Trump delays release of Russia docs after 'key allies' raise concerns

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE on Friday delayed the release of documents related to the Russia investigation that he wants declassified, saying the Justice Department’s inspector general is reviewing them after "key allies" raised concerns.

In a series of tweets, the president said he recently met with Justice Department officials about his request and that they agreed to release the documents, while noting that they expressed concerns that doing so could have a "perceived negative impact" on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE's investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election.

ADVERTISEMENT
Trump also warned that he could declassify the documents unilaterally "if it proves necessary."

"Speed is very important to me - and everyone!" he tweeted.

The inspector general's office at the Justice Department declined to comment.

The White House on Monday said the president had ordered the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify and release a series of documents related to the Russia probe “at the request of a number of committees of Congress and for reasons of transparency."

The documents are central to Republican allegations that the Justice Department and FBI were biased against Trump in their actions in the Russia investigation before the 2016 election.

Critics, meanwhile, view those accusations as a broader effort to discredit Mueller's probe, which Trump has repeatedly derided as a "witch hunt" against him.

"I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents," Trump tweeted Friday. "They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release."

"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," he tweeted.

The documents include a highly secret application for a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Republicans allege that the FBI improperly used the so-called Steele dossier, which includes salacious allegations about Trump's ties to Moscow, in applying for the warrant to surveil Page.

The Justice Department released a heavily redacted version of the surveillance warrant in July, but now Trump is calling for it to be released without redactions.

Trump has also asked the Justice Department to release "all text messages" related to the Russia probe, including those from former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBarr predicts progressive prosecutors will lead to 'more crime, more victims' James Comey shows our criminal justice system works as intended Trump says he's 'very strongly' considering commuting Rod Blagojevich's sentence MORE and a handful of current and former officials who conservatives have accused of exhibiting political bias against Trump.

The president has also asked the intelligence community to declassify FBI reports on interviews with Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who has attracted GOP scrutiny because of his contacts with Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the dossier.

Monday's move by the White House pleased House Republicans, who have clamored for the documents' release, but it also triggered criticism in the national security community, given that removing key redactions could compromise sources and methods.

The Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said earlier this week that the documents were undergoing a declassification review, and news reports suggest that officials are preparing to propose redactions to those documents.

Trump's Friday tweets signal that U.S. allies have voiced concerns with releasing the documents.

Meanwhile, the president told Hill.TV in an interview this week that he had not reviewed the documents but had been asked by "many people" to release them.

“I have had many people ask me to release them,” Trump said. “Not that I didn’t like the idea, but I wanted to wait. I wanted to see what, you know, where it was all going.”

"And I think this whole, it’s a hoax," he added. "You know Gregg Jarrett wrote a book called the Russian Hoax. It actually is a hoax. I call it a witch hunt, but it’s a hoax. Beyond a witch hunt."

--Updated at 1:43 p.m.