Political News

FBI releases Carter Page surveillance warrant documents

Posted July 21, 2018 6:06 p.m. EDT

— The FBI on Saturday released a redacted version of its previously classified foreign surveillance warrant application on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, which has been the subject of a heated partisan debate over the FBI's tactics investigating members of the Trump campaign.

The FBI released the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application after news organizations and advocacy groups like Judicial Watch sued for its disclosure.

The warrant, which was approved for Page in 2016, allowed the FBI to conduct surveillance on Page. It's been one of the key moves that Republicans have charged is evidence of a pattern of abuse by the Justice Department and the FBI targeting the Trump campaign.

The FISA warrant that was issued and renewed multiple times for Page was the subject of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that charged the FBI abused its surveillance powers.

Conservative critics of special counsel Robert Mueller have argued that the FISA warrant is tainted --- based on the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia that was paid for by Democrats --- and that because the FISA warrant helped launch the FBI investigation into Trump and Russia, the whole investigation is tainted.

Democrats, however, say that the FISA warrant on Page was justified because of his contacts with Russia, and they argue that the FBI and Justice Department followed proper procedure in seeking and getting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve the warrant.

The dispute over Page's FISA warrant has been previously fought in the form of dueling memos that Nunes and House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff issued earlier this year.

Nunes' memo, which was cited by President Donald Trump in his attacks on the Mueller investigation, alleges that the author of the dossier, ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, harbored anti-Trump motivations that were not disclosed in the FISA application.

Worse, the memo alleges, the FISA court was not told that Steele's dossier was funded through a law firm by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Democrats responded with their own memo, which argued that the FBI's interest in Page predated the FBI's knowledge of the Steele dossier. It also argues that it was not the dossier and the Page FISA warrant that prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia, but rather an earlier conversation that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with an Australian diplomat about alleged Russian dirt on Clinton.

The material in a FISA warrant is considered highly classified, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court proceedings are also conducted in secret.

But after Nunes issued a subpoena to gain access to the documents, he used a House procedure to make public classified materials, so long as the White House did not object.

The release of some information related to the Page FISA document in both the Republican and Democratic memos led to lawsuits from groups like Judicial Watch seeking more information from the Page FISA warrant.