“Probability of a Possibility”: William C. Banks Explains the FISA Warrant Process to NBC News

Why Team Trump is wrong about Carter Page, the dossier and that secret warrant

(NBC News | July 23, 2018) Mueller’s Russia probe wasn’t launched because of Carter Page, and the dossier compiled by an ex-spy was only part of the evidence cited to get a warrant.

President Donald Trump and his allies are claiming that the partial contents of a secret national security FISA warrant, released Saturday, vindicate their claim that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was improperly launched on the basis of a speculative opposition research document paid for by Democrats.

The Trump camp says the probe has its roots in the “Trump dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“So we now find out that it was indeed the unverified and Fake Dirty Dossier, that was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC, that was knowingly & falsely submitted to FISA and which was responsible for starting the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!” the president wrote in a tweet Monday morning.

Trump also continues to suggest that the electronic surveillance of his one-time campaign aide, Carter Page, which was authorized by the FISA warrant, launched the Russia probe.

Both of these assertions are false.

Here is why …

National security experts who have reviewed the document say that even the parts that aren’t blacked out contain more than enough information to provide a judge reason to rule that the FBI had probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of Russia.

Probable cause is much lower than the reasonable doubt the standard required to convict someone of a crime. “It’s the probability of a possibility,” said William Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law. Page had already appeared on the FBI’s radar as a target of Russian intelligence recruitment in a separate spy case. He has acknowledged that he traveled to Moscow and met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. It would have been malpractice for the FBI, confronted with allegations that Page was helping the Russians, not to investigate, Figliuzzi says …

The FBI disclosed to the court that Steele was paid by people seeking to discredit Trump. But the FBI viewed Steele as credible.

“They dealt with the Steele stuff in an extensive footnote with bolded language,” Banks said. The note didn’t disclose that the dossier was paid for by Democrats because the document didn’t use any names or identities. It called Trump “Candidate 1” even after he was elected president. But the note did say that the dossier appeared to be funded by people seeking to discredit Trump.

In addition, Steele was seen not as a partisan operative, but as a credible source, according to the warrant. The document doesn’t say this, but Steele had helped the FBI for years, including providing crucial information in the U.S. investigation of corruption in international soccer.

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