On Thursday we were discussing the pending declassification and release of various FISA documents, text messages and FBI notes pertaining to the investigation of Carter Page. At the time I noted that every Democrat in the Gang of Eight was up in arms and demanding some sort of delay so they could review the situation. It didn’t seem as if those protests were going to carry much weight since, in the end, it’s up to the President and his intelligence advisers to determine what material is or isn’t classified. And given Trump’s history of, shall we say… determination on such matters, it sounded like a done deal.
Goes to show how much I know, huh? On Friday, the President turned around and put on the brakes, citing a variety of reasons for further review being required. (Boston Globe)
In a rare retreat, President Trump on Friday reversed himself and said he was no longer demanding that documents related to the Russia investigation be immediately declassified and released to the public.
Taking to Twitter on Friday morning, Trump said that instead of an immediate release, Justice Department officials would review the documents, adding that “in the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary.”
“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,” Trump wrote. “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!”
So what happened in the past 48 hours to change the President’s mind or at least slow him down? I think we can rule out any concerns about a “perceived negative impact on the Russia probe.” In fact, that one is just laughable. If anything, a negative impact on the Russia investigation would probably just speed the documents out the door. Nobody seems to have much insight on this yet, but let’s just put out a couple guesses, shall we?
One possibility might be that Trump’s finally had a look at the documents himself and doesn’t find them as helpful as he’d been told. Keep in mind that as recently as Tuesday the President admitted he hadn’t even read them himself. He’s been taking the word of senior members like Devin Nunes, who really want those documents out in the public’s eye. If Trump’s legal team looked them over and found them less than helpful (or potentially even hurting his cause?) he might want to slow this train down.
Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that some foreign allies weighed in and begged him to keep a lid on it. But who? Theresa May? Macron? Is there any way that their governments had their fingers in the pie when the Steele dossier was being shopped around and they don’t want that connection exposed? But since when has Donald Trump worried overly much about stepping on the toes of foreign leaders? Anything’s possible I suppose, but that line doesn’t sound very realistic.
Trump is leaving himself the option of releasing them “later” but that’s not usually his style. If he was ready to go with the disclosure and then put the whole operation on hold overnight, I’m willing to bet there’s something in there which wouldn’t play in his favor. And if that’s the case, “later” may turn out to be never.