This may not qualify as “pouncing,” but Donald Trump certainly plans to stay on offense after the collapse of the Russia-collusion narrative. In a long-expected move, Trump told Sean Hannity last night that he plans to declassify and publish the controversial warrant the FBI got and repeatedly renewed from the FISA court to surveil Carter Page. That warrant, and the Steele dossier that the FBI used to get it, have long been items of intense interest, especially to Trump’s supporters:
— Fox & Friends First (@FoxFriendsFirst) March 28, 2019
President Trump, in an exclusive wide-ranging interview Wednesday night with Fox News’ “Hannity,” vowed to release the full and unredacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants and related documents used by the FBI to probe his campaign, saying he wants to “get to the bottom” of how the long-running Russia collusion narrative began.
Trump told anchor Sean Hannity that his lawyers previously had advised him not to take that dramatic step out of fear that it could be considered obstruction of justice.
“I do, I have plans to declassify and release. I have plans to absolutely release,” Trump said. “I have some very talented people working for me, lawyers, and they really didn’t want me to do it early on. … A lot of people wanted me to do it a long time ago. I’m glad I didn’t do it. We got a great result without having to do it, but we will. One of the reasons that my lawyers didn’t want me to do it, is they said, if I do it, they’ll call it a form of obstruction.”
Trump added: “Frankly, thought it would be better if we held it to the end. But at the right time, we will be absolutely releasing.”
Why now? Well, why not now? Mueller’s done, so as Trump said there’s no risk of getting charged with obstruction by exposing material his prosecutors might have needed to keep under wraps. The one problem there might still be is that the warrant application could reveal other sources and methods that should be kept quiet for a while longer, but careful redactions should protect what really needs to be protected.
Actually, that still leaves a couple of other problems. Will a document with too many redactions help Trump make his case? The redactions could lead to speculation that the warrant had more bases for issuance than just the Steele dossier and testimony from allegedly biased FBI agents. Another problem might be that there’s not much in the warrant application to explain what happened. It could turn out to be a Mueller nothingburger for the Right — a lot of anticipation followed by a letdown in the event itself. One would think that Trump would be downplaying it if that were the case, but maybe he figures he’ll never get it fully declassified in the first place. That would be pernicious demagoguery, but we’ve seen plenty of that from all sides on this issue.
The Steele dossier might get more attention from the Senate. Rand Paul wants to haul former CIA director John Brennan back to Congress to get answers as to his involvement in the Steele dossier, which might be a lot more substantial than previously thought:
Sen. Rand Paul escalated his demand for an investigation into former Obama officials who “concocted” the anti-Trump Russia scandal, revealing that former CIA Director John Brennan was the key figure who legitimized the charges and discredited “dossier” against the president.
In an interview, the Kentucky Republican said the Senate Judiciary Committee should immediately ask Brennan about his involvement in the document that helped to kick off the Russia collusion investigation of President Trump.
“I think we need to find the truth,” he told Washington Secrets. He said the goal would be to stop similar faulty investigations into future administrations, “Democratic or Republican.”
That would certainly make for an interesting hearing. Thus far, it appeared that the Steele dossier was entirely handled by the FBI’s counterintelligence operations. If the CIA was involved in it, that might explain why a FISA court took it seriously enough to issue a warrant to allow the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign. It might also explain Brennan’s post-CIA career as a media pundit who repeatedly asserted he had insider knowledge of Trump’s guilt. That would indicate a level of coordination between the FBI and CIA that would be, let us say, historically extraordinary. Gee, what could have united them?
Here’s the full 45-minute interview with Trump on last night’s Hannity. Trump’s certainly burning the midnight oil to press the offense here, isn’t he?