Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’

Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’
© Greg Nash

Democratic congressional leaders sent a letter to leaders of the intelligence community on Tuesday urging them not to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation without first briefing the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Oil lease sale in Alaska nets .5M | House climate panel likely won't pass bills | EPA hires new head of Chesapeake office Stephen King torches Trump over border wall: 'Do something good for once' Pelosi agrees to term limits vote; insurgency collapses MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Trump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House MORE (D-N.Y.) and the ranking Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees wrote in a letter Tuesday that Trump's decision to direct the White House counsel to work with the Justice Department to declassify the documents was highly irregular and a "brazen abuse of power."

ADVERTISEMENT

The documents in question relate to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for the surveillance of Carter Page, a former adviser to the Trump campaign, who Trump says was illegally investigated based off of phony intelligence gathered via an unverified dossier authored by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official.

"The involvement of the White House Counsel, or any component of the White House, is highly improper and profoundly troubling," the members wrote.

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE and the White House should not be given access to any sensitive law enforcement or national security information related to an ongoing federal investigation examining conduct by the President, his campaign, or his associates," they added.

The letter was addressed to several Trump administration officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDems slam Trump for siding with Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi killing Dem senator demands public intelligence assessment on Khashoggi killing Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Democrats' warnings come a day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the declassification process was underway, stating that it had been undertaken "at the request of a number of committees of Congress and for reasons of transparency."

“The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President's order," the Justice Department said in a statement Monday evening.

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Trump on sharing photo of Rosenstein behind bars: 'He should have never picked a special counsel' If the GOP wants to win, it needs to champion the middle class MORE, who served during the Obama administration, ripped the move Tuesday in a tweet, calling it an "abuse of power."

"This is an especially dangerous abuse of power by this President," Holder said. "He places his self interest above the national security interests of the country."