President Trump is “very seriously” considering whether to declassify a slew of FBI and Justice Department records related to the Russia investigation, he said Wednesday. That controversial proposal, which Trump has toyed with for months, may have a backer in Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general.
“Declassification, we’re looking at very seriously,” Trump told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday, just before Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.
Whitaker, who served as Sessions’ chief of staff, will take over as acting attorney general. In that role, he will oversee the special counsel’s investigation into Trump associates’ links to Russia. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had directed the investigation because Sessions recused himself due to contacts he had with Russians while working on the Trump campaign.
According to Fox News’s Catherine Herridge, Whitaker has worked quietly behind the scenes in support of the push to declassify the Russia documents.
Trump announced on Sept. 17 that he was ordering the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin the process of declassifying 21 pages from an FBI application for a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Trump also called for the declassification of FBI notes from interviews used to obtain the surveillance warrant. He also urged the release of FBI interviews with Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who serve as a back channel to Christopher Steele, the author of the Democrat-funded dossier. The FBI relied heavily on the unverified dossier to obtain the spy warrants on Page.
Trump faced heavy backlash from his declassification push. Democrats accused him of meddling with the special counsel’s investigation and of putting confidential FBI sources at risk.
Trump retracted the declassification on Sept. 21, claiming that two foreign allies asked him not to release the documents. Trump allies in Congress suggested that Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray pressured Trump not to release the documents. Some White House attorneys also counseled against releasing the records.
But Trump suggested Wednesday that with the midterms behind him, he is against considering declassification.
“It’s amazing how people on the other side just don’t want those documents declassified,” Trump said in his press conference.
“We’re looking at it carefully. I certainly wanted to wait until after the midterms.”
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