on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Ignoring Security Concerns, Trump to Make Russia Documents Public. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe