The Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to investigate Trump associate Carter Page during the summer of 2016. The warrant was legally obtained through the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court. Right-wing media outlets falsely claimed that the FBI investigation into Page is evidence that supports Donald Trump’s accusations that the Obama administration illegally wiretapped him, despite multiple intelligence experts and even GOP Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) calling Trump’s claim is false.
The Washington Post Reports That FBI Obtained FISA Warrant To Investigate Carter Page
The Washington Post: “FBI Obtained FISA Warrant To Monitor Trump Adviser Carter Page.” On April 12, The Washington Post reported that the FBI acquired a secret warrant from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Trump associate Carter Page, based on “probable cause” that “Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case, Russia.” According to The Post, “This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump adviser was in touch with Russian agents”:
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 the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
[The Washington Post, 4/11/17]
Conservative Media Dishonestly Claim FISA Warrant Is Evidence Of Obama Wiretapping Trump
Rush Limbaugh: “Donald Trump Nailed It” When He Accused Obama Of Spying On Him. On the April 12 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh accused the Obama Administration of spying on Trump’s inner circle during the campaign by citing the FISA warrant of Carter Page.
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): Well, if this were a sane world and if this were a normal day, do you know what the big news of the day would be? That Donald Trump nailed it, that Donald Trump was exactly right, that the Obama administration was in fact spying on them — and indeed, requested and got a FISA warrant. Do you realize how many people have been trying to deny that? “There weren’t any FISA warrants. The administration wasn’t snooping on anybody! That’s just made up! That’s paranoia. Obama, our savior, wouldn’t do that.”
Yet now we know that there was a FISA warrant. The Obama administration was surveilling some guy named Carter Page. They found nothing, but they were looking to. They wanted to. Carter Page had done some business in Russia some time ago, and they were desperate. Obama and his team were desperate to prove that there was some kind of collusion between Russia and Trump. Now that’s kind of out the window with what’s happened in Syria. But you won’t find that news today. Well, in The Washington Post. But normally you would hear other people pick it up. CNN? Noooo. [Premiere Radio Networks,The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/12/17]
Breitbart: “Obama Justice Department Obtained Secret Order To Monitor Trump Campaign Adviser in June 2016.” Breitbart.com claimed that The Washington Post’s “report validates that the FBI and Justice Department under the Obama administration were indeed monitoring an associate of the Trump campaign”:
The FBI and Justice Department obtained a secret warrant last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The secret order allowed the government under the Obama administration to monitor the communications of the adviser, Carter Page, as part of an investigation into potential links between Russia and the Trump administration.
Trump tweeted on March 4 that he had his “wires tapped in Trump Tower” during the campaign, for which critics bashed Trump, arguing that Obama himself could not order such a thing.
But the report validates that the FBI and Justice Department under the Obama administration were indeed monitoring an associate of the Trump campaign. [Breitbart, 4/11/17]
Sean Hannity: “They Should Have Said ‘Sean Hannity Was Right. Donald Trump Was Right, It Happened.’” On his radio show, Fox News’ Sean Hannity referenced the Washington Post’s report on Carter Page and claimed that it validated his months-long crusade to tie former Obama administration officials to political surveillance of the Trump team. He also downplayed the role of Page in the Trump campaign, calling him “a low-level Trump adviser” and “some guy advisor,” and claiming he’s never met him.
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): So, it is, this is pretty interesting because you know we’ve been all over the surveillance, the unmasking, the leaking intelligence issue. So we have now the first mainstream media confirmation. Isn’t it nice that they finally catch up to me? I’m so far in advance of them it’s ridiculous. The Obama administration targeted the Trump campaign for political surveillance. They should have said “Sean Hannity was right. Donald Trump was right, it happened.” Now this was not an American citizen being picked up incidentally as a part of surveillance of a foreign national. And what happened here was the targeted surveillance was a low level Trump adviser. I don’t even know the guy, I’ve never met him, that I can remember, I don’t remember meeting him. That ordered by an administration that backed his opponent. Based apparently on the Clinton campaign’s conspiracy theory that the Russians were helping Trump steal the election from Hillary. Anyway the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor communications of President Donald Trump’s some guy advisor to Donald Trump’s campaign. Part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, according to law enforcement. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 4/12/17]
Alex Jones: Obama Connected With Trump Wiretap After All. On his nightly webcast, Infowars’ Alex Jones claimed to have an “exclusive” on a scandal “bigger than Watergate,” based on The Post’s report that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to investigate Carter Page during the summer of 2016. Jones discussed the topic with frequent Infowars contributor Jerome Corsi arguing that the “Carter Page investigation sheds light on Trump wiretap.”
ALEX JONES (HOST): They have national polls where close to 60 percent of Americans think Obama illegally spied. Well, it’s not think, it’s all admitted, that’s why they’ve been stonewalling, OK? Because they first admitted they’d done it to say they had this intel but there was no intel so then Trump goes, “that’s illegal”, they go, “we never said that”, we have all the front pages of the newspapers and their sources. So, see, put up or shut up, show where I’m this Russian agent. They’re in The Economist today saying I’m being directed by Damascus. What a load of horse manure. [Infowars, 4/12/17]
Page Was Being Investigated Legally For Knowingly Engaging In Clandestine Activities For Russia
Vox: Investigators Believed “Page Was An Agent Of The Russian Government And Knowingly Engaged In Clandestine” Activities. According to The Washington Post’s government sources, investigators believed Page was involved in “clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow”:
According to a Washington Post report published Tuesday, the FBI and the DOJ obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant last summer to surveil Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page on the grounds that he could be covertly working on behalf of the Russian government. FISA warrants for electronic surveillance require loads of paperwork and are difficult to obtain, so the intelligence community devoting resources to get one suggests it was truly unnerved by Page’s connections.
The Washington Post’s government sources say the application for the secret court order “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.” The application made reference to Page’s discussions with undercover Russian intelligence operatives in 2013, as well as other contacts that apparently haven’t been made public yet. [Vox, 4/12/17]
The FISA Warrant Was Completely Legal. According to The Post, the FBI’s application for the warrant was backed by a “lengthy declaration” of the facts of Page’s association with Russian operatives that proved probable cause to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Applications for FISA warrants, [FBI Director James] Comey said, are often thicker than his wrists, and that thickness represents all the work Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents have to do to convince a judge that such surveillance is appropriate in an investigation.
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 the intelligence operative and two other Russian agents. In addition, the application said Page had other contacts with Russian operatives that have not been publicly disclosed, officials said. [The Washington Post, 4/11/17]
Trump’s Wiretap Claim Has Been Debunked
Former Government Officials Have Debunked Trump’s Claim. Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper told NBC earlier this month that “for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.” A spokesperson for Obama said that “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.” [Media Matters, 3/6/17]
FBI Director James Comey: “No Information” To Back Up Trump’s Wiretap Claim. FBI Director James Comey testified in a House committee hearing on March 20 that he “has no information that supports” Trump’s wiretap claim. NBC News reported that Comey “did not say ... that no Trump associate was ever picked up by American surveillance.” From the March 20 article:
The FBI director also dealt the president's credibility a blow when he said he “has no information that supports” Trump's allegation from two weeks ago that President Obama ordered surveillance of his communications in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Only courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, Comey told lawmakers, and “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”
Comey did not say, however, that no Trump associate was ever picked up by American surveillance. He declined to comment on anything related to surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the FBI to eavesdrop, with a court order, on people they suspect are agents of a foreign power. [NBC News, 3/20/17]
Rep. Devin Nunes: Trump “Is Not Right About” Claim That Obama Personally Had Trump Tower Wiretapped. During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper following his announcement that Trump’s transition team faced incidental “surveillance” by the intelligence community, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes clarified that Trump’s original claim that he was wiretapped by former President Obama was “not right.” He also said during a news conference the same day, according to Politico, that he did not have any evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. From the March 22 edition of CNN’s The Lead:
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Look, I think the bottom line here is that President Trump, to some degree, is right that he did end up in some intelligence reports and I don't think he knew about it.
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): But how is he right if he said that he was -- President Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower?
NUNES: He's not right about that, Jake. But as you know, I've told you that, I think many times, that he wasn't right about that.
TAPPER: Right, but you just said he was right. What was he right about?
NUNES: In terms of -- it does appear like his name and people and others ended up into intelligence reports. So, I mean, look, you can make what you want of it, but most people would say that is surveillance. [CNN, The Lead, 3/22/17; Politico, 3/22/17]