The Justice Department was keeping quiet during a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding records related to FBI surveillance of President Donald Trump and his associates. They had claimed that any response to the FOIA request brought by USA Today’s Brad Heath and the James Madison Project would confirm or deny the existence of those records, which itself was sensitive information. Now that the president has declassified some of that information, which was contained in the infamous Nunes Memo, the DOJ recognizes that they can’t hide behind that excuse anymore. They also said that more declassifications could happen in the future.
“Declassification by the President of the existence of the Page FISA applications and orders identified in the Nunes Memo requires the government to carefully review those
materials,” the DOJ said in a Wednesday court filing, “to determine what information contained in them has been declassified and if they are responsive to Plaintiff’s request.”
The Nunes memo confirmed what was long suspected, that the FBI had obtained a warrant to monitor someone connected to the Trump campaign. While Page had left the Trump campaign by the time a FISA warrant had been ordered pertaining to him, the Justice Department recognizes that he can still be considered a Trump associate. Therefore, they now have to review their records and turn over the appropriate documents, which could provide additional insight into the government’s monitoring of Page and potentially other Trump associates.
Still, the DOJ says they need time to figure out what to reveal, not just because of the newly declassified information from the Nunes memo, but because they anticipate that more information could be declassified in the future.
“Given recent events, and the possibility of additional declassifications by the President, the government is unable at this time to propose a timetable to conduct this review,” the DOJ said.
This could possibly be referring to information from the Democrats’ memo that was meant to counter and possibly provided additional context to the Nunes memo. While that memo was unanimously voted on for disclosure by the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump objected to its release because it contained information that should remain classified. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, said he is now working with the FBI to determine what redactions to make to the memo that could make it fit for disclosure.
Alternatively, there is the possibility that Trump could declassify all of the underlying material related to Page’s FISA warrant. While the Nunes Memo and the Democratic response could both be called into question for selecting information that fits their sources’ respective narratives, there have been calls to release the information that memos are based on, to give people to whole story.
[Image via ABC screengrab]