The Justice Department just made a bold countermove to Trump’s latest attack on Russia probe

Yesterday, CNN reported that President Trump is digging in his heels over his decision to declassify a trove of documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation. Included are certain pieces of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application regarding foreign Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Trump is also demanding the declassification of FBI interviews related to the FISA application.

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Trump is also pushing to declassify text messages involving fired FBI Director James Comey, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

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It’s highly irregular that such materials would be made publicly available because Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is still very much ongoing. While Trump claims that the move is being made in the interest of “transparency,” it’s been widely interpreted as just the latest volley in his war to discredit the intelligence community and the Russia probe specifically.

Lest anyone make the mistake that the declassification is anything more than an act of rank partisanship, Trump made his opinions on the materials in question abundantly clear on Twitter.

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Now, the intelligence community is fighting back. Bloomberg reports that the agencies involved in this declassification process look like they will be proposing redactions for the released material, meaning that select portions could be kept confidential. 

The Justice Department and FBI will propose their redactions to the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence which will, in turn, compile the materials and deliver them to the Trump administration.

Bloomberg’s sources believe that the agencies’ desire to protect elements of the ongoing Russia investigation will come into direct conflict with Trump’s push for a broad declassification. If he so chooses, he can override them, reject the redactions and roll out the uncensored information.

Given the president’s past willingness to flout national security concerns and the rule of law to further his own interests, it seems entirely possible that he will ignore the redaction suggestions. It’s clear that he’s increasingly running out of options as Mueller closes in, and will be forced to resort to more and more drastic measures.

Orginial reporting by Chris Strohm.

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Robert Haffey

Robert Haffey is a political writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.

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