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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 PelosiGOP pollster: Republicans may hold on to the House in midterms Bloomberg visits New Hampshire, fueling 2020 speculation The Memo: Rust Belt race hinges on Trump MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFive takeaways from the final Tennessee Senate debate Schumer rips Trump 'Medicare for all' op-ed as 'smears and sabotage' GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter 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."

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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 TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border 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 CoatsOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist It’s not just foreign state-owned telecom posing a threat  MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself Trump: Nunes should receive Medal of Honor 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 HolderNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Georgia gubernatorial candidate calls Holder comments on kicking Republicans ‘hyperbole’ Sanders weighs in on aggressiveness of Democratic protests: 'I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities' 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."