Russia probe reckoning? DOJ facing rising pressure to release surveillance documents and more

The Justice Department is facing a new wave of pressure, in court and on Capitol Hill, to release key documents pertaining to the origins of the FBI's Russia meddling probe.

With a batch of internal and inspector general reviews already beginning to shed more light on the bureau's handling of that politically explosive case, the push for documents marks another avenue for those seeking a full accounting of the investigation. Most recently, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr seeking the declassification of numerous files related to evidence also sought by former national security adviser Michael Flynn's attorneys.

DOJ DOESN'T NEED TO PROVIDE TRANSCRIPT OF KEY FLYNN PHONE CALL, JUDGE RULES

And late Tuesday evening, President Trump jumped back into the fray with a tweet that quoted activist Charlie Kirk in an interview with Fox Business Channel's Trish Regan: "To declassify is so important because if this were a Democrat President or a Democrat Candidate, that was spied on the way President Trump was spied on, this would be a scandal that would make Watergate look like nothing."

Trump earlier this year gave Barr the authority to declassify documents related to 2016 campaign surveillance. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment Tuesday on the request from Graham, which was expansive.

In his letter, Graham detailed a wide range of documents he'd like to see declassified including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained concerning anyone associated with the Trump campaign, as well as "all documents the inspector general identifies as appropriate for declassification as much as possible, without harming national security."

Graham also formally requested "documents and communications related to the defensive briefings given to both the Clinton and Trump campaigns."

"In order for the inspector general to be able to present the most complete results of his investigation to Congress and the American people, certain documents will need to be declassified and released to the public," Graham said.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's report on Russian interference released last year found there was no briefing to warn the Trump campaign that a senior figure like Flynn was under investigation.

"The Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns," even though such a defensive briefing would not have been unusual, the report found.

Fox News reported in May that Flynn was under FBI investigation far earlier than the 2016 presidential transition period.

Meanwhile, Flynn attorney Sidney Powell, in an explosive court filing on Friday, pressed U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan for access to some of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's pending report on surveillance.

Powell also accused the Justice Department of withholding documents critical to Flynn's defense and squabbled with the other side over a still-pending sentencing date. “The suppression of Brady evidence by the government here is ripe for a finding of contempt of this Court’s Standing Order,” Powell wrote, referring to Sullivan's demand that the government turn over all exculpatory evidence, as well as the seminal Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which established the government's obligation to do so.

"The suppression of Brady evidence by the government here is ripe for a finding of contempt of this Court’s Standing Order."

— Flynn attorney Sidney Powell

“The inspector general of the Department of Justice has completed one or more relevant reports that include classified sections, and he is completing additional reports that reportedly will include a large classified section—a significant portion of which will almost certainly relate to Mr. Flynn,” Powell wrote.

“We must have access to that information to represent our client consistently with his constitutional rights and our ethical obligations," she continued.

Powell additionally demanded “the original or first draft of the FBI 302 [interview summary] of the interview of Mr. Flynn on January 24, 2017,” as well as “any records or documents that show everyone who made changes to that 302.”

Flynn’s legal team further sought security clearances in order to review classified material pertaining to their client, including transcripts and recordings of the phone calls that “supposedly underpin the charges against Mr. Flynn.”

Powell said defense lawyers “expect[ed] to identify more issues for the Court promptly, and we will file the appropriate motions to address those issues as soon as possible.”

The government, though, argued that they are “not aware” of any classified information that would require a disclosure to them.

Powell, whom Flynn retained earlier this summer after firing his old legal team, said her client has “cooperated extensively” with the government as part of the Russia investigation and another probe related to lobbying for the Turkish government.

Flynn pleaded guilty to providing false statements to the FBI during his January 2017 interview about his contacts with the former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

In a lengthy court filing last December, attorneys for Flynn alleged that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pushed Flynn not to have an attorney present during the questioning in the White House that ultimately led to his guilty plea.

According to Flynn's legal team, FBI agents in his case deliberately did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime, and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with Kislyak.

That strange back-and-forth last year led to an even more bizarre sentencing hearing, in which Judge Sullivan briefly floated the idea that Flynn could be charged with "treason," before delaying sentencing.

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After months of delays, the government said in Friday's joint status report that the case is ready for sentencing, requesting a sentencing hearing between late October and mid-November.

Sullivan has scheduled a status conference for Sept. 10. He also ordered the Justice Department to produce all evidence "favorable to Flynn and material either to Flynn's guilt or punishment."

Fox News' Alex Pappas and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.