WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is eager to see the release of secret documents related to the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, but FBI text messages and other materials may not be made public anytime soon.
Intelligence officials are reviewing the documents to remove sensitive information following Trump’s declassification order this week. The president has said he believes the documents will bolster his argument that investigators in the Russia probe are biased against him.
There is no way to tell how long the review process will take, said officials with the White House, Justice Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Meanwhile, Democrats who sit on congressional intelligence committees said Trump is trying to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. They want a briefing from the intelligence community before any documents are released.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that presidents have the right to declassify documents, but Trump’s order comes “in the midst of an investigation of his own campaign.”
Said Warner: “This is an attempt to stifle the investigation.”
While Trump says he believes the documents will back up his claims of bias, some lawmakers said they may underscore the justification for the Russia probe. “Be careful what you wish for,” Warner said.
The dispute, which could play out over weeks, revolves around Trump’s long-running attacks on Mueller, the Justice Department, and the FBI over the Russia investigation.
Mueller’s team is investigating, among other things, whether there was any coordination between anyone from his campaign and Russia and also whether there were any efforts by the president or his aides to try to obstruct the investigation.
Trump has called the Mueller probe a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia.
The documents Trump wants released include parts of the application to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former aide to the president’s campaign. It would include FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with that application.
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