FBI Restricts Evidence Collected From Carter Page Surveillance

Chris Strohm
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FBI Restricts Evidence Collected From Carter Page Surveillance

(Bloomberg) -- The FBI has decided to restrict all information collected from surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2016 and 2017 after serious mistakes were uncovered in court applications for the wiretaps, according to a new court filing.

Two of four court applications to conduct surveillance on Page weren’t valid because they didn’t have sufficient evidence to establish probable cause to believe he was acting as an agent of a foreign power, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg wrote in an order released Thursday.

The FBI acted in response to a blistering report from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog that found 17 “significant errors or omissions” in its efforts to obtain wiretaps against Page after he left the Trump campaign in late 2016 and the first half of 2017. President Donald Trump and his conservative supporters have frequently cited flaws in the FBI’s pursuit of Page as evidence Trump was the victim of a “witch hunt.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation told Boasberg in December that it decided to “sequester all collection the FBI acquired pursuant to the Court’s authorizations” of all four applications, according to the order, reported earlier Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.

The FBI said the restrictions would remain in place pending a review of related investigations and possible litigation.

“The government has not described what steps are involved in such sequestration or when it will be completed,” Boasberg wrote. “It has, however, undertaken to provide an update to the court when the FBI completes the sequestration.”

Boasberg is the presiding judge of the secretive court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which approves classified wiretap applications.

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, said in his report in December that “significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process” were raised because “many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications by three separate, hand-picked teams, on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations.”

Trump has called the findings in the report “far worse than I ever thought possible” and the actions it cited a “disgrace.”

Nonetheless, Horowitz said in his report that the FBI acted properly when it began a broad investigation into whether then-candidate Trump or people around him conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Horowitz also said he found no political bias in the FBI’s decision to conduct surveillance of Page and other Trump campaign officials, but said his office was given unsatisfactory answers by FBI officials on the failures in the Page warrant applications.

Boasberg’s order directs the FBI to give the court a detailed description by Jan. 28 of steps being taken to restrict access to the Page material, including information that may have been disclosed to Justice Department prosecutors or people outside the FBI. The bureau is also directed to explain its review of the Horowitz report, as well as related investigations and litigation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, Larry Liebert, John Harney

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