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Here’s what’s actually in the FBI’s Carter Page surveillance docs



Carter Page
Carter Page was a foreign
policy adviser on the Trump campaign.


  • The FBI released previously secret documents on the
    surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page this
  • President Donald Trump has since tweeted several false
    claims about the meaning and implications of the
  • The pages were heavily redacted, but the visible text
    provides some key information into the investigation’s
    intentions and process.
  • Lawmakers’ claims about the documents’ significance
    aren’t cleanly split down party lines.

The FBI released previously secret documents detailing its
surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, after
months of debate over the investigation’s validity.

The 412 pages were released on
Saturday under the Freedom of Information Act. Many of the pages
are completely blacked out, and still remain secret. Though
heavily redacted, the visible text provides some key information
into the investigation’s intentions and process into the secret
surveillance of Page, which started in October 2016 and continued
through at least summer 2017.

The documents include four applications from the FBI under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),
a 1978 law that created a court to oversee requests from federal
law enforcement and intelligence agencies when they wanted
warrants to surveil foreign agents suspected of committing
espionage or terrorism within the US.

“The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a US person,
and an agent of a foreign power,” reads the first application,
filed in October 2016. “The FBI believes Page has been the
subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.”

carter page fisa application_pdf
Department of Justice

carter page fisa application
Department of Justice

Page denied being a foreign agent in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
Host Jake Tapper read from a document that Page had previously
listed himself as an “informal adviser” to the Kremlin. Page
dismissed the characterization as “spin”.

This is the first time a FISA application has been publicly
released since the act became law 40 years ago. Law enforcement officials
of the dangers releasing such sensitive information
could do to their ability to carry out their jobs.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle reacted on TV and in
issued statements the morning after the documents were released
to make claims on the application’s significance and effects.
Here’s how their claims match up with what’s actually in the

The dossier


The main point of contention is the idea that the FBI sought the
surveillance order based on on allegations in a dossier that
former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele compiled.

The Democratic National Committee and a law firm connected to
former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2016
campaign funded it.

The dossier was leaked to several media outlets, and Buzzfeed News published it in full
in January 2017
 — 10 days before Trump’s inauguration.
The largely uncorroborated document outlines allegations of close
connections between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian

Republicans have argued the links to Democratic groups weren’t
fully disclosed to the FISA court and Steele (who is identified
in the Page documents as “Source #1”) could have been acting to
undermine Trump’s campaign. But the documents note the political
ties to Steele’s work and said the FBI still believed some of his
report to be “credible.”

Plus the applications also rely on information from the US State
Department, interviews Page had with the FBI, and multiple news
articles outlining how Page reportedly pushed the Trump campaign
and Republican National Committee to soften its stance on
Russia’s activities in Ukraine.

The information that specifically came from Steele in the first
FISA application was that Page allegedly met with two
high-ranking Russians with ties to Russian President Vladimir
Putin. Page later denied that the meetings took place.

The application also discloses that Steele didn’t ask why he was
hired to compile the dossier, but that “the FBI speculates that
the identified US person was likely looking for information that
could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign,” referring to

what Carter Page FISA Application says about steele dossier
the first FBI application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter
Page says about Christopher Steele.


Trump pushed an argument about the application being unclear,
tweeting hours after the
documents were released to claim the documents “confirm with
little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the

He also claimed the documents proved his campaign was illegally
spied on, echoing the funding link between democratic groups and
Steele’s research Republicans have called out before.

Trump also connected the surveillance on Page to special counsel
Mueller’s investigation, which had begun months before the FBI
sought the surveillance order on Page in October 2016.

Who approved the surveillance applications

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks in Ypilanti Township, Michigan March 15, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 3, 2017 in a combination of file photos. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Kevin Lamarque/File Photos
Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in May


The documents contain four applications for 90-day periods of
surveillance, starting in October 2016, all claiming that Page
was being cultivated as an unwitting agent of the Russian

Multiple levels of the FBI, Justice Department, and FISA court
judges approved each application. Former FBI Director James
Comey, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, and a federal
judge approved the first one.

After Trump fired Yates and Comey, deputy attorney general
Rod Rosenstein, who he appointed, signed off on the fourth
application in June 2017. The surveillance on Page presumably
ended 90 days later.

The judges’ process of examining the application as detailed in
the documents largely discredits the accusations in the so-called
Nunes memo, in which House
Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said the FBI made a
biased decision by wiretapping Page and launched the Russia

George Papadopoulos, another foreign-policy adviser on the Trump
campaign, told an Australian diplomat
that Russia had “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary
Clinton during a night of “heavy drinking” in May 2016, The New
York Times reported. That revelation launched the FBI’s
investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US
presidential election and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion
with the Kremlin.

The Page applications also mention Papadopoulos, saying Trump
identified the two men as foreign policy advisers to the campaign
in March 2016.

The FISA judges, who were all Republican appointees, were made
aware of the circumstances of the Steele dossier, assured of its
credibility, and given further evidence to decide whether there
was enough information to surveil Page.

The backlash

adam schiff lindsey graham marco rubio
Adam Schiff; Sen. Lindsey Graham; Sen. Marco


The argument over whether this surveillance was justified is not
split cleanly down party lines.

In a statement directly after the documents’ release, Nancy
Pelosi took aim at Trump and the GOP, who she said “must cease
their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence
communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies.”

“Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents
provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter
Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and
improperly and illegally influence the 2016 US presidential
election,'” Pelosi wrote.

Republican Sen. Lindsey
, meanwhile, criticized the application process on CBS’
“Face the Nation” Sunday and called the Steele dossier “a bunch
of garbage” because the government wasn’t clear enough that the
research had been partially funded by Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member on the House
Intelligence Committee, said the documents answer “just why the
FBI was so concerned that Carter Page might be acting as an agent
of a foreign power.”

“It was a solid application and renewals signed by four different
judges appointed by three different Republican presidents,”
Schiff said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The detail of the judges’ approval also seemed to convince
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who said on CNN’s “State of the
Union” Sunday he thought the documents justified the FBI’s wishes
for surveillance.

“I don’t think they did anything wrong,” Rubio said. “They went
to the court, they got the judges to approve it, they laid out
all the information, and there was a lot of reasons unrelated to
the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page.”

He continued: “I don’t think it’s part of any broader plot. The
only plot here is the plot to interfere in our election by the

See all 412 pages of the Carter Page documents below:

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