Congressional sources 'blindsided' by Trump decision to back off FISA declassification

Three congressional sources told Fox News they were “blindsided” and “demoralized” by President Trump's decision to back away from the immediate declassification of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) records related to former aide Carter Page.

They said they hope Trump will reconsider in light of new allegations against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that have since emerged.

Trump agreed on Friday to delay the release of key files related to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, urging the inspector general to review the documents on an “expedited basis” amid Justice Department concerns their publication may have a “negative impact” on the probe.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the House Republicans' records request said the declassification of the Page surveillance renewal from June 2017, signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, would answer many questions about the so-called “insurance policy” discussed by former FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page in mid-August 2016. (Their texts have come under intense scrutiny over recent months, amid allegations that they reflect a coordinated agency strategy to damage Trump.)

The sources said the members were careful to identify records with limited national security interests, and FBI/Justice Department concerns about exposing sources and methods were “overblown” and consistent with the department’s steps earlier this year to temporarily block the release of the FISA memos.

They added that the text messages on the phones of former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, DOJ official Bruce Ohr, Strzok and Page - ordered for release - were exchanged on non-secure lines, and for that reason should not contain sources methods or classified information.

If they do, then the parties have been “grossly negligent” in handling national security information, the sources said.

The sources note the New York Times' bombshell report on Rosenstein this week -- it said he had talked of wearing a wire in talks with Trump, and of building support to remove him via the 25th Amendment -- offer more evidence that the probe of Russian election meddling had shifted to an obstruction case against the president, even though the investigation by May 2017 had not found collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia.

Fox News reported earlier this week that texts between Strzok and Page two hours after Comey’s firing are under fresh congressional scrutiny after Page’s recent testimony to Senate investigators.

STRZOK-PAGE TEXTS CALLING TO 'OPEN' CASE IN 'CHARGEABLE WAY' UNDER FRESH SCRUTINY 

Two hours after Comey's termination became public on May 9, 2017, Strzok, a now-former FBI agent, texted Page, his then-colleague and lover: "We need to open the case we've been waiting on now while Andy is acting."

"Andy" is a reference to McCabe who temporarily took over the bureau with Comey's firing by Trump until Christopher Wray was confirmed as director in August 2017.

Page, a former FBI attorney, replied to Strzok: "We need to lock in (redacted). In a formal chargeable way. Soon."

Strzok concurred. "I agree. I've been pushing and I'll reemphasize with Bill." "Bill" is believed to be Bill Priestap, the head of the FBI's counterintelligence division.