Trump Is Wielding Presidential Powers to Defend Himself

Amidst the news that Donald Trump has declassified certain materials related to the Russia investigation, it is worth remembering how Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described the probe in his charge to the special counsel. He wrote that it was to “ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

Other than the current president, almost no one disputes the fact that the Russians did, in fact, attempt to interfere in the election. Mueller’s job is to uncover all of the facts about how they did that, including whether anyone on Trump’s campaign was involved.

I say all of that because it is important to keep the big picture in mind and perhaps even try to imagine what would be happening under these circumstances if the current president wasn’t a habitual liar who was very likely complicit in a criminal conspiracy with Russian interference.

Under those circumstances, a president might decide to declassify any and all information that would aid us in securing our elections and preventing further interference. That would be happening amidst attempts to work with everyone from secretaries of state to social media companies to provide voters with the confidence that this country values free and fair elections.

Obviously that is not what is happening.

In a statement, Sanders said Trump had decided to direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department to declassify certain Russia probe documents, including parts of the Carter Page FISA warrant application, all FBI reports on interviews with senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who was in contact with former British spy Christopher Steele, as well as unredacted text messages from Trump enemies Ohr, former FBI director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former FBI special agent Peter Strzok.

The declassification of interviews and texts from people Trump has vilified and/or fired for their involvement in the investigation tells us all we need to know about the president’s motives with the release of this information. Chad Day reports on the specifics portions of the FISA warrant that Trump declassified.

According to the statement, Trump declassified 21 pages of the 101-page June 2017 application to renew a warrant obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.

Those pages only make up a small part of the 412 pages of FISA applications and court orders related to Page released by the FBI earlier this year in heavily redacted format.

The memo announcing the president’s declassification states that the goal of this action is transparency. But it looks like that only applies to 21 of the 412 pages in the FISA warrant application that the president wants the public to know about.

It is being taken for granted that what Trump is doing with all of this is nothing more than an attempt to meet his own self-interests by undermining the Mueller investigation. But imagining what we would actually expect from a POTUS in these circumstances is an important reminder that Donald Trump has always taken a different path—one that is all about him, not the country. By doing so, he only makes himself look more guilty, while affirming the fact that he is unfit for office.

This is something congressional Republicans should keep in mind. In taking the unprecedented step of releasing classified information in the midst of an investigation into his own campaign, Trump is once again signaling how far he is willing to go to protect his own interests. Because they have never made any attempt to hold him accountable, Republicans have ensured that Trump retains the powers a president wields. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will employ all of them in an effort to defend himself. That is a frightening thought, but one that should be contemplated by anyone who is in a position to stop this president.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.