Swalwell dares Trump: Declassify the surveillance documents

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A Democrat on the House panel investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia is issuing an ultimatum: If the president is going to accuse members of the Obama administration of breaking the law, he should prove it.

“If the president wants to say that Susan Rice committed a crime, he has the power to declassify. No one else does,” Rep. Eric Swalwell of California said Wednesday. “So, he could actually show us where the crime was. I don't expect he will, because I think this is just more obstructionism.”

Swalwell’s remarks came after Trump told The New York Times that he believes Rice committed a crime when she reportedly requested the identities of Trump transition aides who were caught up in U.S. surveillance of foreign targets. “It is one of the big stories of our time,” Trump declared.

But Rice, as national security adviser under President Barack Obama, would not have broken the law by making such a request, nor would it necessarily be improper. The identities of U.S. persons caught up in foreign surveillance are typically shielded in intelligence reports, but Rice and other high-ranking officials would have had the legal authority to request that the intelligence agency behind the report “unmask” them.

Rice on Tuesday said in an interview with MSNBC it was "absolutely false" that the Obama administration used intelligence "for political purposes."

And Swalwell on Wednesday said that if Trump has evidence to the contrary, he should release it and let the public judge for itself.

“If he has evidence that she committed a crime, he actually can show us what his evidence looks like,” said Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “Right now, he has a credibility problem because he's been proved wrong a lot on Russia.”

The classification system in the United States is based on executive orders issued by the president — giving Trump ultimate authority over what is classified and what is not.

Swalwell’s challenge to Trump is the latest barb in a weeks-long saga over classified documents uncovered by the White House and portrayed by Trump aides as evidence of surveillance abuses by the Obama administration.

Last month, the White House shared the documents with Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, but sought to conceal itself as the congressman’s source. Nunes held a news conference in which he said he had been provided documents by an unnamed source that appeared to show some Trump aides had been improperly “unmasked” following November’s presidential election.

On Friday, the White House allowed Nunes’ Democratic counterpart and fellow Californian, Rep. Adam Schiff, to view the documents. Schiff declined on Wednesday to discuss the content of the materials, noting that they are classified, but said he does not agree with Nunes’ characterization of the documents.

Schiff is now fighting to get access to the documents for other members of the House Intelligence panel, which is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Schiff echoed Swalwell in urging Trump to stop accusing people of crimes without providing the evidence to back up those charges — referencing Trump’s baseless claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower in the run-up to the presidential election.

“If he's going to make accusations of criminality against anyone, he needs to show evidence to support that kind of a charge,” Schiff told reporters. “Obviously that's not something he was either able or willing to do with respect to his accusations against Obama. It's not something I expect he's going to be able to do with Susan Rice either.”

Schiff has been publicly sparring with Nunes over the chairman’s handling of the White House’s classified documents and Nunes’ decision last month to cancel a hearing that was set to feature testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and other members of the Obama administration.

Schiff said Wednesday he was negotiating with Nunes to get the hearing rescheduled. He also said the two of them were close to an agreement on an initial list of witnesses to interview as part of their Russia probe.

“I think we've made a lot of progress on arriving at witness lists, and we're discussing the process and logistics of bringing witnesses in,” he said.

For his part, Swalwell teamed up with Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top House Foreign Relations Democrat, on Wednesday on a resolution urging the Trump administration not to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia until the FBI completes its investigation into ties between Trump aides and Moscow.

“Until investigations are completed and the American people know the full facts of the attack upon our democracy, the Trump White House should not be changing our nation’s policies to benefit Vladimir Putin and his government,” Swalwell said.

Article: Politico