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 PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator 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 watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? 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 CoatsTrump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Hillicon Valley: Deepfakes pose 2020 test for media | States beg Congress for more election security funds | Experts worry campaigns falling short on cybersecurity | Trump officials urge reauthorization of NSA surveillance program Trump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' 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 HolderGOP governor vetoes New Hampshire bill to create independent redistricting commission Why target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama legacy under spotlight after Detroit debates 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."