The Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA) application would have been a “close call" — but things changed when the FBI obtained Christopher Steele’s memos, according to a top FBI lawyer who is quoted in the inspector general's report.
Page once served as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser.
The top FBI lawyer isn’t identified in the report, but she gave an interview to IG investigators. The report says:
“She said that although there could be differing opinions, she thought it was a ‘close call’ when they first discussed a FISA targeting Page in August, and that the Steele reporting in September 'pushed it over' the line in terms of establishing probable cause.”
Another FBI lawyer told IG investigators that the FISA application was “probably 50/50” before the Steele material, according to the report.
The report shows how the FBI had been considering asking for a FISA on Page for weeks, but things kicked into a higher gear when they got some material from Steele. Some of that information ended up in the FISA application, which was approved by the secretive FISA court.
The FBI and DOJ misstated a key piece of information about Steele in the FISA applications, the IG found.
“The FISA request form referred to Steele as a ‘reliable source, whose previous reporting to the FBI has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,’” the IG report said. “As noted later in this chapter, while Steele had previously provided information to the FBI that helped the FBI further criminal investigations, his reporting had never been used in a criminal proceeding.”
Why did the FBI want a FISA on Page? An FBI agent involved with the FISA warrants told the inspector general “that he had hoped that emails and other communications obtained through FISA electronic surveillance would help provide valuable information about what Page did while in Moscow in July 2016 and the Russian officials with whom he may have spoken,” the report said.
Page’s visit to Moscow, while he was still advising the Trump campaign, raised eyebrows and piqued the interest of US investigators, CNN previously reported. While Page was there, he delivered a public address at a university where he criticized US policy toward Russia and condemned the sanctions that the Obama administration imposed since 2014.