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FBI Reportedly Obtained Warrant To Monitor Trump Adviser


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Russia today trying to get Vladimir Putin's government to let up on their support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Looming over those talks are the investigations happening here in the U.S. over Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and if Trump campaign associates were part of that interference. There is new information related to one of those campaign associates. His name is Carter Page, and he was a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during the election. The Washington Post is now reporting that the FBI applied for and got a FISA court warrant to monitor Page last year because of his associations in Russia. Adam Entous is one of the reporters who broke the story, and he joins us in our studios this morning. Hi, Adam.

ADAM ENTOUS: Great to be here, thank you.

MARTIN: FISA is a secret court that deals in classified intelligence. It's a high bar you have to meet to get a warrant from them. What do you know about the case that was made to get this warrant for Carter Page?

ENTOUS: Yeah, so they definitely had to be able to show probable cause that he was effectively acting as an agent of Russia. In order to get a case like that, you have to look through what would have been available to the FBI. They knew from previous court cases back in 2013 that Mr. Page had engaged with a Russian - what he thought was a Russian diplomat that turned out to be an intelligence officer for Russia. That was one piece of the puzzle that they had to basically show the court in order to get this FISA. But that's just one piece. We don't have a full understanding of the intelligence that went into the request that ultimately the court approved.

MARTIN: But what you said is a big deal - probable cause that Carter Page, an associate of Donald Trump's during the campaign, was acting as an agent for a foreign government. So it's not just that Carter Page had business ties in Russia or that he happened to have connections with people who were intelligence agents. It's - there's intentions there.

ENTOUS: Right. Well, it's important to keep in mind we're talking here about probable cause. We're not talking here about, you know, he's not guilty of anything. He hasn't been found guilty. He may never be charged with anything. It's - you know, I can think of a few cases that I've dealt with in the past where they also got FISA's for probable cause...

MARTIN: And it went away.

ENTOUS: ...That somebody was an agent and then it turned out to be completely wrong. Robin Raphel, a diplomat at the State Department, was falsely thought to be involved in espionage. It turned out to be incorrect. So the fact that they were able to get a warrant is obviously a piece of the puzzle. It shows what the FBI was interested in. It's not the same thing as a conviction.

MARTIN: What is Carter Page saying about this, if anything?

ENTOUS: He says that he's not surprised that this would happen, and he is basically saying that, you know, this is an indication that the intelligence community under President Obama was run amok is basically the argument that he's making. You know, he - this is not the kind of thing, by the way, that Page would know about. It's not something that the - obviously that he would be informed of. His lawyers wouldn't be informed of this. The whole point of having this is to be able to monitor somebody without it being detected.

MARTIN: Of course, now he's read your story in The Washington Post, so we'll await to see if he has any response. It's also worth noting the Trump administration has, in recent weeks, downplayed Carter Page's connection to the campaign.

ENTOUS: Right, no - so, you know, it was Trump himself who put Page's name on a very short list of advisers back in March 2016. We never really have fully understood how that list came together. This was in a Washington Post interview where he gave the name. And so ever since basically the summer, the end of the summer, you've seen the administration really distance itself from Page.

MARTIN: Adam Entous covers national security for The Washington Post. Thanks, Adam.

ENTOUS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.