FBI reportedly obtained secret order to monitor Trump adviser for Russia ties

Bureau said to have been allowed to monitor Pages communication during the election because it believed he was acting as a Kremlin agent

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, an adviser to the then presidential candidate Donald Trump, over suspicions he was a Russian agent , the Washington Post has reported.

Page is among the Trump associates under scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate whether any of them colluded with Moscow to skew the 2016 election in Trumps favour. Both Page and Trump have denied any wrongdoing and portrayed the investigations as a witch-hunt. But the investigations continue to haunt the Trump administration.

The Post, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials, said on Tuesday that the government surveillance application laid out the basis for believing that Page had knowingly engaged in intelligence activities on Russias behalf. The newspaper said the application included contacts Page had with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.

However the report noted that Page had not been charged with any crime, and that FBI counter-intelligence investigations frequently do not lead to criminal prosecutions.

Pages contacts with Moscow are detailed in a 2015 court filing involving a case against three men charged in connection with a cold war-style Russian spying ring. According to the filing, a man described as Male-1 provided one of the men documents about the energy industry. Earlier this month, Page confirmed to Buzzfeed he was the unnamed male. He said he had been approached by a man presenting himself as a diplomat at the UN and did not hand over sensitive documents. He was not charged as part of that case.

Trump surprised campaign observers in March when he named Page, a previously obscure businessman who had worked in the energy sector in Russia, as a foreign policy advisor to his campaign. However, after reports surfaced in September of his alleged contacts with senior Russian officials, the Trump team distanced itself from him.

Page, who has denied having improper ties to Russia, told the Associated Press on Tuesday he was happy that the court order had been revealed and blamed the Obama administration for trying to suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy.

It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those Fisa requests are more fully disclosed over time, said Page, using an acronym to refer to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Fisa court and its orders are highly secretive. Judges grant permission for surveillance if they agree theres probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power. Though the standard is a high bar to meet, applications are hardly ever denied.

The Post reported that a 90-day warrant was issued for Page and had been renewed more than once by the Fisa court.

Trump aides insist the president has no relationship with Page and did not have any dealings with him during the campaign.

Pages relationship with Russia began to draw scrutiny during the campaign after he visited Moscow in July 2016 for a speech at the New Economic School. While Page said he was traveling in a personal capacity, the school cited his role in the Trump campaign in advertising the speech.

Page was sharply critical of the US in his remarks, saying Washington had a hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.

Days later, Page talked with Russias ambassador to the US at an event on the sidelines of the Republican national convention. Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general, spoke with the Russian envoy at the same event, a conversation he failed to reveal when asked about contacts with Russians during his Senate confirmation hearings.

The campaign began distancing itself from Page after his trip to Russia, saying he was only an informal adviser. By the fall, he appeared to have cut ties to the Republican campaign.

It is unclear how Page got connected with the Trump campaign. One campaign official said Page was recruited by Sam Clovis, an Iowa Republican operative who ran the Trump campaigns policy shop and is now a senior adviser at the agriculture department. Those who served on the campaigns foreign policy advisory committee also said they had limited contact with Page.

But in a letter Page sent to the Senate intelligence committee last month, he cast himself as a regular presence in Trump Tower, where the campaign was headquartered.

I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Cafe, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year, Page wrote. He also noted that his office building in New York is literally connected to the Trump Tower building by an atrium.

In the letter, Page claimed that his mobile phone had been tapped. The former Merrill Lynch investment banker who worked out of its Moscow office for three years, now runs Global Energy Capital, a firm focused on energy sectors in emerging markets. According to the companys website, he has advised on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a pair of Russian entities.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/11/donald-trump-carter-page-fbi-russia