The 2016 act of surveillance on a member of President Donald Trump’s campaign team was in fact illegal, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged last week.
Wray appeared before the House Judiciary Committee and was asked about surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which was partially based upon a since-discredited dossier developed by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Wray was also asked about a report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz that found the FBI made 17 “significant errors and omissions” in its filings to begin and continue surveillance of Page, which was the first step of what mushroomed into the complex investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller of alleged Russian “collusion” with the Trump campaign.
“The report acknowledges that … this was illegal surveillance with respect to at least several of these FISA applications, because there was not probable cause or proper predication, correct?” Ratcliffe asked.
“Right,” said Wray, who was confirmed in the FBI’s top post in August 2017, replacing fired FBI Director James Comey.
“So to the point of one of my Democratic colleagues that there was no fraud on the court, illegal surveillance and changing evidence to conduct illegal surveillance is the very definition of fraud on the court, is it not?” Ratcliffe followed up.
“Well, I certainly think that it describes conduct that is utterly unacceptable,” Wray said. “We have accepted … every finding in the inspector general’s report, including some that are extremely painful to us as an institution.”
“We hear so much about Russian interference in our election: It happened. We all know it did. We want it to stop,” Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said, according to the Examiner.
“But it seems to me that a big part of that Russian election interference was the idea that a document that Russians, information came from Russians that Christopher Steele put together, is scary.”
Wray said the FBI’s probe, which was code-named Crossfire Hurricane, is part of the investigation being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham on the orders of Attorney General William Barr.
“I want to make sure we’re not talking past each other unintentionally,” Wray said.
“When it comes to the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, I think the attorney general has said publicly, so I think that’s why I’m on solid ground to say that here, is that’s one of the things that Mr. Durham is looking very specifically at is the origination of the investigation.
“And we have been cooperating fully with that investigation, as the attorney general has commented publicly on a number of occasions.”
“Unlike a cyberattack on an election infrastructure, that kind of effort — disinformation — in a world where we have a First Amendment and believe strongly in freedom of expression, the FBI is not going to be in the business of being the truth police and monitoring disinformation online,” Wray said.
Wray indicated that he did not expect Russia to take a side as much as sow discord.
“They identify an issue that they know that the American people feel passionately about on both sides and then they take both sides and spin them up so they pit us against each other,” Wray said.
“And then they combine that with an effort to weaken our confidence in our elections and our democratic institutions, which has been a pernicious and asymmetric way of engaging in … information warfare.”
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