WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge blasted the FBI on Tuesday for repeatedly submitting applications to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that were riddled with errors and omissions, and ordered the government to inform the court on how it plans to reform the process.
The scathing order here from Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge over the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, marked the first time the court responded to the controversy, which became public last week with the release of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz’s probe scrutinized the FBI’s actions in the early stages of its investigation into contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane. The investigation was later handed off to Special Counsel Robert Muller, who was appointed in May 2017.
Horowitz concluded that while there was no evidence of political bias, the FBI’s original application to wiretap Page and its three subsequent renewal requests contained errors and omissions, including failing to inform the court that Page had served as a source for another U.S. intelligence agency.
Horowitz found that a former low-level FBI attorney also doctored an email that claimed the opposite - saying that Page in fact was not a source for the other agency, which Reuters has since identified as the CIA.
“The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor,” Collyer wrote in her Dec. 17 order.
“The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” she wrote.
The judge gave the government until Jan. 10 to file a submission outlining “what it has done, and plans to do, to ensure that the statement of facts in each FBI application accurately and completely reflects information possessed by the FBI that is material to any issue presented by the application.”
Trump responded on Twitter, saying the “statement by the Court was long and tough. Means my case was a SCAM!”
The FBI, in a statement, said Director Chris Wray feels the conduct of certain FBI employees described in Horowitz’s report is “unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an institution.”
“The director has ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations,” the bureau said, adding that the FBI was committed to working with the court and the Justice Department “to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) process.”
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, said in a statement he was “very pleased” to see Collyer condemn the handling of the Page warrant application. He added that FISA reform would be a top priority of his panel next year.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Peter Cooney
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.