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Lawmakers react to Trump's order to declassify documents related to Russia probe

Last Updated Sep 18, 2018 10:12 PM EDT

Political reaction was swift and divided across party lines following the president's order to declassify several documents related to the government's Russia investigation, including pages of the FISA application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

Mr. Trump also directed the Department of Justice to release FBI reports about Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department attorney, and the unredacted text messages of former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Ohr. 

Carter Page, whose surveillance is at the heart of the June 2017 FISA application, praised the Trump administration's move, saying that the "American people deserve the truth about the criminal actions that were taken to undermine President Trump and our democratic processes." Page added, "There's still a long way to go, but these preliminary steps are an important move in the right direction towards restoring rule of law in this great country."

He later told Fox News' Sean Hannity that despite the declassification, his biggest concern is "all the damage that this did to our the U.S. government...the mockery it made out of the Constitution, all of the wrongdoing that was done by various officials at Department of Justice, the FBI and DNC."

While it's unclear what exactly will be revealed in the documents, Republicans who have been urging the president to declassify the material posit that it will be evident that the unverified dossier put together by former British spy Christopher Steele played an outsize role in the approval of surveillance warrants of Trump campaign associates. Rep. Steve King asserted on Fox News Tuesday that "what will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there's going to be a disproportionate influence of the dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential campaign, which is unprecedented in our history." The president took note of the congressman's TV hit, tweeting "Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed. Big stuff!"  

Ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, called Mr. Trump's move a "clear abuse of power" and accused him of deciding "to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative." He said Mr. Trump cares "nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest."

Meanwhile, ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jerrold Nadler suggested the president's actions were a "direct and frantic response" to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreeing to comply with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as part of a plea deal. 

"With the walls clearly closing in on him, President Trump is lashing out with this extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible release of classified information in a desperate attempt to distract from the seven guilty pleas and the mounting evidence of multiple criminal enterprises among his closest advisors," the congressmen said in a statement. 

Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, meanwhile commended the president, saying he completely supported House Republican efforts to declassify the FISA warrants. "It is increasingly clear it was the Obama Administration who politicized the DOJ/FBI, not the Trump Administration," he tweeted Monday.

House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise echoed Graham's praise, saying that Mr. Trump "made the right call", adding that "Americans deserve the truth about these egregious actions by government officials."

Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows added that with the president's action, "transparency wins."

"It's time to get the full truth on the table so the American people can decide for themselves on what happened at the highest levels of their FBI and Justice Department," Meadows tweeted.

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital