- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2018

President Trump on Sunday said top-secret documents prove the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign in an “illegal scam,” putting him at odds with Capitol Hill lawmakers, including Republicans, who insist federal authorities were justified in tracking foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

In a series of tweets, the president argued that heavily redacted documents — released late Saturday — show that agents misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by using a dossier partly funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign to obtain a warrant to snoop on Mr. Page.

“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the [Democratic National Committee],” he tweeted.

He quoted pundits who said the “dirty dossier” was merely a predicate to snoop on the campaign through Mr. Page.

“ILLEGAL!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Page was the subject of “targeted recruitment” by the Russian government, according to the previously top-secret documents that the FBI used to obtain a wiretap warrant of the former campaign aide in October 2016.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch and several media outlets. Although the 412-page document is heavily redacted, it details FBI concerns about Mr. Page.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the FBI had good reason to track Mr. Page, who acknowledged being an informal adviser to the Kremlin and had traveled to Russia.

“It was a solid application, and renewals [were] signed by four different judges appointed by three different Republican presidents,” Mr. Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said Mr. Page was on the FBI’s screen before the campaign. When Mr. Page got closer to the orbit of the Trump campaign, the FBI grew more interested and applied for the warrant, the senator said.

“I think that’s different from spying on the campaign,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Speaking in his own defense, Mr. Page called the warrant application “so ridiculous” and “misleading.”

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Mr. Page told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that he never spoke to Russians cited in the documents, Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin.

“Never in my life,” Mr. Page said.

Mr. Page said he did participate in a few meetings with Russian officials in the run-up to Group of 20 meetings in 2013 but that he had an informal role and was not the foreign agent described in the papers.

“This is so ridiculous it’s just beyond words. You’re talking about misleading the courts. … Where do you even begin? It’s literally just a complete joke,” Mr. Page said.

Mr. Page’s FISA warrant has ballooned into one of the biggest political battles in Washington over the past years.

Republicans have said the FBI obtained the FISA warrant fraudulently in an effort to snoop on Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Democrats contend that the warrant is possible evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia ahead of the 2016 election. They also say Republicans have attacked the warrant in an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, said it’s fine for law enforcement to look into people who might have a “cozy relationships with Russia,” though he criticized the FBI for its reliance on unvetted information in the dossier funded by the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Gowdy and Mr. Rubio downplayed Mr. Page’s role in the 2016 campaign, even as the story unfolds like a spy novel.

“My take is that Carter Page is more like Inspector Gadget than he is like Jason Bourne or James Bond,” Mr. Gowdy told “Fox News Sunday.”

Still, Mr. Trump injected drama into the fight by tweeting that his campaign was “being illegally spied upon” and defended his performance during a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday.

Mr. Trump is still dealing with the fallout of his widely panned press conference in Helsinki, where he held a closed-door meeting with the Russian leader with no one other than the two translators and then appeared to accept Mr. Putin’s claim that he didn’t interfere in the 2016 election and is not meddling in the run-up to the midterms.

The president had to walk back some of his comments upon returning to the U.S.

Mr. Rubio said Mr. Trump left a poor impression by failing to stand up to Mr. Putin in person.

“I wish it would have gone differently,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

• Jeff Mordock contributed to this article.

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