WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has declared invalid two of the four surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said Thursday.
The acknowledgment to the surveillance court is the latest fallout from December’s scathing inspector general report, which faulted the FBI for a series of misstatements and omissions in the applications to get secret court warrants to eavesdrop on Page.
The Justice Department’s concession to the court means the department now believes, at a minimum, the surveillance of Page should have ended after the second warrant expired in early 2017.
President Donald Trump and Republican allies have consistently criticized the FBI’s Russia investigation, and have cited the agency’s missteps with the FISA applications to claim the surveillance on Page was illegal throughout.
The letter released Thursday by the court said the Justice Department, while not invalidating the first two warrants, is working to quarantine information collected under all four warrants targeting Page.
The Justice Department is said to have not taken a position on the validity of the other two surveillance authorizations on Page, according to the filing.
FBI counterintelligence investigators had zeroed in on Page early on in their probe of the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia efforts to interfere in the US election, which began in the summer of 2016.
Government reports have shown that the FBI surveilled Page under FISA warrants for over eight months, allowing investigators to monitor his online communications as they scrutinized his ties to Russia.
The Justice Department inspector general last month criticized the FBI for a series of failures in its applications to the FISA court, including making statements that left an “inaccurate impression” and withholding potentially exculpatory information.
The report also accused a low-level FBI lawyer of doctoring a document used to build the agency’s application for FISA surveillance on Page. The lawyer is now under criminal investigation, and has since resigned from the FBI.
The court assigned a deadline of later this month for the Justice Department to tell them whether the FBI properly handled that material, noting that FISA surveillance is supposed to be narrowly obtained and held closely by investigators.
Following the inspector general report last month, the FISA court slammed the FBI for its mistakes in the Page warrants in a rare public filing.
The FBI has since responded to the court outlining how they are planning to reform their FISA application process.
In a public response included in the inspector general report, Wray described more than 40 steps the FBI was taking to address recommendations made by the Horowitz, including changes to make the processes for seeking FISA warrants “more stringent and less susceptible to mistake or inaccuracy.”