A recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court ruling shows that the Obama administration lied every time it submitted information to obtain court approval to spy on a former member of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.
The false Russian collusion
In July 2016, the FBI began an investigation to determine whether Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia to win that year’s presidential election. The agency relied on information contained in the famous Steele dossier. The dossier was prepared by Fusion GPS and former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee financed the dossier.
Once Donald Trump arrived at the White House and the accusations of Russian collusion surfaced, the president denied such information again and again.
That’s why then-special counsel Robert Mueller began a thorough and expensive investigation in May 2017 to determine whether such collusion existed. Finally, after 22 months of investigation and as of September 2018 at a cost of $12.3 million, he found no evidence that Trump or his campaign knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
However, in turn, the case yielded valuable information about how the Obama administration would have managed to get Justice to spy on then-candidate Trump in a nontransparent manner.
What the new ruling says
The FISA court ruling, which came in June but was declassified on Sept. 11, according to The Federalist, states that the authorization of the FBI investigation into Carter Page, former campaign adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, was obtained illegally and that it “found violations of the government’s duty of candor in all four applications” that the agency requested to spy on Page.
In the 21-page text, the court determined that the information obtained by the FBI in those four orders is invalid because it was provided for illegally. However, the ruling makes an exception for such information if the Department of Justice uses it “to investigate or prosecute potential crimes relating to the conduct of the Page or Crossfire Hurricane investigations.”
Crossfire Hurricane is the code name used by the FBI in 2016, under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama, to acquire counterintelligence in the campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
This new ruling confirms what the FISA court and the Department of Justice previously stated in January about the FBI investigation: That at least two of the four requests that allowed “electronic surveillance and physical search targeting Page” by the FBI were “unlawfully authorized.”
Earlier this year, a FISA judge stated that the FBI violated the protections for U.S. citizens under FISA because the government “did not have probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
The judge said that under FISA, the government cannot “secretly spy” on U.S. citizens without probable cause or evidence that a citizen “is unlawfully acting as a foreign agent.”
Prior to that, the FISA court issued an order in December 2019 acknowledging the failure of the FBI “to include exculpatory evidence in its four successful applications for surveillance orders. The latter order was based largely on the 17 “to include exculpatory evidence in its four successful applications for surveillance warrants.” This order relied heavily on the 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI investigation of Page brought forth by the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz and filed the same month.
Notably, after reading Inspector General Horowitz’s report, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the FBI under the Obama administration a “criminal enterprise” that went off the rails.
The FBI must explain
James Comey was director of the FBI under the Obama administration when the agency applied to the FISA court for approval to spy on Trump’s campaign.
In the most blatant case of abuse, FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was found to have altered an email to change its meaning and to strengthen the FISA application to monitor Page. Last month, Clinesmith finally pleaded guilty.
In the wake of successive revelations of irregularities in these applications and under pressure from Congress, Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 30.
“We’ve now seen that the abuse of FISA was rampant while he was there and then it culminated in false statements that were submitted and approved under his leadership,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
“I want him to answer some questions about that,” Lee said in a dialogue with “Fox & Friends.”
‘It must never happen again’
In early September, Attorney General William Barr announced a series of reforms to the FBI’s process for obtaining FISA warrants.
“FISA is a critical tool to ensuring the safety and security of Americans, particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism. However, the American people must have confidence that the United States government will exercise its surveillance authorities in a manner that protects the civil liberties of Americans, avoids interference in the political process, and complies with the Constitution and laws of the United States,” Barr said in a statement.
“What happened to the Trump presidential campaign and his subsequent administration after the president was duly elected by the American people must never happen again,” he added.