STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump to declassify documents in Russia probe

President Donald Trump is asking the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to release unredacted, classified documents and text messages relating to the start of the Russia investigation. CNN's Evan Perez has the latest.

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 11:22 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 11:45 PM

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of various documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation, prompting new concerns about the increasing politicization of intelligence materials.

"For reasons of transparency" the President ordered the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to initiate the "immediate declassification" of selective portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application on former Trump foreign policy aide Carter Page, as well as "all FBI reports" prepared in connection with the FISA warrant request, according to statement Monday from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The President has floated the idea of declassification for several weeks, but Monday's statement from the White House was the first time the full breadth of his intentions was articulated, making clear that he expects materials to be released despite the fact that there's an active investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into any links between his campaign associates and the Russian government.

The move is likely to further inflame tensions between the President and intelligence and law enforcement officials, who have been the target of presidential Twitter tirades and who have voiced concerns about potentially jeopardizing sources and methods in the past.

Trump quoted Rep. Peter King, R-New York, on Twitter Tuesday: "What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there's going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential ... campaign, which is unprecedented in our history."

"Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!," Trump added in his own voice.

Trump on Monday also ordered the Justice Department to release fully unredacted text messages "related to the Russia investigation" from former officials he's continually lambasted given their connections to the investigation, including FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr, a current Justice Department official.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency was already working with the ODNI to comply with the President's order.

"When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America's national security interests," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Polarizing decision

Trump's directive drew fierce criticism from Democrats and praise from a group of conservative Republicans, many who are members of the Freedom Caucus, who have urged Trump to take this declassification step.

"The President shouldn't be declassifying documents in order to undermine an investigation into his campaign or pursue vendettas against political enemies," said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "He especially shouldn't be releasing documents with the potential to reveal intelligence sources."

North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of the President, praised the move.

"It's time to get the full truth on the table so the American people can decide for themselves on what happened at the highest levels of their FBI and Justice Department," he tweeted.

Thousands of text messages between Page and Strzok have already been released with redactions for personal information and to protect parts of the ongoing investigation, but publicly releasing them in fully unredacted form could run afoul of the federal privacy law guarding against the disclosure of personal information.

Yet the declassification effort represents only the latest front in the larger partisan struggle over the Russia investigation.

Earlier this year, the FBI clashed with the President over a controversial Republican intelligence memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, which argued that ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier on Trump and Russia, harbored anti-Trump motivations that were not disclosed in the FISA application and that the FISA court was not told that Steele's dossier was funded through a law firm by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Democrats responded with their own memo, which argued that the FBI's interest in Carter Page predated the FBI's knowledge of the Steele dossier. It also argued that it was not the dossier and the Page FISA warrant that prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia, but rather, an earlier conversation that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat about alleged Russian dirt on Clinton.

Eventually, in a highly unusual move, the FBI released highly redacted versions of the FISA applications in July after news organizations and advocacy groups sued for their disclosure.

Potential for backfire?

But since that time, certain House Republicans have called for the public release of specific pages, even though they have acknowledged they are not sure whether the documents will help or hurt their arguments about alleged improper conduct in the probe.

Their latest effort could backfire and upend the narrative House Republicans have spent months crafting, should the declassified documents confirm the FBI had more than the dossier to justify the surveillance of Page.

The redacted versions of the FISA warrant applications showed that the agency did raise concerns that Page was a target of Russian recruitment and might have been working with the Kremlin. Page has denied the allegations. A footnote also disclosed a political motivation behind the Steele dossier and said the person behind it was likely looking for information to discredit Trump's campaign, but Trump did not order the vast majority of that portion of the October 2016 FISA declassified Monday.

Some 30 members of Congress have reviewed largely unredacted versions of the highly sensitive FISA applications, but several of the most vocal members of the current declassification campaign have not.

CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 117455

Reported Deaths: 5270
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook762663570
Lake8063287
DuPage7543362
Kane6188170
Will5442269
Winnebago215654
McHenry151471
St. Clair109179
Kankakee87144
Kendall76919
Rock Island64624
Champaign6177
Madison56558
Boone42817
DeKalb3924
Sangamon34629
Jackson26810
Randolph2674
McLean21713
Peoria2128
Ogle2023
Stephenson1992
Macon19519
Clinton18117
Union1519
LaSalle14713
Whiteside13512
Iroquois1314
Coles12514
Unassigned1250
Out of IL1191
Warren1130
Jefferson10116
Knox970
Grundy952
Monroe9411
McDonough878
Lee791
Cass710
Tazewell714
Henry680
Williamson642
Pulaski510
Marion500
Jasper457
Macoupin452
Adams441
Perry420
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan351
Christian334
Jo Daviess320
Livingston322
Douglas260
Menard210
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Woodford192
Mason180
Washington180
Mercer170
Hancock160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll142
Bond121
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Moultrie110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Effingham71
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Few Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Robinson
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 60°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 60°
Rockville
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 58°
Casey
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 57°
Brazil
Few Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
A wonderful Saturday with sunshine expected!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events