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The FISA Court just declassified an order Thursday relating to the FBI spying on the Trump campaign. Here is the order; here is a National Review article with a brief summary. This is a significant order addressing an important question not answered in the Horowitz Report. The order was entered on January 7, 2020.
The important, new information from this order is that the DOJ has concluded that the third and fourth FISA warrants obtained against Carter Page were wrongful. This means that the FBI conducted unlawful surveillance of the Trump campaign in violation of the Constitution.
If you need to get back up to speed about the Horowitz Report, see my post last month titled Executive Summary of the Executive Summary. To understand the significance of the current FISA Court order, a quick recap is in order.
The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign at the very end of July 2016, and related investigations of several individuals shortly thereafter. The FBI and DOJ ultimately obtained four FISA warrants to conduct electronic surveillance on Carter Page, based on a set of reports commonly called the “Steele Dossier,” prepared by a former intelligence officer named Christopher Steele. The Steele Dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee through several intermediaries.
The exact dates of the four Carter Page FISA warrants are redacted in the Horowitz report, but the initial warrant was in October 2016, and there were three renewals in January, April, and June 2017. The Horowitz Report concluded that there were “seven significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the original FISA application, and “10 additional significant errors in the three renewal applications.”
The Horowitz report did not reach a conclusion about whether these inaccuracies, errors, and omissions were material to the ultimate question — the existence of probable cause for the issuance of the FISA warrants against Page. Rather, the report stated: “We do not speculate whether or how having accurate and complete information might have influenced the decisions of senior Department leaders who supported the four FISA applications, or the court, if they had known all of the relevant information.”
The FISA Court order declassified today states (citations omitted):
Thanks in large part to the work of the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, the Court has received notice of material misstatements and omissions in the applications filed by the government in the above-captioned dockets. DOJ assesses that with respect to the applications in Docket Numbers 17-375 and 17-679, “if not earlier, there was insufficient predication to establish probable cause to believe that [Carter] Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
These docket numbers correspond to the third and fourth FISA warrants obtained against Page (also called the second and third renewal applications).
This means that, as to the last two of the four FISA warrants against Page, the inaccuracies, errors, and omissions identified in the Horowitz Report resulted in a violation of Page’s constitutional rights. Two warrants were wrongfully issued by the FISA Court, without probable cause, because the Court was misled by the FBI and the DOJ.
This is a very big deal. It establishes unlawful surveillance of the Trump campaign by the FBI and the DOJ.
Three final notes of clarification:
- The conclusion that there was no probable cause for the third and fourth FISA warrants against Page was reached by the DOJ, not by the FISA Court itself.
- The FISA Court order does not address the first two FISA warrants against Page. It appears that these are still under review.
- The conclusion regarding the absence of probable cause does not necessarily indicate individual wrongdoing on the part of the senior FBI or DOJ officials approving the applications, as the inaccuracies, errors, and omissions identified in the Horowitz Report may have been present in the documents that they were given for review.
Finally, there will be more to come. The FISA Court order sets a January 28, 2020, deadline for the DOJ to make a further written submission.Published in