Did the Obama Administration spy on the Trump campaign? Close followers of the Russia collusion hoax consider this a settled question: Yes, of course they did. The evidence is abundant. Yet when Trump makes this claim to the public, the “fact checkers” pounce to rewrite history.
In May 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr commented on the definition of spying: “I think spying is a good English word that in fact doesn’t have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection.” But are we really doing this? Do we have to go back over the list to re-educate “journalists” in the post journalism environment? Apparently we do.
Bear in mind that we’re still not privy to everything the Obama Administration did. But we know enough based on publicly-available information to fact-check the fact checkers. Below is a partial list of clearly-established examples of Trump being spied upon by our own government.
1) On August 17, 2016, the FBI used a “defensive briefing” as cover to question members of the Trump campaign. Supervisory Special Agent Joe Pientka used a briefing to then-candidate Trump to prompt him to make statements that could be used in the counterintelligence operation against his campaign. Pientka recorded statements by both Trump and General Michael Flynn. The FBI captured statements from Trump expressing skepticism that Russia posed a greater intelligence threat than China.
2) In September 2016, Professor Stefan Halper held a cover as a Cambridge professor. In reality he was under contract by the U.S. government and was writing worthless academic papers as a cover for his spying. Out of the blue, Trump campaign figure George Papadopolous received an offer to come to London to consult with Halper regarding Turkey and Israel’s potential sharing of Mediteranean gas fields. We have a first-hand account of this spying incident straight from Papadopoulos’ book, Deep State Target: How I got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump.
Halper on September 15, 2016 invited Papadopoulos to join him for a drink, at which point the two were joined by a stunning beauty named Azra Turk who claims to be Halper’s “research assistant.” Turk immediately starts asking Papadopoulos about the Trump campaign and its connections with Russia. Halper pulls out his phone and puts it on the table strategically located to pick up Papadopoulus’s voice. He then launches into a series of leading questions,
It’s great that Russia is helping you and the campaign, right, George? George, you and your campaign are involved in hacking and working with Russia, right? It seems like you are a middleman for Trump and Russia, right? I know you know about the emails.
Papadopolous’s suspicions were dead on. Halper did record his conversations with him and gave them to the FBI. Halper also made recordings for the FBI of Trump campaign figures Sam Clovis and Carter Page. While Trump never actually hired Halper, it’s not from lack of trying.
3) The October 2016 application for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant explicitly sought permission to spy on the Trump campaign through volunteer campaign adviser Carter Page. It stated:
This application targets Carter Page. The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian Government [redacted] undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election . . . Page is a former foreign policy advisor to [Donald Trump].
Not only did the FISA warrant intentionally target Page because of his relationship to the Trump campaign, the application lied about needing intrusive surveillance. Page knew the FBI was spying on him and wrote an open letter in September 2016 offering to meet with any FBI agent to provide any desired information. The FBI ignored the offer because, of course, Page wasn’t really the target of the warrant application. The Trump campaign was.
As Eric Felten of RealClearInvestigations explains, “Investigators are generally empowered, under FISA’s ‘two hop’ rule, to collect communications not only of the target, but of anyone in contact with the subject (hop one) and then anyone communicating with those contacts (hop two).”
The FBI obtained three renewals of the warrant including one that relied on a forged document to fool the court into believing the spying was necessary. Thus, it is a small wonder then-FBI Director James Comey ignored Page’s offer of an interview. Page had a history of reliably cooperating with CIA intelligence gathering operations. It was necessary to lie about this history for the FBI to gain access to the powerful surveillance authorities under the FISA.
4) Sometime in September or October 2016, the FBI passed information to Clinton’s subcontractor Christopher Steele. One of the most disturbing revelations of the Russia collusion hoax is that the FBI channeled information back to the Clinton campaign through Steele.
As the Justice Department inspector general’s report notes, one of the case agents assigned to the investigation provided classified details of the investigation to Steele while the FBI knew he was working for and sharing information with the Clinton campaign. An agent identified as “Case Agent 2” gave Steele an overview of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation including providing names of persons related to the investigation. For example, the case agent identified Manafort, Flynn, and Carter Page to Steele. This in spite of the fact that the FBI knew that Steele refused to abide by an “exclusive reporting” admonishment and took his directions from Fusion GPS over the FBI even though both were paying him.
5) Obama General Services Administration holdovers stole private Trump transition emails. In August 2017, the special counsel sent a letter (not a subpoena but a letter) to the GSA career staff members requesting copies of all emails generated in the months after Election Day 2016 and during the transition, but before the inauguration. GSA hosted these communications using government-owned servers with the understanding that the transition team remained a private entity until the president-elect assumed office. The FBI circumvented GSA legal counsel to obtain the documents directly from reliable Obama-era holdovers in GSA.
Democrats and the media should have a shared interest in preventing this kind of spying by our own government to meddle in elections. The fact that they deny the obvious and verifiable truth of the spying is yet another indication that the intelligence community has captured these former checks on its power. It used to be understood that state intelligence services are not supposed to spy on one political party for the benefit of the other. That is the slippery slope to tyranny and our slide has begun.