WASHINGTON, D.C. – The less highly-redacted version of the criminal referral letter written by Sen. Charles Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham made public on Tuesday provides evidence the Department of Justice and FBI were conducting FISA court-approved electronic surveillance of President Trump in the White House through at least June 2017.
The key sentences are on page 4 of the Grassley-Graham letter, reading as follows:
In defending Mr. Steele’s credibility to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court], the FBI had posited an innocuous explanation for the September 23 [Yahoo News] article, based on the assumption that Mr. Steele had told the FBI the truth about his press contacts. The FBI then vouched for him twice more, using the same rationale in subsequent renewal applications filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April and June 2017.
That Steele had lied to the FBI regarding his multiple press contacts is clear in how the purpose of the Grassley-Graham letter was to refer Steele to the DOJ and FBI for criminal investigation for suspicion of violating 18 U.S.C. Section 1001, a section of the federal code that prohibits knowingly making false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements to the federal government.
The FBI and DOJ filed the first warrant application under FISA for Dr. Carter Page on Oct. 21, 2016, with multiple extensions filed; with the last extensions being filed in April and June 2017 suggesting the FISA court approved electronic surveillance began with the Trump campaign, continued throughout the Trump transition, and extended six months or longer into the Trump presidency.
The Grassley-Graham letter also made clear that in June 2017, former FBI Director Comey testified publicly before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he had briefed President-Elect Trump on the dossier allegations in January 2017, “which Comey described as ‘salacious’ and ‘unverified.’”
Further support for the argument the DOJ and FBI were conducting FISA court-authorized electronic surveillance of the Trump administration after Donald Trump’s Inauguration can be found in the 99-page declassified memorandum and order released by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 26, 2017.
On page 5, the FISC order and memorandum discusses DOJ and FBI requested extensions of FISA court-authorized electronic surveillance on Carter Page, noting the government submitted an extension through May 26, 2017, that the court granted, but for a shorter period, extending only through April 28, 2017.
While the DOJ/FBI FISA court applications were targeted on Carter Page, a major point of the FISC order and memorandum released April 26, 2017, was to reprimand the DOJ and FBI for violating minimization requirements such that the electronic surveillance extended to a wide network of Carter Page’s associates and contacts, and perhaps beyond, to persons involved in more distant communication chains that linked back to Carter Page.
To this date, the DOJ and FBI have refused to release a complete list of all persons in the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, and the Trump administration that were under FISA court-approved electronic surveillance.
Still, the indications from the scandal over Obama administration officials, including Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice, unmasking names of those Trump associates whose communications were captured by the NSA suggests the FISA court-authorized electronic surveillance extended widely beyond Carter Page to include a large list of Trump associates whose communications were collected incidentally, as “collateral” contacts known to be in communication with Carter Page.
In conclusion, the record suggests Obama administration holdovers in the DOJ and FBI conspired to continue FISA court-authorized electronic surveillance over Donald Trump and his associates, starting during the 2016 presidential campaign, continuing into the transition, and not concluded until some six months after the Trump administration took over in the White House.