More evidence dossier did not start Russia investigation

Steele, meanwhile, was meeting with reporters in Washington, looking to share with them some of what he had already given to the FBI. Steele did not show them copies of his reports, but he shared “indications” of “possible coordination of members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials,” as Steele would later describe it in British court filings.

Within days, news outlets started publishing what Steele told them. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill then pressed Comey on the reports during a hearing on Sept. 28, 2016.

The Committee to Investigate Russia notes that the timeline is inconvenient for Trump and his congressional allies who this week got what they had been requesting – a presidential order to make public classified portions of the FISA warrant granted to continue surveillance of Carter Page. 

In June 2017, a month after Mueller’s appointment, the FBI filed yet another application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to continue tracking Carter Page. The application was 77 pages long.

A fourth – and final – application was filed three months later.

Heavily-redacted versions of the applications were released in July.


On Monday, Trump ordered that more portions of the application from June 2017 be released.

It’s unclear why Trump did not order the release of sections from the other applications, but the first application in October 2016 was based on information Steele provided himself, not information provided by Ohr, according to congressional investigators and public evidence presented so far.

Trump also ordered the release of the FBI’s notes from Ohr’s meetings with the agency about what Steele was telling him. The Justice Department and Director of National Intelligence are now undertaking a review of the documents covered by Trump’s order and could request redactions.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand points out that Carter Page is a strange choice for Trump allies to hang their hats on as someone unfairly targeted given his previous brush with Russian spies and his being a self-proclaimed informal advisor to the Kremlin. 

One month before the 2016 election, the FBI applied for a fisa warrant to surveil Page, which House Republicans—led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes—have tried repeatedly to characterize as but one part of a politically motivated spying operation targeting innocent Trump campaign associates carried out by the Obama administration and its holdovers, justified by nothing more than raw intelligence collected by a former British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele. The warrant application needs to be fully declassified, Nunes told Fox News on Monday, so that the public can “really understand just how broad and invasive this investigation has been to many Americans, and how unfair it has been.”

But it’s looking more and more like House Republicans have chosen to die on a hill that’s shifting below their feet. “Be careful what you wish for,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday. He was indicating, according to an aide, that “it’s simply impossible to review the documents” on Page and conclude anything other than that the FBI “had ample reason” to investigate him. It’s not only Democratic senators who believe that: Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in July that he believes the fisa judges had “sound reasons” for issuing the Page surveillance warrant to the FBI. “I don’t think I ever expressed that I thought the fisa application came up short,” Burr said at the time.

There was a reason why Trump and his allies worked so hard to distance themselves from Page toward the end of the election and into last year: He had come under scrutiny for traveling to Russia in July 2016, at the height of the election, ostensibly just to deliver a speech at Moscow’s New Economic School. The Steele dossier, which alleged a conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin to win the 2016 election, said that while in Moscow Page had met with Igor Sechin—a Vladimir Putin ally and the executive chairman of Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft—to discuss lifting U.S. sanctions in exchange for the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in the oil giant. Unredacted portions of the Page fisa applications, released by the Justice Department in July in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, said that “the FBI believes that the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” Trump’s campaign, and that Page “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers.”


If the fluidity of Page’s recollections over the past 20 months isn’t enough to make Republicans think twice about hanging their hat on his innocence, his run-in with two Russian spies three years before he joined the campaign should. According to the Justice Department, Page met with, emailed with, and “provided documents to” one of the spies, Victor Podobnyy, who was posing as a diplomat in New York City while acting as an agent of Russia’s foreign-intelligence agency, known as the SVR. Page gave Podobnyy information “about the energy business” from January to June of 2013, according to the DOJ’s criminal complaint, and Podobnyy appeared to acknowledge in intercepted conversations that he was using Page as a “useful idiot” for intelligence-gathering purposes. Page evidently wasn’t the wiser: In August 2013, he wrote a letter to a book editor claiming that he had been serving as “an informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin” on “energy issues.”