The Department of Justice over the weekend released 412 heavily redacted documents related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant requests for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, which were part of a federal investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.
“The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian Government,” said the surveillance application filed in October 2016, just one month before the presidential election. The documents also show the FBI believed the Russian government’s efforts were being coordinated by Mr Page and “perhaps other individuals associated with” the Trump campaign.
On Sunday, as Mr Page, who has never been charged with any offence, took to CNN to again deny he had collaborated with Moscow, Mr Trump used his Twitter account to thank the conservative activist group, Judicial Watch, which had obtained the documents under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and to claim – without providing supporting evidence – his 2016 campaign had been illegally monitored.
“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” Mr Trump said, referring to the Democratic National Committee. “Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!”
He added: “Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents. As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of “Justice” and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”
Reuters said the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Mr Trump believed the documents proved the FBI and DoJ demonstrated illegal conduct or were misleading the courts.
The DoJ also failed to respond to enquires, while the FBI declined to comment. A spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is now leading the probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, also declined to comments on the president’s claims.
The documents have long been sought by both conservatives who believe the Obama administration overstepped the law in seeking to monitor Mr Page, and those who believed they would provide additional information about him.
Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic Party in the US House of Representatives, said in a statement: “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.
Mr Page, 47, an energy industry consultant with longstanding ties to Russia, has always denied colluding with Moscow on behalf of the Trump campaign, which he joined in March 2016 as a foreign policy adviser. After allegations emerged in the so-called Steele dossier that he had acted as go-between, he resigned.
On Sunday, Mr Page could not be immediately contacted, but he told CNN he was never an agent of a foreign power, and that the documents overstated his ties to Russia. Calling them “a complete joke”, he said: “You talk about misleading the courts, it’s just so misleading.”
He added: “I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never been anywhere near what’s being described here.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, supported Mr Page’s argument, saying the decision to monitor him was “not at all” justified.
He told CBS: “The whole FISA warrant process needs to be looked at.”
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