Former FBI Director James Comey told a Senate panel Wednesday that he would not have approved the federal surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page had he known of the information withheld by some agents.
The warrant and subsequent renewals approved by Comey enabled operation Crossfire Hurricane, the codename for the probe undertaken by the FBI in 2016 and 2017 into the debunked links between then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
While testifying under oath, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Russia collusion hoax probe was mainly “done by the book. It was appropriate, and it was essential that it be done.”
“Overall, I’m proud of the work,” he declared. “There are parts of it that are concerning.”
Comey denied knowing about the flaws and omissions contained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application against Page uncovered by the inspector general (IG) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in December 2019.
#ComeyHearing: Lindsey just got Comey to admit that he would not have signed off on the FISA warrants that he certified if he knew then what the public knows now.
Reminder: Comey knew then what the public knows now.
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) September 30, 2020
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, asked Comey on Wednesday, “Knowing then what you know now… would you have still signed the FISA warrant application against Carter Page?”
“No, I would want to have a much more complete understanding” of what we knew, Comey responded.
“My answer was no,” he stressed later. “Not without a much fuller discussion of how they [agents] were thinking about their disclosure obligations to the court.”
Following revelations made by the DOJ IG the previous month, the Justice Department declared two of the four FISA applications granted against Page invalid in January 2020.
The three FISA warrants approved by Comey included one invalidated by DOJ.
In December 2019, an audit on the origins of the Russian collusion hoax carried out by DOJ IG Michael Horowitz found “at least 17 significant errors and omissions” in the Page federal surveillance application.
FBI agents in charge of approving FISA warrants, including Comey, “did not give appropriate attention or treatment to the facts that cut against [the] probable cause, or reassess the information supporting [the] probable cause as the investigation progressed,” the DOJ IG indicated.
Comey certified the FISA requests for Page despite the problems with the process used to ensure the information used to obtain the surveillance is accurate, the IG noted.
DOJ, which oversees the FBI, approved the first FISA application for Page in October 2016, and subsequent renewals in January, April, and June of the following year.
President Donald Trump fired Comey in May 2017, before the DOJ approved the fourth FISA warrant (third renewal).
Other DOJ officials involved in approving the Carter FISA warrants — former Deputy Attorneys General Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates — have echoed Comey, telling lawmakers they would not have signed off on the Carter Page FISA warrants in retrospect.