Secret information released about a U.S. counterintelligence investigation into foreign influence shows a federal law enforcement agency tried to spy more extensively on the president and his former campaign adviser than first thought.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has made public more classified information from its inquiry into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Crossfire Hurricane investigation of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Multiple declassified documents appear to show the FBI not only tried to collect electronic messages between the president and then campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, but also tried to obtain a court order to monitor their communication under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.)
“The FBI did not just seek access to past electronic communications with campaign members, the FBI believed Page would continue to communicate with the Trump campaign and sought the FISA court order to intercept those conversations,” University of Notre Dame College of Business Adjunct Instructor Margot Cleveland said in an opinion article published by the Federalist.
Cleveland made the remarks after reviewing a copy of the FBI’s first FISA application, which shows the agency thought Page would still contact his former colleagues even though he had taken a break from working on the presidential campaign.
“While Page had announced he was taking a leave of absence from his work with the campaign … because Page was one of the first identified foreign policy advisers for [Trump’s] campaign, the FBI believes that Page likely established close relationships with other members of [Trump’s campaign,]” the document said according to Cleveland.
“The FBI maintained in its initial FISA application that it ‘believes that Page likely established close relationships with other members of [Trump’s] campaign and likely would have continued to have access to members of [Trump’s] campaign, which he could exploit to attempt to exert influence on foreign policy matters,'” Cleveland wrote in her opinion piece.
She also questioned mainstream media for choosing to ignore the Republican Party’s attempts to clarify earlier reports that the court-ordered surveillance did not start until Page had already left the campaign, implying the FBI’s surveillance of Page could not constitute spying on the Trump campaign.
“Conservatives tried to correct the record, noting that a FISA order gave the government access to Page’s past emails and other electronic communications with members of the Trump campaign but the mainstream media ignored this reality,” she said.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on FISA abuse confirmed the FBI’s actions indeed constituted surveillance.
“As the case proceeded the FBI gathered substantial evidence of Page’s past electronic communications, the lack of evidence showing substantive communications between Page and [Trump presidential campaign chair Paul] Manafort bolstered the need to, at a minimum, include Page’s statements regarding Manafort in the renewal applications,” Horowitz said in the report.
Cleveland believes the FBI also failed to inform the president about its suspicions involving Page.
“So why didn’t the FBI provide the Trump campaign a defensive briefing about Page?” she said. “Why didn’t the FBI warn Trump that it had evidence that Page was acting as an agent for Russia and that the campaign should be aware of that fact in communications with Page?”
The president rejected Crossfire Hurricane as an illegitimate intelligence operation.
“The greatest political scam in American history,” he said on Twitter.