Chuck Ross on September 18, 2018
- In an unprecedented move, President Trump ordered the immediate declassification of four categories of documents related to the Russia probe
- Republicans have pressed Trump to declassify the documents, which they say show improper conduct at the FBI and Justice Department
- The documents will shed light into the government’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government
President Trump’s order to immediately declassify FBI and Justice Department documents related to the Russia investigation will provide an unprecedented look into the government’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
Trump on Monday identified four categories of documents for declassification and release.
He ordered the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department to declassify information in a FISA application against former Trump campaign adviser. He also ordered the release of notes that the FBI took during interviews as part of its collusion investigation. Trump also called on the FBI and DOJ to release a slew of text messages from James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.
The White House announcement triggered a scramble to find out when the information will be made public and how far it will go to support Republicans’ claims of FBI and DOJ abuse by using the infamous Steele dossier.
Here is what we know so far.
Carter Page FISA
Since June, Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have pressed Trump to declassify and release 21 pages of redacted materials from a June 2017 FISA application against Page.
Republicans identified pages 10-12 and 17-34 that should be declassified and publicized.
The FBI obtained four FISAs against Page from between October 2016 and June 2017. The Justice Department released portions of the applications on June 21 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The applications showed that investigators relied heavily on the infamous and unverified Steele dossier to make the case that there was probable cause to believe that Page was acting as an agent of Russia. The dossier, which was written by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by Democrats, accuses Page of meeting secretly in Moscow in July 2016 with two Kremlin insiders. He is also accused of being the Trump campaign’s liaison to the Kremlin for the purposes of collusion.
Page has vehemently denied the allegations, saying that he has never met with the two Kremlin insiders described in the dossier.
House Republicans have hinted at what information is hidden behind the black boxes in the FISA application. On July 29, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said that the American public will be “shocked” by material.
Nunes told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday night that he believes that 21 pages of the FISA are what FBI agent Peter Strzok was referring to when he sent an Aug. 15, 2016 text message referring to an “insurance policy.”
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [Andrew McCabe’s] office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok wrote to FBI attorney Lisa Page.
“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Nunes said Monday that Republicans believe “that the insurance policy was specifically what they did that still is redacted.”
Sources familiar with Trump’s declassification order tell The Daily Caller News Foundation that the Page FISA material will be the first documents released. Nunes said that the process of releasing the FISA is “very, very simple” given that Trump has the authority to declassify any documents he wants.
Notes of FBI interviews with DOJ official Bruce Ohr
Trump also ordered the release of notes of FBI interviews conducted with Bruce Ohr, the former assistant deputy attorney general who maintained contact with Steele before and after the 2016 election. Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie, also worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele.
Ohr gave at least 12 briefings to the FBI following his interactions with Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.
The notes will likely shed light on Steele’s thinking while he was investigating Trump’s possible ties to Russia. Ohr and Steele also exchanged text messages and emails discussing the Russia investigation.
The relationship continued even after the FBI cut ties with Steele just before the election because of his unauthorized contacts with the media.
Notes of FBI interviews for Page FISA
Trump’s call for the release of interviews used to obtain the Page FISAs was unexpected. But the documents will likely contain a trove of information about how far the FBI went to investigate the Steele dossier.
Nunes appeared to refer to this tranche of records on Monday when he told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that “there is exculpatory information that the president has ordered declassified that needs to happen.”
None of the allegations against Page in the dossier have been verified publicly. The FBI also expressed “medium confidence” in Steele’s report, according to an internal review of the intelligence.
FBI text messages
Trump has also ordered the public release, without redaction, of all Russia-related text messages sent by Strzok, Lisa Page, Ohr, former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The texts are expected to take the longest to process because of their sheer volume. The Justice Department has already released thousands of text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page. Strzok was removed from the special counsel’s investigation in July 2017 because of the anti-Trump sentiments in the texts.