One of the many controversies of the short presidency of Donald Trump has been the existence of a FISA warrant for electronic surveillance (NOT A WIRETAP) of Trump and/or members of his staff. This story was first floated by the less-than-credible Louise Mensch back in October. It is a story that was denied by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Now we know that Clapper was a liar (news flash), that at least one member of the Trump campaign was under FISA surveillance, and because of that surveillance, you can rest assured that at some point, Trump himself was also a subject of “incidental” surveillance. Obama might not have had his ear pressed against Donald Trump’s door but every conversation Trump has had with Carter Page since last summer, every text, every email, and every meeting has been recorded. Likewise for any other member of Trump’s campaign. And to the extent that Page visited Trump Tower, it was under surveillance.
The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
This is sort of funny:
The officials spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.
Well, yeah, discussing this is technically known as a “felony” as you will see from the volume of classified material spilled here. One can also bet that the “law enforcement and other U.S. officials” include Sally Yates, Ben Rhodes, and other members of the “resistance.”
The government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said.
Among other things, the application cited contacts that he had with a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013, officials said. Those contacts had earlier surfaced in a federal espionage case brought by the Justice Department against another Russian agent. In addition, the application said Page had other contacts with Russian operatives that have not been publicly disclosed, officials said.
An application for electronic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act need not show evidence of a crime. But the information obtained through the intercepts can be used to open a criminal investigation and may be used in a prosecution.
Right here we can see that the Post probably has a copy of the warrant application.
Since the 90-day warrant was first issued, it has been renewed more than once by the FISA court, the officials said.
Keep in mind that the surveillance under consideration here is not a wiretap. It means his email and texting was intercepted. It means his smartphone was compromised and anything he said while that phone was around was recorded. It means that imagery was probably captured via the phone’s camera. It means if he has a smart tv, it was probably compromised like his phone.
Page is the only American to have had his communications directly targeted with a FISA warrant in 2016 as part of the Russia probe, officials said.
Three years before Page became an adviser to the Trump campaign, he came to the attention of FBI counterintelligence agents, who learned that Russian spy suspects had sought to use Page as a source for information.
In that case, one of the Russian suspects, Victor Pobodnyy — who was posing as a diplomat and was later charged by federal prosecutors with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government — was captured on tape in 2013 discussing an effort to get information and documents from Page. That discussion was detailed in a federal complaint filed against another Kremlin agent. The court documents in that spy case only identify Page as “Male 1.’’ Officials familiar with the case said that “Male 1’’ is Page.
In one secretly recorded conversation, detailed in the complaint, Pobodnyy said Page “wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money.’’
Of all the stories about Russian meddling in the election floated, this is the first one that actually makes sense. Page was out to make money and he was the most slavishly pro-Russian person of anyone mentioned in the press. He wrote a long-winded letter to James Comey back in February trying to exonerate himself… because trying to convince the FBI you are innocent works every time it is tried and you could never get accused of lying to a federal agent because of a letter.
Since this scandal first appeared I’ve said Carter Page was the person most likely to have run afoul of the law. He doesn’t strike one as the sharpest knife in the drawer. If a man could be convicted based on his observed behavior, Page would be in Leavenworth.
Two things to keep in mind here. First, there is no evidence of any criminal act. Given the rate that top secret stuff has appeared in the Post, it is hard to believe that there is a federal grand jury empaneled to investigate Page and we haven’t heard about it. This doesn’t mean that won’t happen because now that the FISA investigation has been compromised it is over. Second, the fingering of Page as a Russian agent of influence a) doesn’t leave you all that impressed with the FSB/SVR and b) allows Paul Manafort to focus on defending himself from money-laundering charges.