President Donald Trump has questioned why the Obama administration opened an investigation into the Trump campaign months before the November 2016 elections, while not addressing the real-life threat of Russian interference.
The FBI under the Obama administration opened an investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as early as July 2016, and the CIA also conducted its own investigation.
A crucial part of the FBI investigation was the so-called Trump dossier, which was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
A declassified House Intelligence Committee memo published in February shows that the FBI used the unverified claims in the dossier to prepare the case presented by the DOJ to obtain a FISA spy warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The FISA warrant could then have been used to spy on other members of the Trump campaign who were in contact with Page.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified under oath in June 2017 before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the dossier was both “salacious and unverified.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan has publicly said that the CIA did not rely on the Trump dossier for its report. However, many of the claims contained in the CIA report closely resemble those in the dossier.
The NSA had been reluctant to consider the CIA’s assessment with high confidence, given the fact that it in part relied on intelligence from another country.
This other country could have been the United Kingdom, which has an agreement with the U.S. to share intelligence under its Five Eyes program. A key author of the Trump dossier, former British spy Christopher Steele, was also providing information to British intelligence, however, so that information would have been no more reliable than the unverified information Steele fed the FBI.
Brennan briefed both Obama, as well as select members of Congress on the contents of the dossier. Following the briefing, then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on him to take action against alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The letter was posted on Reid’s website and spurred numerous media reports.
Despite over a year of congressional and law-enforcement investigations and media reporting, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government has been found.
Last month the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for using social media in an attempt to sow discord in the United States and influence public opinion. However, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the Russians worked on their own initiative and that no American knowingly colluded with them.
Meanwhile, the investigations into the Trump campaign have raised significant questions about whether they were politically motivated.
Text messages obtained by the Department of Justice Inspector General, showed high level FBI officials discussing an “insurance policy” in case Trump was elected president.
The text messages sent between Peter Strzok, who led the investigation into both Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to transfer classified information as well as the investigation into the Trump campaign, and high ranking FBI lawyer Lisa Page make reference to then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
McCabe was forced to resign late January after his boss, FBI Director Christoper Wray had read the House Intelligence Committee memo.
McCabe had signed off on one of the FISA applications by Carter Page.
On Twitter on March 5, Trump asked why the investigations into his campaign were begun.
“Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November?,” Trump wrote.
“Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling,” Trump wrote.
Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018
The House Intelligence Committee is currently investigating why top Obama officials, including former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, made hundreds of so-called unmasking requests on the identities of members of the Trump team.
Unmasking requests refer to the practice of requesting the identities of Americans whose identities are censored to protect privacy, and for Fourth Amendment reasons, by default. Once the identities are revealed, then transcripts of their conversations picked up by NSA surveillance can be identified.