Chuck Ross on February 6, 2020
President Donald Trump took aim at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on Thursday for approving surveillance warrants that were based on “fake dossiers” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
“So we had a campaign, little did we know we were running against some very, very bad and evil people with fake dossiers with all of these horrible, dirty cops that took these dossiers and did bad things,” Trump said in a White House speech celebrating his Senate impeachment acquittal.
“They knew all about it. The FISA courts should be ashamed of themselves,” he added.
Trump has long criticized the FBI for relying on Steele’s dossier as part of its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The bureau cited Steele’s information in applications to the FISC to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page.
The Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee funded Steele’s work through Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm.
The Justice Department’s inspector general (IG) released a damning report Dec. 9, 2019, which said the FBI withheld exculpatory information regarding Page and negative information regarding Steele in its applications to the FISC.
Both the IG report and the special counsel’s report undercut Steele’s key allegation of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The IG report also said Steele’s primary source for information in the dossier disputed many of the allegations attributed to him in the salacious document during interviews with the FBI in early 2017.
In response to the IG report, Judge Rosemary Collyer, who presided over the FISC until January, blasted the FBI for submitting “false” and “misleading” information about Page.
The Justice Department has since conceded that the past two warrants against Page are “not valid” because of all the errors identified in the IG report.
While the FISC’s response to the IG’s findings has been widely lauded by Republicans and civil libertarians, some GOP lawmakers have argued that the court bears some responsibility for signing off on the warrants.
Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the Republican critics, has pointed to a memo that he released Feb. 2, 2018, that identified many of the problems laid out in the IG report.
Nunes and other Republicans have also criticized the FISC for appointing former Justice Department official David Kris to review the FBI’s proposals to reform its surveillance procedures. During the Russia probe, Kris defended the FBI against GOP allegations that the bureau misled the FISC. Kris also criticized Nunes, while suggesting there was evidence to believe Carter Page was a Russian agent.
Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan have asked the FISC to explain why Kris was chosen to oversee the FBI’s reforms.
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