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Trump threatens to declassify 'devastating' documents if Democrats 'want to play tough'

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 11/29/2018 Kelly Cohen
Donald Trump holding a microphone © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.

President Trump likely reinvigorated Republican lawmakers when he said is considering declassifying “devastating” Justice Department and FBI documents if House Democrats “want to play tough.”

The threat comes months after a handful of conservative lawmakers called on the president to declassify and release documents that they claim will show the Russia investigation is politically biased against the president.

“I think that would help my campaign. If they want to play tough, I will do it. They will see how devastating those pages are,” Trump told the New York Post on Wednesday.

The request was made in September and heavily focused on documents relating to the surveillance warrant used against former Trump adviser Carter Page.

Also requested were documents detailing meetings former Justice Department official Bruce Ohr had with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent who was paid by Democrats to write a salacious dossier about Trump, which had information the FBI relied on in its surveillance application on Page.

But, Trump later said he may save the release for a more politically ideal time.

“It’s much more powerful if I do it then,” Trump said, adding, “because if we had done it already, it would already be yesterday’s news.”

Trump has already declassified documents throughout 2018, most notably a memo from the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee, but pulled back his most recent decision to do so.

In September, less than two weeks after the initial plea from Republicans, the White House announced that Trump had ordered the declassification of troves of documents, which would have included the Page surveillance warrant.

The White House also said text messages from former officials such as former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page would be released.

However, days later on Twitter, Trump said he was waiting for a review of the documents before their release.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said Justice Department officials had agreed to release the documents, but said doing so could have a "perceived negative impact on the Russia probe."

"Also, key Allies' called to ask not to release," Trump added. "Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at)."

"In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary," Trump added at the time. "Speed is very important to me — and everyone!"

The new threat from the president comes as Democrats are set to take over the House in January, and the incoming committee chairmen have made it clear that the Trump administration will be the first target of their investigations.

Trump has already vowed to go after the Democrats, saying “two can play that game.”

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!,” Trump said on Twitter the day after the midterm elections.

Democrats decried Republicans’ efforts to have the documents declassified as a broader push to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller took over the investigation from the Justice Department and FBI in May 2017.

Trump has constantly criticized the investigation as a “witch hunt,” recently lashing out against it multiple times this week on Twitter.

None of the spokespeople for the congressmen who requested the declassification of the documents replied to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner about Trump’s latest remarks.

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