PRESIDENT TRUMP has demanded the immediate declassification of portions of an order allowing the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, text-message records from several of Mr. Trump’s chief whipping boys at the FBI and interview records with Bruce G. Ohr, a senior Justice Department official. The White House and the president’s enablers in Congress claim the release is about transparency and exposing corruption in law enforcement. The real goal is obvious: dredge up more “evidence” that the Russia investigation is the witch hunt Mr. Trump insists it is and that senior Justice Department officials have conspired against him.
Aside from the obvious abuse of presidential power in a matter implicating himself, and his continuing shredding of norms essential to law enforcement, there is a likely flaw in Mr. Trump’s strategy: If experience is any guide, the new material will do more to undercut rather than advance the narrative about an anti-Trump conspiracy at the FBI. That is what happened when Mr. Trump forced the release of the application in which federal officials asked for permission to surveil Mr. Page. House Republicans insisted it showed that judges had been misled about the source of some of the information in the application; in fact, it showed that the judges had been told that the source was biased. No matter to Mr. Trump and his spinners. Then, as now, they pick out and warp individual bits to suit their version of the Russia story, the one that trashes people who have devoted their lives to serving the country and that erodes faith in federal law enforcement.
One such victim is Mr. Ohr, whose mistreatment at the hands of the president has been particularly nasty. The Justice Department official interacted with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who, during the 2016 campaign, created a dossier of allegations against Mr. Trump. The dossier, and whatever else Mr. Steele was hearing from his network of sources, was of legitimate concern to the FBI. Yet Mr. Trump has threatened to revoke Mr. Ohr’s security clearance and appears determined to publicly humiliate him.
It is depressingly ironic that Mr. Trump, a man who won the presidency, in part, by inflating a story about how Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, could not handle sensitive information, is in turn abusing his declassification authority. “There are very good reasons that some of these documents were so restricted that very few members [of Congress] ever had access to them,” a spokesperson for Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who has reviewed the documents, told us. “If released unredacted or insufficiently redacted, the documents would clearly identify sources and methods and potentially put the lives of individuals who have helped the United States at risk.”
As Mr. Trump has conspired with House Republicans to distract and mislead, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has stood by. His failure to stand up to Mr. Trump and the Trumpists in the House when the country needed a person with spine will define his legacy.