Russia Docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community

Source: The Hill | September 18, 2018 | Jacqueline Thomsen and Olivia Beavers

President Trump’s decision to publicly release a tranche of classified documents related to the Trump-Russia dossier could further inflame his administration’s already tense relationship with the Justice Department and intelligence community.

The president sparked a political firestorm after he bulldozed past reviews of his own federal agencies regarding the redactions of sensitive documents. Instead, Trump chose to declassify documents tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Under Trump’s order on Monday, a series of documents will become public, including classified parts of a surveillance application that allowed the FBI to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, FBI reports of interviews with current Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, and “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation” from former FBI Director James Comey.

One Republican source familiar with the impending document release says the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and Justice Department are expected to coordinate the release of the documents. The release, the source noted, isn’t expected to happen this week.

House Republicans, who made a direct appeal to Trump to release the documents earlier this month, say the records will support their claims that the Russia probe has been tainted by political bias.

Former intelligence officials, however, say the monumental disclosure poses a serious conflict of interest since the documents are related to an investigation in which he is personally involved. 

“You don’t have to be a legal expert to see that the president has a built-in conflict here to take some of the actions that he is taking because they relate to an investigation of people surrounding him,” Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI, told The Hill.

Officials say the move is not only unprecedented but also a short-sighted, politically-motivated decision that could have long-term national security implications.

“It shows no regard at all for the judicial and the investigative process, which are the foundation of our system of laws. It is clearly being done as a purely political gamble,” said John McLaughlin, who served as acting director of the CIA during the Bush administration.

Hosko said he believes Trump and his allies are okay with the FBI being “collateral damage” as they seek to attack the Mueller probe, shrugging off concern if the bureau is damaged in the process.

The officials noted that if the document dump ultimately discloses sources and methods, then the intelligence community could suffer from a chilling effect on other sources who may be scared that their identities could be exposed in a political battle.

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