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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Lawmakers 'failed us' says ICE chief Pelosi, Democratic leaders seek to quell liberal revolt over border bill MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' 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 TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question 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 CoatsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions CNN's Jake Tapper repeatedly presses Pence on whether he thinks climate change is a threat Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon 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 HolderThe most important pledge Democratic presidential candidates can make Congress and contempt: What you need to know The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? 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."