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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Let's Take a Closer Look At the FISA Warrant for Carter Paige

There's a story today that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant during the Summer of 2016 in order to conduct surveillance of Carter Paige.  Paige was for a short time a minor foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign for president.  The news is not surprising; we have heard for many months that the Obama administration had sought a FISA warrant for people connected to the Trump campaign and that, after a few false starts, such a warrant was granted.  In fact, this was the commonly reported fact by the mainstream media in the days after the election until about a month ago.  Then President Trump tweeted that Obamacrats had wiretapped Trump Tower.  That caused a firestorm of a response.  The main thing that the media did was to reverse its prior mantra about how there had been a FISA warrant and that the conversations obtained might show Trump/Russia collusion.  The new mantra was that there had never been any investigation of Trump or his campaign.  Also, there was no FISA warrant.  Trump's tweet was clearly without foundation was also something the media repeated ad nauseum

Today's story about Carter Paige changes that yet again.  There was, in fact, a FISA warrant for someone affiliated with the Trump campaign.  That means the media was wrong.  It also calls into question the statement of the Obama Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper.  Clapper to interviewers that he would surely know if a FISA warrant had been issued and that he knew of no such warrant.  Clapper, like Susan Rice, had been caught in lies (even under oath) in the past.  It seems that being out of office did not suddenly make him honest.

It has not taken long for the new story to get an anti-Trump spin.  The reality is that the existence of the warrant proves that Trump's tweet about Trump Tower being wiretapped is likely true.  That alone must be sending the media into a panic.  The media response, however, has been to say that the issuance of the FISA warrant shows that there must have been coordination between Trump and Russia or there would never have been any warrant approved.

This new slant on the FISA warrant shows that the people discussing the warrant do not understand the nature of these warrants.  FISA warrants are not law enforcement documents; they are national security documents.  To get a law enforcement warrant, the government has to demonstrate to a judge that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a crime was committed and that the subject of the warrant has evidence needed to prove who committed that crime.  A national security warrant from the FISA court only requires proof to the court that the target of the warrant may be working as a representative or agent of a foreign country.  There is no need for any crime or suspicion of criminal activity in order to get the warrant.  Paige had worked in Moscow some years back and had investments in Russian companies.  That, apparently, was the "proof" that was given to the FISA court to get the warrant.  Nothing was shown to the court that indicated any collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The key takeaways from this latest story are 1) the denials from Obama era intelligence leaders that there was a FISA warrant for anyone Trump-related were lies; 2) the Trump tweets about his campaign being wiretapped by the Obama administration are not baseless; and 3) despite the FISA warrants and the surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition team, there is still no proof of any coordination or collusion between Trump and Russia.  If any such proof existed, it should have been uncovered by now.


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