Law & the Courts

Former FBI General Counsel Says Carter Page FISA Application was ‘Terrible’ and ‘Unacceptable’

The FBI building is seen after Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly handed in a long awaited report on his investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and any potential wrongdoing by U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Former FBI general counsel James Baker on Monday called the FBI’s applications for warrants to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page “unacceptable,” contradicting his previous assertion that the FBI operated with “sufficient” probable cause.

Baker admitted that he was “completely distressed” about the Justice Department inspector general’s report that was released last week and documented 17 “significant errors and omissions” in the FBI’s process.

The inspector general said in his report that the FBI failed to inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the controversial Steele dossier, cited in applications to spy on Page, was unreliable. The FBI also failed to independently verify the information in the dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was investigating Donald Trump for an opposition research firm hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The dossier contained salacious allegations against Trump and purported to show connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Former FBI Director James Comey called the process “sloppy” in a Sunday interview.

“Sloppiness is completely unacceptable,” Baker told CNN, apparently referring to Comey’s characterization. “That is not the way you operate in front of a federal court. I don’t know what word you want to use. It’s terrible. It’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen. That is not the way we should be filing matters in front of a federal court.”

Baker had much more confidence in the FBI’s information vetting process in May, when he said the agency “spent a lot of time” verifying the information in the dossier.

“When a source shows up with a big stack of information, as in this case, you go to work. It came in from what appears to be a reliable source,” Baker said at the time. “You don’t just swallow it hook, line and sinker. That’s not what we do. That’s preposterous. That does not happen.”

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