In a long-speculated move, President Donald Trump declassified all of the material related to the Russia-collusion hoax that tumultuously ushered in his presidency four years ago.
“At my request, on December 30, 2020, the Department of Justice provided the White House with a binder of materials related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Trump said in his announcement on Tuesday.
“Portions of the documents in the binder have remained classified and have not been released to the Congress or the public,” he continued. “I requested the documents so that a declassification review could be performed and so I could determine to what extent materials in the binder should be released in unclassified form.”
He went on to say in the memorandum that the binder should be declassified “to the maximum extent possible” after reviewing the contents.
The memo authorized acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to release the materials, which is likely to happen soon, prior to the Senate’s impending—presumptive—confirmation of Democrat Joe Biden’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
It notes that some of the materials in question may yet be subject to restrictions under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other policies needed to safeguard national security.
While it was unclear if the move was what prompted the resignation of CIA Director Gina Haspel or whether Haspel’s departure paved the way for it, it is known that she had previously been standing in the way of releasing some of it.
Haspel, a protégé of Obama CIA Director John Brennan, was overseeing the agency’s London bureau, which was likely to have been deeply involved in the effort to set up Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, which set in motion the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” probe.
However, recently declassified memos revealed that the FBI knew much of the information linking Trump to the hack of Hillary Clinton’s emails was unreliable at best and—at worst—based on actual Russian disinformation.
Trump also issued a flurry of additional executive orders to slow the pace of the Biden administration’s efforts to swiftly reverse key policies.
Among them were:
- An order to protect the US from security threats against drones
- An order preventing unelected bureaucrats from having the final word on federal rules (which followed recent resistance efforts at the Census Bureau and others)
- An order extending the national emergency at the US’s southern border with Mexico until February 2022
It remained to be seen at press time whether Trump would follow the tradition of some predecessors in issuing a raft of midnight pardons.
Already, he has pardoned many of those associated with the Russia hoax—including Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser Roger Stone.
Much speculation centered on whether Trump might pardon two high-profile leakers of US secrets during the Obama administration: Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
Snowden has been in exile in Russia after revealing that the NSA was working with telecom and tech companies to conduct massive dragnets of illegal surveillance on American citizens by monitoring the metadata of calls and emails.
It was revealed earlier this week that former Attorney General William Barr had adamantly opposed his pardon.
Assange, who leaked Snowden’s materials, the Clinton email hacks and countless other embarassing secrets via his site Wikileaks, has been jailed in the United Kingdom, pending US extradition, since 2019.
However, recent reports suggested he was undertaking a full-court-press to lobby for the pardon, including sending his longtime friend, former Baywatch actress-turned-activist Pamela Anderson, to lobby to Trump.
He also released an excerpt from his forthcoming book, in which he offered a damning condemnation of the incestuous role that tech companies—and Google specifically—had played with the State Department and other agencies during the Obama presidency.
Many mainstream media outlets seemed to be homed in on the possibility of another high-profile pardon that Trump had floated in the past: “Tiger King” Joe Maldonado–Passage, aka Joe Exotic, who remains incarcerated in Florida for attempting to put a hit on rival big-cat refuge activist Carole Baskin.
Talk of a possible pardon reached the White House in spring after the flamboyant zookeeper’s story became the subject of a hit Netflix series. However, Trump at the time feigned ignorance of the details and said he would look into it.
Reports indicated that Mr. Exotic had a limousine on standby in the event of a last-minute pardon.