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President Donald Trump Saturday delayed his own order to declassify and release documents from the FBI’s Russia investigation, saying the Justice Department and US allies have raised security concerns about their disclosure.
The announcement, in a pair of tweets, represented a highly unusual walk-back for a president who has pressed for the release of classified information that he believes will expose “really bad things” at the FBI and discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The order threatened to fuel further tension between Trump and a law enforcement community he routinely maligns as biased against him and determined to undermine his presidency.
The president on Monday had called for the declassification of highly sensitive records from the Russia probe, including a portion of a secret warrant application to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser whom the FBI suspected of being a Russian agent.
The Justice Department said it had begun complying with the order, though officials had previously strenuously objected to the release of classified information they said could jeopardize the investigation and compromise secret sources.
Trump said that instead of moving forward immediately, the department’s inspector general had been asked to review these documents on an “expedited basis.” He tweeted that he believes the office, which is already reviewing FBI actions in the early stages of the Russia probe, will move quickly.
The president also noted: “In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!” John Lavinsky, spokesman for the office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz, declined comment.
Trump signaled a slowdown in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, when he said that several close allies had called to raise concerns about his decision to order the release of unredacted documents, which also include text messages of several FBI and Justice Department officials — including former FBI Director James Comey and ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, both fired by the president — whom the president has for months personally attacked.
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