The Department of Justice has said that the FBI under disgraced former Director James Comey should have discontinued its spying on a member of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election because it had “insufficient predication to establish probable cause.”
The news was made public following a newly declassified summary of a Justice Department assessment released Thursday by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
Reuters reporter Brad Heath highlighted the newly declassified letter, writing: “This is a big deal. The Justice Department is conceding that two of the four FISA applications it used to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page were not lawful, and it’s not defending the legality of its other two applications.”
Democrats, including California Rep. Adam Schiff, had previously insisted the Page FISA warrants met “rigorous” standards for probable cause, and mocked Republicans for suggesting otherwise.
“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,” the DOJ letter stated.
“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.’”
“The government further reports that the FBI has agreed ‘to sequester all collection the FBI acquired pursuant to the Court’s authorizations in the above-listed four docket numbers targeting [Carter] Page pending further review of the OIG Report and the outcome of related investigations and any litigation,’” the letter continued.
“The government has not described what steps are involved-in-such sequestration or when it will be completed. It has, however, undertaken to ‘provide an update to the Court when the FBI completes the sequestration’ and to ‘update the Court on the disposition of the sequestered collection at the conclusion of related investigations and any litigation.’ To date, no such update has been received.”
“The Court understands the government to have concluded, in view of the material misstatements and omissions, that the Court’s authorizations in Docket Numbers 17-375 and 17- 679 were not valid,” the letter added.
“The government apparently does not take a position on the validity of the authorizations in Docket Numbers 16-1182 and 17-52, but intends to sequester information acquired pursuant to those dockets in the same manner as information acquired pursuant to the subsequent dockets.”
“Today’s unprecedented court filing represents another step on the road to recovery for America’s deeply damaged judicial system,” Page said in a statement. “I hope that this latest admission of guilt for these civil rights abuses by the Justice Department marks continued progress towards restoring justice and remedying these reputationally ruinous injuries.”
President Trump issued a response by tweeting a symbolic photo of Obama spying on him through a window.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley added, “It’s about time. It’s about time federal authorities entrusted with our most powerful and intrusive surveillance tools begin to own up to their failures and abuses, and take steps to restore public confidence. … Time will tell if the department will continue working to fix its errors and restore trust that it won’t disregard Americans’ civil liberties. Its admission and cooperation with the FISC is a step in the right direction.”
The revelations Thursday were yet another embarrassment for the FBI, which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has found made repeated errors and misrepresentations — and, in one case, deliberately falsified evidence — before the FISC as the bureau sought to surveil Page in 2016 and 2017.