President Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of a trove of records relating to the early days of the Russia investigation, including text messages from former FBI Director James Comey and the surveillance application that permitted the bureau to monitor ex-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The extraordinary move, which the President said he ordered for “reasons of transparency,” comes in response to repeated calls for declassification from his congressional allies who claim, with scant evidence, that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was plagued by an anti-Trump bias.
In addition to the Page FISA warrant, Trump ordered the Director of National Intelligence to release, without any redaction, text messages relating to the Russia probe from Comey, ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, ex-FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
The move, which comes in the wake of a guilty plea from Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is likely to inflame the President’s already strained relationship with his own U.S. intelligence community, as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate the campaign for possible collusion with Moscow.
Mueller’s investigation has already resulted in 35 indictments against Trump associates and Russians, including guilty pleas from Manafort, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-campaign advisers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.
The President has repeatedly attacked the members of his intelligence community he targeted with Monday’s order, claiming they and Mueller are perpetuating a baseless “witch hunt.”
Right-wing outlets and Trump allies in Congress have zeroed in on text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page as evidence of a sweeping anti-Trump bias within the ranks of the FBI and the intelligence community at large.
However, a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general put those suspicions to bed, concluding there is no evidence suggesting the exchanges between Strzok and Page resulted in any concrete investigative decisions.
Ohr, a longtime Justice Department investigator, has recently faced Trump’s ire over his ties to Fusion GPS, the firm that funded the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The dossier, which has not been verified by U.S. intelligence, alleges the Russian government has compromising information about Trump, including video tapes of his directing prostitutes to perform a lewd sex act in a Moscow hotel suite.