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Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has approved the release to the Department of Justice of a large binder full of documents to assist a review of the Obama administration's handling of the Trump-Russia investigation, according to a source with direct knowledge of the materials and confirmed by Ratcliffe.

Why it matters: The release, which is being revealed publicly for the first time today, comes as President Trump is urging his agencies to expedite the release of materials that he believes will be politically advantageous to him.

  • It follows a flurry of tweets by the president accusing the Obama administration of orchestrating a "treasonous plot" against him by investigating his campaign's ties to Russia.

Driving the news: The release of the documents to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr to carry out a sweeping review of alleged abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies investigating Trump and Russia, comes just hours before the start of the vice presidential debate.

  • The source said Ratcliffe has been working on this batch of documents for a number of weeks.
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent target of the president and his allies, has accused Ratcliffe of selectively declassifying documents in order to "advance the political interests" of Trump ahead of the election.

The big picture: Trump's allies have long claimed that Durham's investigation will result in the indictments of top Obama administration officials. Thus far, Durham has netted a single guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer who admitted to altering an email used to help obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

  • The timing and format of the findings from Durham's investigation are not known, but Trump's allies have pushed Barr to release some kind of report before the election.
  • A career prosecutor abruptly resigned from Durham's office last month, prompting Democrats to call for an "emergency" inspector general investigation into whether Barr is politicizing the probe to influence the election.

What they're saying: In response to this reporting, Ratcliffe confirmed in a statement to Axios: "At my direction, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has provided almost 1,000 pages of materials to the Department of Justice in response to Mr. Durham's document request, including a new batch that Justice Department lawyers are now able to view immediately."

  • "I will continue to ensure the Intelligence Community's responsiveness to the DOJ's requests. We also look forward to supporting the DOJ in further declassifications consistent with their investigation."
  • "As the president has made clear, we must be appropriately transparent with the American people and give them the confidence that the extraordinary work of intelligence professionals is never misused or politicized."

Go deeper

Top Trump advisers discuss need to resist dangerous, unlawful orders

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Some top remaining administration officials are preparing to resist any unlawful or dangerous orders in the closing days of Trump's presidency, senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the sensitive conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: After Trump incited protesters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday, there's a near universal view among top officials that he is unfit and unhinged, these sources said.

38 mins ago - Health

DeSantis to bar Florida schools from mandating masks

Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday he will issue an executive order "very soon" barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to school next month, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the U.S., triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.

Trump's tax returns must be released to Congress, DOJ says

President Trump at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

The Treasury Department "must" release former President Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday.

The big picture: The DOJ memo comes after a long dispute between the committee, which first sought to obtain the former president's returns two years ago, and Trump, who fought to keep his finances private.