Judicial Watch: No hearings held on Carter Page FISA warrants

Judicial Watch announced that documents from the Justice Department obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that there were no formal court hearings to approve FISA warrants on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Formal hearings are not necessary.  But don't you think that if the Department of Justice were going to spy on an aide to a presidential campaign, it would take extraordinary measures to get a FISA warrant approved?

The Justice Department being run by the opposing political party should have been held to the highest standards of proof before surveilling a campaign aide from the opposition party, and thus spying on Trump campaign officials who come in contact with him.

Judicial Watch today announced that in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the Justice Department (DOJ) admitted in a court filing last night that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held no hearings on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) spy warrant applications targeting Carter Page, a former Trump campaign part-time advisor who was the subject of four controversial FISA warrants.

In the filing the Justice Department finally revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held no hearings on the Page FISA spy warrants, first issued in 2016 and subsequently renewed three times:

[National Security Division] FOIA consulted [Office of Intelligence] ... to identify and locate records responsive to [Judicial Watch's] FOIA request.... [Office of Intelligence] determined ... that there were no records, electronic or paper, responsive to [Judicial Watch's] FOIA request with regard to Carter Page. [Office of Intelligence] further confirmed that the [Foreign Surveillance Court] considered the Page warrant applications based upon written submissions and did not hold any hearings.

The Department of Justice previously released to Judicial Watch the heavily redacted Page warrant applications.  The initial Page FISA warrant was granted just weeks before the 2016 election.

The DOJ filing is in response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit for the FISA transcripts (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-01050)).

In February, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a memo criticizing the FISA targeting of Carter Page.  The memo details how the "minimally corroborated" Clinton-DNC dossier was an essential part of the FBI and DOJ's applications for surveillance warrants to spy on Page.

Judicial Watch recently filed a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking the transcripts of all hearings related to the surveillance of Carter Page.

J.W. President Tom Fitton puts the DoJ's actions in stark context:

"It is disturbing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance courts rubber-stamped the Carter Page spy warrants and held not one hearing on these extraordinary requests to spy on the Trump team," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  "Perhaps the court can now hold hearings on how justice was corrupted by material omissions that Hillary Clinton's campaign, the DNC, a conflicted Bruce Ohr, a compromised Christopher Steele, and anti-Trumper Peter Strzok were all behind the 'intelligence' used to persuade the courts to approve the FISA warrants that targeted the Trump team."

Carter Page was an extremely minor player in the Trump campaign, and a braggart and exaggerator to boot.  The DoJ was apparently not necessarily interested in Page as a threat to national security as it was in getting a foot in the door to spy on the Trump campaign.

Again, a formal hearing before a judge is not necessary to obtain a FISA warrant.  But it's apparent that there was a reason why the DoJ tried to cut corners in getting the warrants.  They were afraid that their flimsy justifications for spying on the opposing political campaign would be questioned by a FISA judge.

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