President Trump on Friday walked back his order earlier this week to declassify information in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying Justice Department officials and others had persuaded him not to do so for the time being.
The retreat from his declassification decree issued just four days ago underscores the ongoing tensions between the White House and the Justice Department over the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether any Trump associates may have conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the election.
In a pair of Friday morning tweets, Trump said: “I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release. Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!”
On Fox News, Jeanine Pirro and Hannity have been saying for days that the unclassified FISA warrant and FBI emails/texts would prove up a deep state conspiracy against Trump, and Trump apparently believed them — until someone convinced him that the release of these documents — like the Nunes memo of yore — are pretty weak tea and, if anything, backfire. Hence, this under-the-radar announcement.
For now, Trump’s Friday tweet staves off a perilous confrontation between the president and his own intelligence officials, who have publicly and privately warned of the dangers of revealing classified intelligence. Democrats have also attacked the decision as reckless, arguing it could endanger international intelligence partnerships and sources.
Trump told The Hill in an interview earlier this week that he decided to release the documents in part at the urging of conservative Fox News TV hosts.
“I have been asked by so many people that I respect, please — the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro,” he said.