Twitter hires ex-FBI lawyer who played key role in probe of Trump campaign
Chuck Ross on June 16, 2020
- Twitter has hired former FBI general counsel James Baker, the firm announced Monday.
- Baker was the FBI’s top lawyer during Crossfire Hurricane, the investigation into the Trump campaign.
- In that role, Baker supported the decision to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page. A Justice Department watchdog has found that the FBI improperly relied on the Steele dossier in order to obtain those warrants.
Twitter announced Monday that it has hired the former FBI lawyer who approved key steps taken during the investigation into the Trump campaign, including the decisions to surveil former campaign aide Carter Page and to use an FBI agent to secretly monitor Michael Flynn during a national security briefing for the campaign.
James Baker will serve as deputy general counsel of Twitter, said Sean Edgett, the general counsel of the social media company.
Baker “is committed to our core principles of an open internet and freedom of expression,” Edgett said in a statement. Baker “brings experience navigating complex, global issues with a principled approach.”
Baker joins Twitter amid a battle with President Donald Trump over censorship of conservative users of the platform.
Trump signed an executive order on May 28 that calls to remove social media companies’ shield against liability if they engage in censorship. He took the step after Twitter fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets regarding mail-in voting ballots.
As the FBI’s top attorney, Baker reviewed and approved decisions that the bureau took during Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report on the investigation said that Baker approved the decision to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page, who served on the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team.
“Baker told us that he also remembered being satisfied at the time that there was probable cause articulated in the draft application to believe that Carter Page was an agent of a foreign power,” the IG report says.
The IG ultimately found that the FBI committed at least 17 “significant” errors and omissions in its applications to surveil Page. Many of the omissions involved the Steele dossier.
The FBI relied heavily on information from Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired by the Clinton campaign and by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
Steele alleged in a dossier that the Trump campaign — and Page — conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
The special counsel’s office found no evidence that Page or any other Trump associate conspired with the Russian government to influence the election.
According to the IG report, investigators failed to disclose that the primary source for Steele disavowed many of the key allegations made in the dossier.
The Justice Department determined two of the four FISA warrants against Page to be invalid because of the FBI’s numerous omissions.
Baker was unable to provide insight into the FISA process during his interviews with the IG because he was one of only two witnesses (including former FBI Director James Comey) who declined to undergo a classification review in order to answer questions regarding Crossfire Hurricane that involved classified information.
Baker, who is also a CNN analyst, was part of a small team at the FBI who approved sending a special agent into a national security briefing for the Trump campaign in August 2016 that was intended to collect evidence as part of an ongoing investigation of Michael Flynn.
Baker also met one-on-one with Mother Jones journalist David Corn, who provided him memos from Steele’s dossier. The FBI attorney also met in September 2016 with Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the firm that hired Steele on behalf of the DNC.
Sussmann provided Baker with now-debunked allegations regarding computer server connections between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
Baker was also investigated over a potential leak of classified information involving a story unrelated to the Trump probe.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about Baker’s new role at the company.
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