White House lawyers are actively reviewing controversial FBI and Department of Justice documents relating to the 2016 presidential campaign for possible declassification, multiple sources with knowledge tell The Daily Caller News Foundation.
- President Donald Trump is insistent on releasing FBI and DOJ documents related to surveillance of campaign advisers, but he has received pushback from White House lawyers, according to multiple sources.
- House Republicans have pressed Trump to release the documents.
- Congressional sources say they expect Trump to release the records, but they have tempered their expectations on when they will be made public.
The review process is being led by Emmet Flood of the White House Counsel’s office at the urging of an insistent president, two sources with knowledge of the process told TheDCNF. A source close to the president noted that Flood and his colleagues within the counsel’s office are generally opposed to declassification, out of the concern for the precedent it would set as well as any unintended consequences of making the information public.
Sources cautioned that declassification could occur as soon as this week, though the uncertainty reflects the nature of the review process itself.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred on declassification in a Monday briefing saying, “I can’t get into that right now.”
Trump himself told The Daily Caller in a Sept. 4 Oval Office interview on declassification “we’re looking at it very seriously right now because the things that have gone on are so bad.”
At issue within the counsel’s office is whether to wholesale declassify documents related to former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and DOJ official Bruce Ohr or partially redact information to protect sources and methods, two sources familiar with the process said. A source directly familiar with the process said he is certain some declassification action will occur within the coming weeks.
Rumblings and excitement over prospective declassification have reached a fever pitch in recent days among allies of the president.
A group of conservative House Republicans held a press conference Thursday calling on Trump to declassify and release the documents, which they claim show widespread reliance on politically motivated opposition research in obtaining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants on Page.
“We are confident that the FISA application will prove that the highest levels of the DOJ and FBI failed to provide the FISA court with critically important information when they requested a warrant to spy on Carter Page,” New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin said at the press conference.
Other documents said to be under review by the counsel’s office are notes from a DOJ interview of Ohr as well as documents related to the FBI’s use of a confidential informant to make contact with Trump campaign advisers. Ohr exchanged several messages with salacious dossier author Christopher Steele while his wife was working for the same firm that commissioned the document. Ohr used his relationship with Steele to push the dossier toward investigators looking into any purported connections between the Trump 2016 campaign and the Russian government.
While Trump allies expect him to declassify the documents before the November midterms, some have tempered their expectations over the past several weeks.
“I’ve come to expect these things to take more time than expected,” one congressional source briefed on Trump’s thinking told TheDC.
“I think there’s a good chance he’ll do it, but we haven’t heard anything specific indicating this week,” another source said.