I previously posted about how the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice believe that President Trump has “crossed a red line” in ordering the declassification of the Carter Page FISA warrant applications and emails of FBI and Department of Justice personnel in pursuit of his “deep state” conspiracy theory concocted by his co-conspirators in obstruction of justice in the GOP House Freedom Caucus and House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes. Abuse of power and obstruction of justice in plain sight.
It turns out that Trump has not even read these documents, and is ordering them released on the advice of his “FOX News cabinet” of advisors who want the materials to further their “deep state” conspiracy theory effort to discredit federal law enforcement agencies and the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation. Trump ordered the government to declassify information he apparently hasn’t read:
It wasn’t a surprise when the White House announced Monday that it was ordering the Justice Department to declassify a set of material related to the genesis of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. For weeks, President Trump’s allies on Fox News and in the House had been echoing one another’s calls to do precisely that.
So on Monday, that very specific order from Trump: Declassify precisely those pages of the application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that were mentioned in a news conference held by 12 staunchly Trump-loyal members of the House in September. What’s more, Trump ordered the department to declassify text messages involving a number of names familiar to the Fox News audience. Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and so on.
Those elected officials and the Fox News hosts who echoed their demand insisted that the declassifications would demonstrate anti-Trump rot in the Justice Department. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) promised that revelation would help Republicans win in November.
It’s odd, though, that Fox News’s Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs would call for the release of classified material, given that neither has security clearance allowing them to know what was actually contained in the documents. They, it seems, were relying on the analysis of people like Nunes and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). They were calling for something to be declassified just assuming that it was what was promised.
Trump, of course, does have clearance and could know precisely what he was ordering be exposed to the public. But in an interview with The Hill, Trump revealed that he, too, hadn’t read the material.
“I have not reviewed them,” he said in response to a question about whether he had reviewed “the memos.”
“I have been asked by many people in Congress, as you know, to release them,” Trump continued. “I have watched commentators that I respect begging the president of the United States to release them. . . . I have had many people ask me to release them. Not that I didn’t like the idea, but I wanted to wait. I wanted to see what, you know, where it was all going. And I think this whole, it’s a hoax. You know Gregg Jarrett wrote a book called ‘The Russia Hoax.’ It actually is a hoax. I call it a witch hunt, but it’s a hoax. Beyond a witch hunt.”
“I have been asked by so many people that I respect,” he added later, “ ‘Please’ — the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro.” All three are Fox News or Fox Business Network hosts. Pirro, Trump said, “takes it so personally” because this is “one of the great scandals in the history of our country.”
Mark Sumner at Daily Kos adds, Republicans plan an ‘October Surprise’ in the form of a document dump and conspiracy theories:
Trump claims that he hasn’t read the documents he’s ordering released, [but] it’s clear that someone has, and Republicans are planning to generate a stack of last minute scandals and conspiracy theories that will save them from the Blue Wave that seems set to crash down on the midterm elections.
As Politico reports, expectations are that the Republicans will mine the released texts and documents for phrases and isolated statements that they can use to “taint special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe” and provide Trump’s base with a fresh infusion of Pizzagate, QAnon, ReleaseTheMemo, etc. to drive them to the polls in an anti-”Deep State” frenzy. The plan is to release the information in fits and starts, making sure that October headlines are filled with the latest revelations and Fox News hosts never run out of fuel for attacking Mueller, the FBI, the DOJ, and supposed connections to Democrats. [In other words, replicating the Russia interference campaign from 2016.]
To Democrats, the situation has eerie similarities to 2016, when WikiLeaks’ slow-drip daily release of internal Clinton campaign emails hobbled Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and offered regular fodder for Republicans.
It’s obvious that the carefully curated selections they’ve requested from Carter Page’s FISA warrant are exactly those most likely to contain hints connected to the memos produced by Christopher Steele and to avoid the mountains of other evidence that went into Page’s warrant. It’s also clear that Republicans, aided by Fox News and the conspiracy theory-right, will sift the tweets from James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr not with an intent to find genuine issues, but looking for those “insurance policy” statements they can pull out to convince Trump’s fans that Democrats were trading still more child sex slaves through a network of pizza-scented tunnels.
But there’s a basic problem for the tactics of the alt-reich Fox State. The focus of the 2018 election isn’t a national effort to generate concern over Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s Donald Trump. It’s not clear at this point that anyone other than Sean Hannity and a traveling cheering section at Trump rallies cares whether Hillary Clinton is “locked up” or even mentioned. But her emails … are not the focus of this election. Donald Trump is the focus of this election. That’s by design of both Democrats and Republicans, who have hung every ounce of their hopes on Trump’s pumpkin head.
The bigger problem for Trump is no one liked this show the first time, or the second time, and this is going way too many times to a very shallow well.
As the editors of the Washington Post editorialized, Trump’s declassification order is an obvious abuse of presidential power.
By the way, the DOJ and FBI employees targeted are also witnesses in the obstruction of justice leg of Robert Mueller’s probe. This constitutes witness intimidation, also a crime.
Bloomberg News reports that the FBI, DOJ Plan Redactions Despite Trump’s Document Order:
President Donald Trump has demanded the “immediate declassification” of sensitive materials about the Russia investigation, but the agencies responsible are expected to propose redactions that would keep some information secret, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter.
The Justice Department and FBI are expected to submit their documents and proposed redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will assemble all the material into a package and hand it over to the White House, according to the people.
While the agencies want to guard against revealing classified sources and methods about the ongoing Russia investigation, doing so could put them in direct conflict with Trump, who as president has the power to override the agencies and declassify material on his own.
It’s too early to say if any officials would resign in protest should Trump do that, one person said. Trump could ask the agencies to go back and scrub the redacted material further.
Critics, including leading congressional Democrats, contend that Trump has crossed a line by ordering release of the documents in order to interfere with and undermine the Russia investigation in which he’s a key figure.
“President Trump, in a clear abuse of power, has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement on Monday.
America’s allies have also objected to this reckless declassification of intelligence for political purposes. Trump delays Russia probe documents; allies voiced concerns:
President Donald Trump on Friday delayed his own order to declassify and release documents from the FBI’s Russia investigation, saying the Justice Department and U.S. allies have raised security concerns about their disclosure.
The announcement, in a pair of tweets, represented a highly unusual walk-back for a president who has pressed for the release of classified information that he believes will expose “really bad things” at the FBI and discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
On Friday, Trump said that instead of moving forward immediately, the department’s inspector general had been asked to review these documents on an “expedited basis.” He tweeted that he believes the office will move quickly.
The president also noted: “In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!” Trump added. [i.e., his friends at FOX News.]
Trump’s continued savaging of his of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his continued attacks on the Department of Justice and FBI leads experts to speculate that Trump’s declassification of documents related to the ongoing Trump Russia investigation may be a means of forcing resignations or justifying firings from the Department of Justice. Trump has been warned not to engage in a “Saturday night massacre” before election day because it will harm the GOP’s chances in November.
Fearless prediction: there will be a “Saturday night massacre” in the days following the election as sure as the sun rises in the east. Jeff Sessions is gone, as is likely Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Russia investigation. By appointing someone who will act as his consigliere to protect the president, Trump can attempt to close the Russia investigation and dismiss the Special Counsel. This is, of course, obstruction of justice.
UPDATE: Paul Waldman’s take at the Washington Post. Think Trump’s war on the rule of law is bad now? Just you wait.
Depending on the results of the election, a supine GOP Congress will enable Trump’s rise to authoritarian despot, or a Democratic Congress will begin impeachment hearings. The choice is yours.