New documents show that one month before the 2016 elections, the FBI sought permission to surveil Carter Page, the one-time foreign policy adviser to the campaign of Donald Trump, because they alleged he had been recruited by the Russian government.
“The FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign,” the application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said.
Page is alleged in the documents to have had “established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers.”
In more than 400 pages made public Saturday as a result of a Freedom of Information request by media outlets, and first reported by the New York Times, the government laid out its case for secretly monitoring Page in a series of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- or FISA – warrants, each of which was approved by the FISA court. The documents, which include an application and a warrant for surveillance of Page, were first filed in secret in October 2016, are blacked out in the version that was made public. He stepped away from the campaign a month earlier.
The public portions of the documents do not indicate the methods the FBI intended to use to monitor Page.
Trump tweeted about the release of the documents early Sunday morning from Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is spending the weekend. He said the release showed "little doubt" the DOJ and FBI "misled the courts."
Page told ABC News Saturday he was stunned by the allegations, which he has repeatedly maintained are false.
“I’m having trouble finding any small bit of this document that rises above complete ignorance and/or insanity,” he said in a text message response to questions about the surveillance request.
The documents show the warrant applications were submitted and approved at least through June 2017, with the June 2017 application signed by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The release of the document comes in the wake of a lengthy partisan disagreement in congress over allegations that the FBI abused its powers when seeking to secretly monitor someone who was once associated with the Trump campaign -- though the campaign later distanced itself from Page.
Republicans who saw the full classified documents have previously alleged that surveillance of Page was improperly based on information gathered by Christopher Steele, a former British agent who gathered intelligence on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russians. But the highly redacted documents released Saturday indicate that Steele’s information was just one of many reasons the FBI was concerned about Page.
Steele was working for a research company that, while initially hired by Trump’s Republican political opponents, was later funded by a Democratic Party law firm.
Rep. Adam Schiff, Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said he believes the documents “affirm that our nation faced a profound counterintelligence threat prior to the 2016 election.”
“Even in redacted form,” Schiff said, “the initial FISA application and three renewals underscore the legitimate concern FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference; DOJ’s transparency with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about a specific source; and that DOJ followed proper procedures in receiving approval from four different judges.”
In recent months, Republicans have insisted the FBI did not adequately disclose the political motivations behind the research. But in the documents released Saturday, the FBI said it “speculates” that those behind the research were “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate 1’s campaign.”