FBI’s Top Lawyer During Russia Investigation Felt ‘Completely Distressed’ After Reading FISA Report

December 17, 2019 Updated: December 17, 2019
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The FBI’s top lawyer during the investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign said the Department of Justice inspector general report, which showed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse by the bureau while applying to spy on a Trump campaign aide, left him “completely distressed.”

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found rampant abuse of the FISA system in the FBI’s applications to spy on Carter Page.

“I was distressed about it. I was completely distressed about it,” James Baker, the FBI’s former general counsel, said after reading the report. Baker was speaking during an appearance on CNN’s “Situation Room” on Dec. 16.

Ex-FBI Director James Comey said that he was “wrong” and Horowitz was “right,” but claimed that the significant errors were due to “sloppiness.” Baker said that whether the errors were due to being sloppy or another reason, what happened wasn’t acceptable.

“Sloppiness is completely unacceptable. That is not the way you operate in front of a federal court. I don’t know what word you want to use, it’s terrible, it’s unacceptable, it shouldn’t happen. That is not the way we should be filing matters in front of a federal court,” Baker said.

Neither Baker nor Comey has apologized to Page, who has said he’s planning to sue the government.

Baker, who personally reviewed the FISA applications against Page, has in the past made statements that conflict with Horowitz’s findings.

carter page
Carter Page, petroleum industry consultant and former foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign, in Washington on May 28, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“My recollection at the time is that when I read it, I asked questions about it, but nevertheless, I was comfortable that the application that we were submitting to the FISA court was consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, and was consistent with the FISA statues and lawful,” Baker said at a discussion in Washington earlier this year.

“And there was probable cause that was in my mind sufficient to pass muster and pass review and that it would be approved by the FISA court, and that we were making disclosures in the application about the Steele information that were consistent with the other types of disclosures that we’ve made about sources and their reliability.”

He also claimed that the FBI “spent a lot of time” vetting the information that ex-British spy Christopher Steele presented in his dossier, which has become infamous for its errors.

Horowitz found that the FBI confirmed no information in the dossier relating to Page, despite relying on it for the FISA applications; that agents found that some of Steele’s sources misrepresented or exaggerated some of the dossier’s most explosive claims; and that officials failed to tell the FISA court of the dossier’s unreliability.

Officials also omitted other exculpatory information from the FISA warrants to spy on Page, including the fact that Page provided information to the CIA about Russia.

Baker resigned from the FBI last year after being reassigned by FBI Director Christopher Wray. He’s now an analyst at CNN, as is Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who was fired for lying, and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber