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 PelosiTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Schumer cites security, DHS ban in questioning TSA use of TikTok Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill 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 TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll 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's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter split on Bloomberg video | Sanders briefed on Russian efforts to help campaign | Barr to meet with Republicans ahead of surveillance fight MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinAttorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe 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 HolderIf Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies They forgot that under Trump, there are two sets of rules 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."