The Department of Justice released several hundred pages of application materials it used to obtain warrants to spy on former members of the Trump campaign. The release came as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative group.
The trove of documents, over 400 pages in all, concern Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign during the presidential election. The FBI began surveilling Page in the fall of 2016 because of the belief that he was conducting espionage on behalf of Russia.
Past documents revealed that the FBI did not begin its surveillance of Page however, until one month after he left the campaign. Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016 and the FBI began monitoring him in October.
The documents are heavily redacted, protecting FBI agents’ names, sources and methods, but what information is visible confirms the FBI’s belief that Page was working with the Russian government.
“The FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s campaign,” the documents state on page 9. (“Candidate #1” is how Donald Trump is referred to in the FISA applications.)
They also confirm the FBI’s belief that Russia was working through Page, as well as others, to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The FBI “believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government … to undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law,” the documents state on page 4.
They also revealed the FBI’s belief that Russia was attempting to pass off “kompromat” or compromising material, on Donald Trump’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, to the Trump campaign.
Igor Nikolayevich Divyekin, Russia’s deputy chief for internal policy and close Putin ally, “had met secretly with Page and that their agenda for the meeting included Divyekin raising a dossier or ‘kompromat’ that the Kremlin possessed on Candidate #2 and the possibility of it being released to Candidate #1’s campaign,” the documents state on 18. (“Candidate #2” is how Hillary Clinton is referred to in the FISA applications.)
Republican lawmakers have long sought the release of the application for the FISA warrants that authorized the surveillance of Page. They allege the application was based on claims made in the infamous Steele dossier, a political opposition report that was originally commissioned by a Republican primary opponent of Donald Trump’s but was later picked up and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
In February, Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee released a controversial memo alleging that the FBI used uncorroborated information contained in the Steele dossier as the basis for the FISA applications used to obtain warrants against Page.
The FBI denied those claims and a subsequent memo released by Democratic members of the Intel Committee alleged the Trump investigation began with another Trump campaign staffer, George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos had allegedly been contacted by individuals associated with the Russian government that told him Russia was in possession of incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
Papadopoulos disclosed that information to an Australian diplomat who then in turn informed American officials. The Democrats’ memo also claims that the Steele dossier played no role in obtaining the warrants.
President Trump, along with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have been harshly critical of the Russia investigation. They claim it is politically motivated and that elements within the FBI and DOJ harbor a deep anti-Trump bias.
The President reiterated the claim in the wake of the documents’ release.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ask her how that worked out – she did better with Crazy Bernie. Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!”