A small group of House Republicans is urging President Donald Trump to declassify documents related to the beginning of the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
Trump has already signaled that he may do so, tweeting on Thursday that there may be “Declassification to find Additional Corruption.” He did not elaborate, but has repeatedly criticized the Russia investigation and called it a “witch hunt.”
The Republican lawmakers, several of them staunch Trump allies, are asking the president to take the unusual step of fully declassifying a secret wiretap application from 2016 for one-time Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The FBI was investigating Page’s ties to Russia, but Trump and his allies have insisted that the wiretap was a way to spy on his campaign. The lawmakers are also asking Trump to declassify documents related to Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who they say had inappropriate contacts with a former British spy who compiled a dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.
At a news conference Thursday, the Republicans pleaded directly with Trump to release the documents.
“The continued attempts to hide from the public a full accounting of these abuses is intolerable,” said New York Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The Republicans have spent much of the last year questioning the credibility of the Russia investigation that has hung over Trump’s White House, with a particular focus on the start of the investigation in 2016. Special counsel Robert Mueller took over the probe in May 2017.
They say the dossier, which was paid for by Democrats, was used inappropriately to obtain the warrant on Page and also start the Russia probe. Democrats disagree, saying the warrant was justified.
Democrats have criticized the effort, saying the GOP lawmakers are trying to discredit the Justice Department in an effort to protect Trump from Mueller’s investigation.
Trump has already declassified some documents related to Page at the urging of House Republicans. In February, he declassified a House intelligence committee memo that revealed some details from the surveillance warrant.
The Republicans have also pushed the Justice Department to release thousands of documents related to the Russia investigation and its 2016 investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails. Just before the House left on its August recess, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying the department had not done enough to meet congressional requests for documents.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said then that he did not support the effort, meaning the articles of impeachment would not be brought up for a vote. But Meadows said he had a commitment to vote on holding Rosenstein in contempt of Congress when the House returned in September if certain documents were still outstanding.
Meadows said Thursday that Republicans were able to get “a number of documents” in the last week, but added he wasn’t yet sure if they have all they want. “It’s too early to tell,” Meadows said.