Targeting Carter Page, Part 3: FISA Abuse

Targeting Carter Page, Part 3: FISA Abuse
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In part 1, I looked at Carter Page’s background and in part 2 I looked at his alleged connections to Russia.  Next, we look at how this all played into the FISA warrant against him.

Remaining in Europe after his speech in Moscow, Page visited London where he met with Stefan Halper on July 11, 2016 at an event called Race to Change the World.  They met not at the conference, but at a pre-event private dinner with select guests.  This begs the question why a low-level, unpaid Trump campaign adviser like Carter Page would be invited to a private dinner considering so many more higher-profile dignitaries attended the conference.   

According to testimony and sworn statements by the FBI and DOJ, no human sources were used before Crossfire Hurricane, which started on July 31st, yet this meeting occurred 20 days previously.  Some other attendees at that private dinner were keynote speaker Madeline Albright, Richard Dearlove of the GCHQ, and GOP strategist, Vin Weber. 

Weber was a former Minnesota Congressman-turned Republican consultant-turned lobbyist for the Mercury Group which had assisted Paul Manafort on his lobbying efforts on behalf of the Ukrainian government before the 2014 Maidan revolution.  Weber later resigned from Mercury and has been a vocal outspoken critic of Trump both before and after the election.  The day after that conference ended, Albright declared that “Vladimir Putin wants Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton.”  She also suggested that Russia was behind the DNC hack and the purpose was to help Trump.  

It is alleged that during one of these lectures Page gave in Russia he secretly met with Igor Sechin.  He acts as the boss of the giant Russian oil company, Rosneft, while commanding the loyalty of the FSB. Sechin is accused in the takeover of Yukos Oil in Russia and having the officials in that company prosecuted and jailed.  Other “misdeeds” of Sechin include private negotiations between BP and Rosneft to block out competitors, suggesting a nuclear program to Venezuelan socialist strongman Hugo Chavez, and negotiating deals with Cuba’s Fidel Castro for deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.  By 2014, the foreign press was calling him the second most powerful man in Russia behind only Putin.

It was during one of these alleged secret meetings that Sechin supposedly offered Page a strong financial incentive- a stake in Rosneft- if US sanctions against Russia were relaxed or terminated.  The sheer size of the deal, if true, would have been a virtual impossibility to cover up given the postulated sums of money involved.

Moving forward to October 2016 and the FISA warrants against Page, John Carlin was involved in the first one, along with FBI director James Comey and Andrew McCabe.  At the time, the way the warrant reached the FISA court took a circuitous path bypassing the chain of command but still required the approval of Comey’s and McCabe’s underlings who signed off on it not second-guessing their bosses.  Another person who signed the application was the assistant attorney general Sally Yates.  Based on these certifications, Judge Rosemary Collyer granted the warrant that would expire in January 2017.  

The second warrant, or first renewal, was signed off on by unnamed officials, but also James Comey and Sally Yates again.  Yates had become acting attorney general in the interim between Loretta Lynch’s departure and the confirmation of Jeff Sessions.  At the time, she was also involved in the investigation of another Trump campaign associate, Michael Flynn.  She signed the warrant application before she was fired on January 30th by Trump.  Judge Michael Mosman signed off on the warrant that would expire in May 2017.  As May approached, another renewal was sought.  Again, Comey signed off on the application for the FBI.  For the DOJ, approval came from Dana Boente who did so after Jeff Sessions recused himself in March 2017.  It is in this time period that Comey and Trump personally met at the White House where Comey alleges Trump pressured him to drop the Flynn probe.  The third warrant (second renewal) was signed by a third judge- Anne Conway.

The final approval came from Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ and Andrew McCabe at the FBI and was signed by a fourth judge- Raymond Dearie.  That warrant expired in September 2017 and was never renewed.  

In April 2019, the Mueller report was released and found no nefarious connections between Page and any Russian official that could be corroborated.  It cited his well-publicized lectures and speeches in Moscow.  Later that year (2019), the IG for the Justice Department- Michael Horowitz- released his report on the warrants and the actions of the DOJ and FBI and found “gross incompetence and negligence” in the process.  

One agent altered an application to the FISA court.  Pertinent exculpatory information was withheld that may have led the court to deny a warrant.  Evidence that Page had supplied the CIA with information from 2008 to 2013 on Russians was left out.  They also excluded the fact Page had already discussed with the CIA who he met with while in Russia and what was discussed.  After the IG report was released, the FBI secretly informed the FISC that at least two of the warrants lacked probable cause.  Rosemary Collyer then did her own investigation and reported obvious systemic abuse by Obama DOJ and FBI officials in obtaining the warrants and further noted that the abuse likely extended back to at least 2012.  

One big question is why the FBI and DOJ decided to target Carter Page.  Targeting Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort made sense given their roles in the campaign and the fifth unnamed person, believed to be Sam Clovis, also made sense.  But Page was a low-level, unpaid adviser that never met with Trump.  Many in the press were quick to point out a partial truth: the FBI was not spying on the Trump campaign, but had suspicions about Page.  That is true, but left unmentioned that once the warrant was issued, it granted the FBI and DOJ the ability to look at past communications.  

Under the rubric of doing so, they can then employ the second-hop mentality to develop a network of communications that incidentally encompass others not named “Carter Page.”  The IG report stated that is exactly what happened.  The warrant renewals also make sense since the investigators believed that even though Carter Page had long left the campaign and was never offered a job in a Trump administration that he was still communicating with Trump campaign, transition, and administration officials.  Most egregiously for the FBI and one that runs counter to all established protocols, neither the DOJ nor the FBI (or the IC for that matter) attempted or held a defensive briefing with anyone in the Trump campaign or transition.

We know that Carter Page, George Papadopolous and Sam Clovis were particularly targeted by the FBI.  Obtaining information on them under false pretenses then reporting that information to superiors was, according to the investigators, not spying per se; they were doing their patriotic duty.  

Despite their conflicting claims to the contrary, no warrant was issued against Page until the Steele dossier was introduced into the mix.  Besides not notifying the FISA court that Page was likely a CIA/FBI collaborator, they also left out the fact that the dossier was a piece of political opposition research contracted by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign against her Republican rival.  Instead, Steele was characterized as a highly reliable and reputable source the FBI had used in the past.

A DOJ memo released before the Mueller or IG reports were issued explained that the Page warrant and renewals was sought because of this continued contact with Trump officials.  The reason proffered was that Page was possibly continuing to engage in a pattern of trying to influence US foreign policy at the bidding of the Russians.  This explanation is perhaps even worse than the original suggested predicate for targeting Page.  A man who played an inconsequential role in the Trump campaign is supposed to be this great influential voice in US foreign policy formulation according to this account.  The DOJ should have just stayed silent; it would have been less embarrassing.  

Carter Page has weighed in on why he thinks he was targeted.  The IG report concluded there was no political bias involved, and Page agrees with that as far as Democrat versus Republican bias is concerned.  Instead, he said that it was more a policy bias against him and people who seemed conciliatory towards Russia, or Putin.  

Russia was already on the list of bad geopolitical actors given their annexation of Crimea, the poisoning of Litivenko, alleged interference in Western Europe politics, and the DNC hack and, later, Podesta emails.  Russia and Putin appeared to be the big bad bogeyman behind every international emergency.  

Hence, it is quite possible that this mindset somehow melded with the more traditional political bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton to create the perfect psychological storm that blinded the investigators to a more realistic conclusion- good, old-fashioned commonsense.  

Someone- whether Joe Blow or Carter Page- is not necessarily a Russian agent because they disagree with the line that Russia and Putin are the bogeyman.  Carter Page may have been a Russiaphile and had admiration and respect for Vladimir Putin, but he was not a willing Russian agent.  To the extent he was a Russian agent- for which there is no evidence- then he was an unwitting dupe.  That is a more likely explanation for Carter Page whether a Russian or FBI asset since dupe- willing or otherwise- seems to define the career of Carter Page.

Next: The Michael Flynn saga

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