Former FBI Director James Comey Calls Carter Page Surveillance 'Sloppy' and 'Embarrassing'
How do you feel about Comey’s testimony?
by Causes | 9.30.20
UPDATE 9/30/20 - Former FBI Director James Comey concluded his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Russia collusion investigation after more than three hours of testimony on Wednesday.
- In response to a question posed by Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as to whether the former FBI chief would have signed off on the Carter Page surveillance warrant application given its problematic reliance on the Steele dossier, Comey said, “No, not without a much fuller discussion of how they were thinking about their disclosure obligations to the court.”
- Comey’s retrospective rejection of the Page surveillance application echoes the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who previously told the committee they would not have signed off on the surveillance in hindsight. As FBI director, Comey was responsible for signing a certification on each warrant application sent by the agency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
- The former FBI director said he wasn’t aware at the time he certified the applications that the dossier’s primary sub-source was a suspected Russian agent who had previously been investigated by the FBI, and denied having been briefed about investigations into Steele’s sources. Comey also offered a broadly critical assessment of the Carter Page surveillance while responding to questions from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE):
“The collection of omissions, failures to consider updates, to communicate between the team trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not true with the Steele material, and the team investigating Carter Page is embarrassing. It’s sloppy. I’ve run out of words. There’s no indication, and the Inspector General would say it if he found it, that people were doing bad things on purpose. But that doesn’t make it any less concerning and embarrassing.”
- Democrats questioned Comey about President Donald Trump’s finances and reported debt, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asking, “as a general matter, are there serious risks when someone with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, personal debt, has access as the president does to all of the country’s classified and sensitive information?” Comey replied:
“It’s a serious concern when anyone seeking or with a clearance has that kind of financial vulnerability. I don’t know the circumstances and particulars of the president’s case, but in general, yes.”
The original article from Causes and video of the hearing appear below.
What’s the story?
- Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday (10am EDT) as senators conduct oversight of Operation Crossfire Hurricane ― the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia that was conducted in 2016-2017.
- Crossfire Hurricane became the basis of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report after he was appointed when President Donald Trump fired Comey. Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities” but did find that Russia felt it would benefit from a Trump presidency. His report didn’t reach a conclusion on charges of obstruction of justice, instead leaving the issue to Congress.
- The origins and operations of Crossfire Hurricane are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham, which recently netted its first conviction after former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to making a false statement. Clinesmith altered an email from another agency which said that Carter Page was a source for that agency to make it appear that the email was stating that Page was “not a source” for that agency. That falsified email was relied upon in the FBI’s third and final application for surveillance of Page.
- Republicans will also grill Comey over the FBI’s reliance on the Steele dossier in warrants it obtained for the surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A recently declassified FBI summary noted that the agency knew that the dossier’s primary sub-source was a suspected Russian agent and that its claims could be disinformation, but the FBI still used it in a "central and essential role" in its surveillance applications. The FBI failed to disclose this exculpatory information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, prompting a rare rebuke by the court.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) via Flickr / Public Domain)
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