Release of Carter Page surveillance documents reignites debate

Release of Carter Page surveillance documents reignites debate
© Getty Images

The Justice Department's release of documents related to the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is reigniting the debate over how government officials acquired their warrant, and giving new life to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE's unsupported claim that they spied on his campaign.

Page on Sunday appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," where he repeatedly dismissed the fresh trove of documents as "spin" and "misleading," and asserted he has never been an agent for a foreign power.

“It’s really spin. I mean, I sat in on some meetings. But to call me an adviser, I think, is way over the top,” Page said, despite penning a letter in 2013 in which he called himself an "informal adviser" to the Kremlin.

"This is really nothing," Page added. "Just an attempt to distract from the real crimes that are shown in this misleading document."


However, when pressed, Page declined to directly answer whether he has relationships with Russian officials.

The Justice Department late Saturday released documents related to surveillance warrants on Page. The heavily redacted materials laid out, in part, the FBI’s belief that Page had established relationships and was potentially collaborating with Russian government officials.

While the public release of a surveillance application marked an unprecedented step, it did little to quell the furor over how law enforcement obtained a warrant to surveil Page. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (R-S.C.) said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the surveillance was "not at all" justified."

"If the dossier is the reason you issued the warrant, it was a bunch of garbage," Graham said.

"The dossier has proven to be a bunch of garbage," he added, referencing the so-called "Steele Dossier" that was used in part to acquire the surveillance warrant.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' Schiff: 'Hard to imagine a poorer case' than Trump's on emergency declaration MORE (D-Calif.), meanwhile, argued that the application was built on more evidence than just the dossier. 

"I know those applications set out in some detail, a lot of which unfortunately is redacted, just why the FBI was so concerned that Carter Page might be acting as an agent of a foreign power," Schiff said on ABC's "This Week."

"It was a solid application and renewals signed by four different judges appointed by three different Republican presidents," Schiff added.

President Trump took to Twitter earlier Sunday morning to claim the additional documents prove his campaign "was illegally being spied upon."

"Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!"  Trump tweeted. 

Trump did not specify evidence revealed in the surveillance application to support his claim, however. His comments mark the latest instance in which he has been at odds with his own Justice Department and intelligence officials.

The heavily redacted materials indicated that the FBI “believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government… to undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law.”

The application shows that the FBI told the court that it believed the person who hired Steele to compile the dossier was seeking information to damage Trump. However, officials told the court it found the information to be “credible.” 

Additionally, the application was based on information beyond what was included in the Steele Dossier, and was approved by four were appointed by Republican presidents.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioIvanka must recalibrate her paid family leave plan to make it tenable The United States needs a career ambassador in Honduras Rubio in Colombia to push for delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela MORE (R-Fla.) rebuffed Trump's claims during two separate appearances early Sunday, arguing the Department of Justice had legitimate reason to look into Page.

The senator noted that Page had spoken in the past about his connections to Russian officials, and said he likely raised eyebrows among law enforcement when he began associating with the Trump campaign.

"I don't believe that them looking into Carter Page means they were spying on the campaign. I also don't believe it proves anything about collusion or anything like that," Rubio said on "State of the Union."

"I don't think it's part of any broader plot," he added. "The only plot here is the plot to interfere and our elections by the Russians."

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTrey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor Congress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms Lynch testimony marks final interview of GOP-led probe MORE (R-S.C.), meanwhile, agreed with Rubio that Page likely drew FBI interest before he joined the 2016 campaign. But he was firm in his criticism that the Steele dossier played a role in acquiring a surveillance warrant.  

He took issue with the FBI's lack of transparency on how the Steele dossier was funded, and argued the agency should have disclosed that it was funded by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 campaign.

"I don't have an issue with looking into people that have cozy relationships with Russia. That's fine. That's what law enforcement supposed to do," Gowdy said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I do have an issue when you rely on political opposition research that is unvetted and you represent that to a court and use it to spy on an American," he added.