The scope of the FBI’s spying on the 2016 Trump campaign was much wider than previously thought, according to newly declassified memos obtained by Just the News.
The aim of the Obama administration’s Trump-Russia collusion probe was to find “anyone” in the Republican campaign tied to Russia who was trying to get dirt “damaging” to Clinton, the documents show.
Immediately after opening the probe in July 2016 with a focus on campaign aide George Papadopoulos, FBI agents pressed their source Stephan Halper for information on other Trump campaign figures. They included future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, foreign policy adviser Sam Clovis, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, economic adviser Peter Navarro, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign adviser Carter Page.
An early FBI electronic communication from Halper’s undercover work stated: “The Crossfire Hurricane investigative team is attempting to determine if anyone in the Trump campaign is in a position to have received information either directly or indirectly from the Russian Federation regarding the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”
The documents show agents directing an undercover informant to make secret recordings and pressing for intelligence on numerous GOP figures.
They provide, Just the News said, “an unprecedented window both into the tactics used by the bureau to probe the Trump campaign and the wide dragnet that was cast to target numerous high-level officials inside the GOP campaign just weeks before Americans chose their next president in the November 2016 election.”
Among the new revelations:
- “Halper provided significant exculpatory evidence to the FBI — including transcripts of conversations he recorded of targeted Trump advisers providing statements of innocence — that was never disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approved a year of surveillance targeting the Trump campaign, and specifically Page.
- “While current FBI Director Chris Wray has insisted the bureau did not engage in spying on the Trump campaign, Halper’s taskings include many of the tradecraft tactics of espionage, including the creation of a fake cover story (he wanted a job at the Trump campaign), secret recordings, providing background on targets, suggested questions to ask and even contact information for potential targets.”
Just the News noted the law requires that FBI counterintelligence operations targeting Americans be built on specific claims.
But experts said the FBI’s scope was large, unfocused and based on “little substantiation of alleged wronging.”
Kevin Brock, former FBI assistant director for intelligence, said claims about Papadopolous’ foreign lobbying, on which the probe was opened, didn’t even meet the FBI’s standards.
“Normally when the FBI opens an investigation on a U.S. citizen, it has specific facts justifying an investigation of that person,” Brock told Just the News. “But here what the [electronic communications] are saying is they don’t know who is involved and they are just conjecturing that someone in the Trump campaign might be in a position to receive help from Russia. You just can’t open a full field investigation on conjecture.”
Brock’s assessment aligns with FBI agent William Barnett’s admission to the DOJ last year that the investigation continued only because there was a “get Trump” attitude in the bureau.
Just the News reported it obtained the documents after President Trump ordered hundreds of Russia collusion papers declassified during his final 24 hours in office.
Halper, an academic working as a source for the FBI, was told to focus on Page and try to get him to confess he was breaking the law, even though he apparently was not.
One FBI report said, “The main goal of the operation is to have [Page] admit that he has direct knowledge of and is either helping coordinate or assisting the RF [Russian Federation] conduct an active measure campaign with the ‘Trump Team.'”
In recordings made by Halper, Page stated he was not involved with nor aware of any effort by the Trump campaign to work with Russia. But that statement of innocence was never disclosed by the FBI in its applications to the FISA court for surveillance warrants.
Just the News noted that FBI Director Chris Wray and fired former Director James Comey have insisted the FBI’s activities in the Russia probe were not spying.
“But the Halper memos clearly show the FBI employed many of the tradecraft tools of espionage, from recording and monitoring Halper’s conversations with Trump figures to providing him questions, background information and even a believable cover story to justify his frequent contacts inside the campaign: he was seeking a job on team Trump,” Just the News said.
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