Will declassifying text messages regarding the Russia investigation compromise FBI sources and methods? Let’s hope so.
On Monday the White House announced that the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice immediately to declassify a number of materials related to the Russia investigation, including “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr,” and documents related to the Carter Page FISA warrant application. This has the potential to blow the lid off the Obama Justice Department’s conspiracy to derail his election and undermine his presidency.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) quickly charged that this perfectly legal move by the Chief Executive was a “clear abuse of power” by a “President who cares about nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest.” Schiff added that he had been “been previously informed” by the FBI and Justice Department that the release would constitute “a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.”
Schiff seems to think that the Justice Department is some kind of independent agency that can unilaterally establish red lines for the President, rather than a creature of the Executive Branch. But more importantly, Schiff is missing the point: these particular sources and methods should be compromised. The American people have a right to know how the FBI and the Intelligence Community used techniques usually reserved for protecting U.S. interests to attack Donald Trump and subvert the 2016 election.
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What we already know of the methods employed are not Snowden-level secrets; they seem to have involved chatting up peripheral players in the Trump campaign and enticing them with supposed dirt on Hillary Clinton. And if more sophisticated surveillance and collection methods were turned on the Trump team (think wiretapping Trump Tower), then the Justice Department should be required to explain why it took this unprecedented step against an American presidential candidate. The more complex methods they used, the more reasons we have to know about them.
It is also critical to reveal the sources, since so far, the only known source for any aspect of the case is the sketchy Fusion GPS “Russia dossier” which was bankrolled by the Clinton campaign. If there were other sources of information being used by the FBI and the IC in their efforts against Donald Trump, the public has a right to know what they were. If on the other hand the entire investigation was an extension of this Clinton-funded smear campaign, then it raises serious questions about abuse of power that could touch the Obama White House, Mrs. Clinton, and dozens of high-ranking government officials.
Democrats naturally want to keep a lid on all this is because it will kill the entire “collusion” narrative, and destroy the myth that the Trump campaign had anything to do with the alleged Russian interference in the election. More importantly it may expose potentially criminal interference in the lawful election process, and reveal the workings of the slow-motion coup attempt that followed.
It is doubtful that U.S. national security would in any way be put at risk by releasing the unredacted material. The information that the Justice Department has been withholding is probably only threatening to those who were involved in this subversive plot.
We had a hint of this in an earlier round of declassification. Last May, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) noted in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that some of the redactions had nothing to do with national security. One such omission was made to hide the fact that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (later fired for lying under oath) spent $70,000 a conference table. (“You can’t repeat that!” McCabe had cautioned.) In another case, the name of the official who said “the White House is running this” was removed for unknown reasons. Grassley concluded that “the manner in which some redactions have been used casts doubt on whether the remaining redactions are necessary and defensible.”
There is in fact a greater risk to national security by keeping these documents a secret, since they may reveal how the 2016 election process was compromised and the Constitution subverted. The conspirators were clearly banking on Hillary Clinton winning. Had she won, this entire plot would have remained secret, something Democrats still urgently want.
But the American people have a right to know if and how high-ranking government officials colluded to sink a major party presidential candidate and later undermine the legitimate authority of a sitting president. If anyone is obstructing justice, it is Democrats who are trying desperately to keep the truth redacted.