The FBI’s Secret Surveillance of Trump Associate Carter Page
The Washington Post dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, reporting that the FBI and the Justice Department applied for and received a secret FISA warrant to spy on energy consultant Carter Page, who was at the time a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump.
The warrant gave U.S. law enforcement officials the authority to put Page’s communications under surveillance. Aside from its obvious implications, the report confirms that the Obama administration was indeed spying on Trump’s campaign; communications subsequently leaked to the press, therefore, did not entirely come about from “incidental collection.”
As for the warrant, the FBI had to go before a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to obtain authorization, which they could only do after convincing the court that there was cause to believe that Page was working as an undeclared agent of Russia. The Post reports that for the FBI to even consider applying for such a warrant, the move would have to “be approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department.”
Trump’s critics and supporters are both using the report to bolster their own theories. Democrats say the warrant proves that the Obama administration was justified in believing that Trump was illegally – treasonously – colluding with the Putin government. Trump’s supporters, however, say the report simply proves that Obama threw caution to the wind and used the U.S. intelligence community for what amounted to a partisan operation.
It’s hard to know what, exactly to make of the report, but it’s worth noting that Page is still not being accused of wrongdoing.
“Page has not been accused of any crimes,” the Post reported, “and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”
They note that while the FBI must demonstrate probable cause if they want to secure a FISA warrant, they do not have to “show evidence of a crime.” All they need is a reasonable suspicion, and these warrants are cloaked in so much secrecy that we can’t know what might constitute “reasonable” in the eyes of a judge.
Page himself told the Post that this was just more evidence of the Obama White House operating outside the boundaries of the law.
“This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,” Page said.
One final note: Whatever Page might have been up to when it comes to Russia, his wrongdoing – if there was any – doesn’t necessarily implicate Donald Trump. The Post reports that although Page wrote a few policy papers for the campaign, he never actually got a meeting with the candidate himself. To even call him a minor player in the campaign might be overstating it.
If the misdeeds of Carter Page represent the extent of the case against Donald Trump…Democrats are going to have to eat a lot of crow before this is all over with.
And Barack Obama is going to have to answer some pointed questions.