On heels of obtaining a copy of the FBI’s application for permission to spy on former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, Washington watchdog Judicial Watch now is asking for copies of transcripts of hearings related to the surveillance.
Judicial Watch on Tuesday filed a motion in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain the transcripts.
Page was the target of four controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants from the Department of Justice. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee last winter issued a memo concluding the “minimally corroborated” anti-Trump dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee was an essential part of the FBI’s and DOJ’s applications to spy on Page.
Last week, in response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, the Justice Department released 412 heavily redacted pages related to FISA warrants targeting Page.
“The warrants provide evidence that the FISA court was never told that the key information justifying the requests came from a minimally-corroborated ‘dossier’ that was created by Fusion GPS, a paid agent of the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee,” Judicial Watch said.
The watchdog group first filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOJ and then filed suit seeking the FISA transcripts. Last month, the Justice Department told Judicial Watch it had no Page FISA court hearing transcripts.
Now Judicial Watch is asking the court directly.
“Since the Justice Department does not have possession of any transcripts of hearings related to Page and because such transcripts would provide the public with a complete and unbiased look at the role of this court, Judicial Watch respectfully requests this court make public all transcripts of hearings regarding applications for or renewal of FISA warrants related to Page,” the request explains.
When the House Intelligence Committee released its memo in February, Chairman Devin Nunes wrote to Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, the presiding judge at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, asking for transcripts of “any relevant FISC hearings associated with the initial FISA application or subsequent renewals related to electronic surveillance of Carter Page.”
Collyer later replied that the FBI and DOJ have most, or all, of the documents.
Collyer wrote: “[Y]ou may note that the Department of Justice possesses (or can easily obtain) the same responsive information the court might possess, and because of separation of powers considerations, is better positioned than the court to respond quickly. (We have previously made clear to the Department, both formally and informally, that we do not object to any decision by the executive branch to convey to Congress any such information.)”
Judicial Watch now is arguing “to date, no transcripts of hearings regarding applications for or renewal of FISA warrants related to Page have been released to the public.”
It said worries about classified information likely are unwarranted, “since the president has declassified the congressional memo, and the FBI has released the FISA warrant applications, application renewals, and court orders related to Page.”
“Our lawsuit helped expose last week the FISA court warrants that were dishonestly used to gain FISA court approval for search warrants targeting the Trump team,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Court hearing transcripts about these FISA warrants should be released quickly so the public can have full information and accountability for any misuse of FISA warrants to target the Trump team.”
Democrats on the House committee later released their own report claiming the FBI followed the FISA process and did not “subvert” the procedures to “spy on the Trump campaign.”
The release of the redacted copy of the Page FIA warrant application and renewals was the first such release by the DOJ in the 40 years since the surveillance law was enacted.
Page hasn’t been charged regarding any of the allegations in the applications.