U.S. sought to mon­i­tor Trump ad­viser

Staffer sus­pected of be­ing Rus­sian spy surveilled by FBI prior to elec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS -

The FBI ob­tained a se­cret court or­der last sum­mer to mon­i­tor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Carter Page, an ad­viser to then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump, be­cause the gov­ern­ment had rea­son to be­lieve Mr. Page was act­ing as a Rus­sian agent, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported Tues­day.

Mr. Page is among the Trump as­so­ciates un­der scru­tiny as the FBI and con­gres­sional com­mit­tees in­ves­ti­gate whether his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign had ties to Rus­sia’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Mr. Trump has de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and the cur­rent White House ac­cused the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of surveilling his team dur­ing the cam­paign.

The Post, cit­ing un­named law en­force­ment and other U.S. of­fi­cials, said the gov­ern­ment surveil­lance ap­pli­ca­tion laid out the ba­sis for be­liev­ing that Mr. Page had know­ingly en­gaged in in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties on Rus­sia’s be­half. The news­pa­per said the ap­pli­ca­tion in­cludes con­tacts Mr. Page had with a Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tive in 2013.

Those con­tacts 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, Mr. Page pro­vided one of the men doc­u­ments about the energy in­dus­try. He was not charged as part of that case.

An FBI spokesman did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a call seek­ing com­ment from The Associated Press.

Mr. Page, who has de­nied hav­ing im­proper ties to Rus­sia, told the AP 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 Mr. 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 there’s prob­a­ble cause that the tar­get is an agent of a for­eign power. Though the stan­dard is on pa­per a high bar to meet, ap­pli­ca­tions are hardly ever de­nied.

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

Mr. Page was a lit­tle-known in­vest­ment banker when Mr. Trump an­nounced him as a mem­ber of his for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sory team early last year. Trump aides in­sist the pres­i­dent has no re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Page and did not have any deal­ings with him dur­ing the cam­paign.

Mr. Page’s 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 Mr. Page said he was trav­el­ing in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity, the school cited his role in the Trump cam­paign in ad­ver­tis­ing the speech.

Mr. Page was sharply crit­i­cal of the U.S. in his remarks, say­ing Wash­ing­ton has a “hyp­o­crit­i­cal fo­cus on ideas such as de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion, in­equal­ity, cor­rup­tion and regime change.”

Days later, Mr. Page talked with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the U.S. at an event on the side­lines of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions 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 Mr. 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’s un­clear how Mr. Page got con­nected with the Trump cam­paign. One cam­paign of­fi­cial said Mr. Page was re­cruited by Sam Clo­vis, an Iowa Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive who ran the Trump cam­paign’s pol­icy shop and is now a se­nior ad­viser at the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment.

Those who served on the cam­paign’s for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee also said they had lim­ited con­tact with Mr. Page.

But in a let­ter Mr. 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,” Mr. Page wrote. He also noted that his of­fice build­ing in New York “is lit­er­ally con­nected to the Trump Tower build­ing by an atrium.”

Mr. Page, a 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 com­pany’s web­site, he has ad­vised on trans­ac­tions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a pair of Rus­sian en­ti­ties.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported Tues­day about an FBI ap­pli­ca­tion to a spe­cial court in or­der to mon­i­tor Trump ad­viser Carter Page as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial links be­tween the Repub­li­can’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia.

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