In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the FBI believed that Carter Page, a campaign adviser to Donald Trump, was “conspiring and collaborating with the Russian government,” according to startling wiretap warrant applications released Saturday by the Justice Department.
The 412 pages of documents, including an initial wiretap warrant application and three follow-up renewals, were heavily redacted. But they included damning passages concerning Page, who served for a time as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government... to undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law,” the documents say.
The FBI also believed that “Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” the document says, adding that “there is probable cause that such activities involve or are about to involve violations of the criminal statutes of the United States.”
Other sections noted that Page “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” and that the FBI believed “the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” Trump’s campaign.
The formerly classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications were released after advocacy groups and news organizations, including The New York Times and USA Today, sued for disclosure. The FBI obtained its first wiretap warrant for Page in 2016.
Republicans have denounced the FISA documents as evidence of abuse by the FBI and Justice Department targeting the Trump campaign. Critics of special counsel Robert Mueller claim the FISA warrant was spurred solely by the dossier gathered by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele that was paid for by Democrats as part of Trump opposition research.
Democrats have argued that the FBI had its own concerning information about Page’s possible campaign collusion with the Russians. Page boasted in a letter three years before the Steele dossier that he was a “Kremlin adviser.”
The FBI told the FISA court it was aware that the person who hired Steele wanted to discredit Trump, but said Steele had in the past “provided reliable information.” Few details about other sources of intelligence on Page were available in the unredacted portions of text.
Page, who has previously denied colluding with Russia, could not immediately be reached for comment. He tweeted on Saturday about “civil rights abuses” that he claimed were revealed in the documents, and said he plans to appear on CNN Sunday to discuss them.