Both sides of the Trump-Russia debate see the recently released application for a FISA warrant against a former Trump campaign figure as confirming their previously held opinions on the matter.
But a former federal prosecutor says that’s because some are conflating two very different matters and reaching a faulty conclusion.
Over the weekend, the FBI released a redacted version of the FISA warrant request it sought against former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The paperwork shows the FBI relied heavily on the Steele dossier, produced by a former British intelligence official hostile to Trump. And a footnote in the application admits the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
So what does former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy see as the headline in these newly released documents?
He said it confirms “what we learned in congressional hearings over the past year-plus, which is that the FBI used the Steele dossier, which is a partisan opposition research screed, which was basically commissioned by the Clinton campaign.”
McCarthy says there’s still unknown information, but it’s now known that there’s no further corroboration of the dossier in the FISA application.
“We know that that’s not there because there have been hearings. There have been reports. Senators (Charles) Grassley and (Lindsey) Graham, for example, put out a report on a classified memo that was declassified earlier this year which laid out not only the passages of the actual FISA warrants that were relevant but also explained what the FBI had done was rely on the credibility of Christopher Steele,” said McCarthy.
So how are both sides claiming victory after the release of the FISA warrant application?
McCarthy says it’s because many people are confusing two very different matters: whether Carter Page was someone worthy of further federal scrutiny and whether the government had built a legal case for obtaining a surveillance warrant.
Page reportedly aroused suspicion years before the 2016 campaign for trying to become a Russian agent but was dismissed by the Kremlin as an “idiot.”
“To get a FISA warrant under federal law, you have to have probable cause that an American citizen in this case is willfully acting as a clandestine agent of a foreign power.
“That is, he is quite intentionally acting to advance the interests of Russia in the United States in a clandestine way, which means under federal law is a probable violation of federal criminal law,” said McCarthy.
He believes the feds fell short of that burden.
“They didn’t have that that we can see, other than through the Steele dossier, which is why I think (former FBI Deputy Director Andrew) McCabe said that they couldn’t have gotten the warrant without the Steele dossier,” said McCarthy.
“It’s fine to say we should have been concerned about Carter Page and even that we should have investigated Carter Page. Getting a FISA warrant on someone is a drastic step up from that,” he added.
McCarthy also believes President Trump could easily clear up all speculation about what’s still behind the redacted sections of the FISA warrant application.
“President Trump has the power … to declassify and publicize anything in the way of classified information that the government has. Until we get this information, there’ll be a lot of this speculation that goes on,” said McCarthy.