Late Saturday night, the government released a redacted version of the FISA Court warrant application for Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The application has been the basis of an elaborate conspiracy theory concocted by Donald Trump and his collaborators in Congress that his campaign was “spied on” by the FBI and intelligence agencies only after the Steele Dossier, a claim for which there is no basis or evidence. It also resulted in the discredited “Nunes Memo” from the House Intelligence Committee, which was entirely refuted by the Democratic minority memo.
Trump ordered the FISA Court warrant application released — the first time any such secret evidence in the FISA Court has ever been released — in a pathetic attempt to revive his discredited conspiracy theory and renewed his attacks on the FBI and intelligence agencies, after a week in which he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community and was forced to walk it back at least four times, before returning to attacking his intelligence community over the weekend.
What we are witnessing is obstruction of justice in plain sight by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators in Congress. This crime is continuing and is ongoing.
The New York Times reports, Carter Page FISA Documents Are Released by Justice Department:
The Trump administration disclosed on Saturday a previously top-secret set of documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser who was at the center of highly contentious accusations by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. had abused its surveillance powers.
Democrats in February rejected the Republican claims that law enforcement officials had improperly obtained a warrant to monitor Mr. Page, accusing them of putting out misinformation to defend President Trump and sow doubts about the origin of the Russia investigation.
On Saturday evening, those materials — an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page, along with several renewal applications — were released to The New York Times and other news organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. Mr. Trump had declassified their existence earlier this year.
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The spectacle of the release was itself noteworthy, given that wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, is normally one of the government’s closest-guarded secrets. No such application materials had apparently become public in the 40 years since Congress enacted that law to regulate the interception of phone calls and other communications on domestic soil in search of spies and terrorists, as opposed to wiretapping for ordinary criminal investigations.
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In February, Mr. Trump — over the objections of law enforcement professionals — took the unprecedented step of lowering the walls of secrecy around such materials to enable House Intelligence Committee Republicans, led by Representative Devin Nunes of California, to disclose their three-and-a-half-page memo, which sought to portray the surveillance of Mr. Page as scandalous.
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“This application targets Carter Page,” the document said. “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”
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The documents made public on Saturday were heavily redacted in places, and some of the substance of the applications had already become public in February, via the Republican and Democratic Intelligence Committee memos.
Visible portions showed that the F.B.I. in stark terms had told the intelligence court that Mr. Page “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers”; that the bureau believed “the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” Mr. Trump’s campaign; and that Mr. Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”
The fight over the surveillance of Mr. Page centered on the fact that the F.B.I., in making the case to judges that he might be a Russian agent, had used some claims drawn from a notorious Democratic-funded dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent.
The application cited claims from the dossier that Mr. Page, while on a trip to Moscow in July 2016, had met with two senior Russian representatives and discussed matters like lifting sanctions imposed on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine and a purported file of compromising information about Mr. Trump that the Russian government had.
Republicans portrayed the Steele dossier — which also contained salacious claims about Mr. Trump apparently not included in the wiretap application — as dubious, and blasted the F.B.I. for using material from it while not telling the court that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign had funded the research.
The application establishes that Republicans lied in fabricating their elaborate conspiracy theory.
The application shows that the F.B.I. told the court it believed that the person who hired Mr. Steele was looking for dirt to discredit Mr. Trump. But it added that based on Mr. Steele’s previous reporting history with the F.B.I., in which he had “provided reliable information,” the bureau believed his information cited in the application “to be credible.”
The renewal applications from 2017 told the court in boldface print that the F.B.I. had severed its relationship with Mr. Steele because he had shared some of his claims with a news organization in October 2016, contrary to the F.B.I.’s “admonishment” to speak only to law enforcement officials about the matter. But they said the bureau continued to assess his prior reporting as “reliable.”
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The unredacted portions of the original application and the three renewal applications are otherwise largely identical, so it is not visible whether the F.B.I. told the court that it was gaining useful intelligence from the wiretap of Mr. Page as it asked for extensions. But the length of the applications grew significantly each time, indicating that new information was being added: They were 66 pages, 79 pages, 91 pages and 101 pages, respectively.
The materials also revealed which Federal District Court judges signed off on the wiretapping of Mr. Page: Judges Rosemary Collyer, Michael Mosman, Anne C. Conway and Raymond J. Dearie. All were appointed by Republican presidents.
As has been publicly known from the February congressional fight, the application also contained a description of a Yahoo News article from September 2016 that discussed the investigation into Mr. Page’s Russia ties. It is now known that Mr. Steele was a source for that article, but the application and renewals state that the F.B.I. did not believe he “directly” provided information to Yahoo News.
Republicans at the time claimed that the F.B.I. had misleadingly used the article as corroboration for Mr. Steele’s claims, while Democrats said that was false and that it was instead included to inform the court that Mr. Page had denied the allegations.
The section of the application that describes the Yahoo News article is titled “Page’s Denial of Cooperation With the Russian Government to Influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.”
“Anyone aware of these facts would recognize that these applications were necessary and appropriate,” Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said. “Those who say otherwise are trying desperately to protect President Trump from a broader investigation that must be allowed to take its course without interference.”
The documents released over the weekend plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the F.B.I.’s surveillance of Carter Page were purposefully misleading and false. How a Trump Decision Revealed a G.O.P. Memo’s Shaky Foundation:
When President Trump declassified a memo by House Republicans in February that portrayed the surveillance of a former campaign adviser as scandalous, his motivation was clear: to give congressional allies and conservative commentators another avenue to paint the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference as tainted from the start.
But this past weekend, Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision, which he made over the objections of law enforcement and intelligence officials, had a consequence that revealed his gambit’s shaky foundation. The government released the court documents in which the F.B.I. made its case for conducting the surveillance — records that plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump nevertheless sought to declare victory. In a series of early-morning tweets, he claimed without evidence that the newly disclosed files “confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts” to win approval to start wiretapping the former adviser, Carter Page, shortly after he had left the campaign amid criticism of his ties to Russia.
“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Democratic National Committee.
But in respect after respect, the newly disclosed documents instead corroborated rebuttals by Democrats on the panel who had seen the top-secret materials and accused Republicans of mischaracterizing them to protect the president.
The records again cast an unflattering light on Representative Devin Nunes, the committee’s chairman, who led the attack on the F.B.I. surveillance, though he admitted in February that he had not read the application documents. Mr. Nunes has taken repeated steps to try to bolster Mr. Trump and undercut the Russia investigation.
Phillip Bump of the Washington Post adds, With the release of new documents, Devin Nunes’s memo on Carter Page has gotten even less credible:
As it turns out though, Nunes’s efforts to raise questions about the surveillance warrant, granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, were even less robust than they seemed at the time. With the release Friday of a redacted copy of both the initial warrant application targeting Page in October 2016 and the three 90-day extensions of the warrant, we can get a better sense of just how far from the mark the Nunes memo actually was.
Bump beaks down the bogus “Nunes Memo” point-by-point and concludes:
For all that we learned in the release of the memo, there’s still an enormous amount of redacted information that prevents us from getting anywhere close to a full picture of what happened. From the evidence at hand though, it’s certainly fair to assume that it’s Nunes’s memo, not the warrant application, that suffered from a stronger political bias in its creation.
We can’t entirely blame Nunes, though. In an interview with Fox News in February, he admitted that he himself hadn’t read the warrant application.
After a week in which Trump sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community and was forced to walk it back at least four times, he returned to attacking his intelligence community over the weekend. Trump again reverses course on Russian interference, calls it ‘all a big hoax’:
After a week of tortuous statements, walk-backs and clarifications on whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump appeared to have come full circle on Sunday night, dismissing the issue as “all a big hoax.”
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Trump’s tweets threw his position on the Russia issue into doubt again. Last Monday, at a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump appeared to accept the Russian leader’s denial of interference. That statement was followed by days of corrections and clarifications by Trump and the White House, culminating in Trump’s seemingly begrudging acceptance of the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had, in fact, targeted the United States.
Finally, today Trump has gone full authoritarian by threatening to retaliate against members of the intelligence community who have criticized him. Trump Weighs Stripping Security Clearances From Officials Who Criticized Him:
President Trump is considering whether to revoke the security clearances of former national security and law enforcement officials who served in the Obama administration and have criticized Mr. Trump, particularly his pursuit of diplomacy with Russia, the White House said on Monday.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump was looking to strip the clearances of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year; James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence; and others.
She also said Mr. Trump is looking to strip the security clearance of Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration.
She also singled out Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I., who was fired this year over a lack of candor about his dealings with reporters. Mr. McCabe does not have an active security clearance. Mr. Comey has also had no security clearance for about a year, according to a person briefed on the matter.
This latest fiasco appears to be the brainchild of Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY).
Following the meeting on Monday afternoon, Mr. Paul said in a post on Twitter that he had told the president “what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.”
Let’s be clear: the only person who should lose his security clearance is Russian asset Donald Trump, who currently poses a clear and present danger to our national security in his position. He is actively undermining U.S. intelligence agencies and obstructing justice by federal law enforcement agencies, all in an attempt to save himself from prosecution. Congress has a duty and immediate responsibility to impeach Trump and to remove this national security threat from office. Otherwise these Republicans are complicit collaborators in Trump’s traitorous crimes.
As Paul Waldman of The Post laments, The entire Republican Party is becoming a Russian asset.