WASHINGTON — The secret anti-terrorism court the FBI used to investigate President Trump’s campaign “is in jeopardy” because of the flawed effort, senators said Wednesday at a hearing on abuses in the case.
The bureau went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2016 and 2017 to get warrants to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz — testifying on the probe for the second time — concluded the investigation was begun properly. But it went off the rails by using a controversial dossier from former British agent Christopher Steele as part of its warrant application. Agents involved used it even after they learned it was not corroborated, and one altered an email from the CIA that defended Page.
“I think the FISA court is in jeopardy,” said Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chair Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who, like most Republicans, has supported the court in the past.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, long a critic of the court, suggested it was untenable, and should at least be barred from handling cases involving politics at home.
“I would make the argument that the process cannot be corrected,” Paul said. “This is not the standard of the Constitution and we’ve allowed this to happen because we’re going after foreigners, and we just frankly said we’re not going to have all the constitutional protections.”
Democrats and Republicans, each seizing on parts of the report that back their side, were nearly unified in sounding alarms over the court, which itself condemned the FBI on Tuesday.
Unlike other tribunals, the information it considers is secret, and its judges only hear from federal authorities, relying on them to be honest and candid. The targets of investigations are supposed to be linked to foreign governments or terrorist groups.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has pledged to institute reforms to ensure agents can’t abuse the system. But lawmakers seemed to be considering whether they need new legislation to rein it in.
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