The FBI believed that a former campaign advisor to Donald Trump was “collaborating” with Russia as it worked to influence the 2016 presidential election, top secret documents released to US news organizations have revealed.
The US president hit back Sunday, portraying the wiretapping of his ex-aide as part of a partisan and “illegal” conspiracy because the FBI partly relied on information provided by Democrat-funded research in seeking its warrant.
The October, 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court named Carter Page, a former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, according to the documents published late Saturday by The New York Times.
The newspaper, along with USA Today and others, filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain the material, which the Justice Department released but with many details redacted.
“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the initial FBI application says before it is blacked out and continues: “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in violation of US criminal law.”
“The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” the document adds lower down.
Release of the documents comes just over a week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller, probing possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of hacking Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton’s campaign to steal documents, which were then publicly released.
It also caps a week dominated by Trump’s extraordinary inaugural summit with Vladimir Putin, at which he seemed to take at face value the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling, dismissing the findings of his own intelligence chiefs.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump said the release confirmed the surveillance of his campaign was a “Witch Hunt” because some of the information that led to the wiretapping was provided by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who was hired on behalf of the Clinton campaign in 2016.
But Trump’s tweets did not address the fact that the FISA application revealed its sourcing at length and was approved by a judge, before being renewed three more times by three other judges.