During the heat of the 2016 presidential elections, officials within the Obama administration, including cabinet-level officials who answered to Obama directly, extensively spied on the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump.
Both the Department of Justice inspector general and the House intelligence committee are currently probing the actions of the Obama officials and their motivations.
So far, at least five different ways that the officials spied on the Trump campaign have been uncovered.
These include the use of national security letters, a FISA warrant, an undercover informant, the unmasking of identities in intelligence reports, and spying conducted by foreign intelligence agencies.
Each of these methods provided the officials with sensitive information on the Trump campaign that could have been used for political purposes.
Private communications between FBI officials involved in the agency’s investigation on the Trump campaign, reveal its links to the White House.
In one of the text messages obtained by the DOJ inspector general, and since released publicly, the lead FBI agent on the case, Peter Strzok, wrote in a Sept. 2, 2016, message to FBI lawyer Lisa Page that “potus [president of the United States] wants to know everything we’re doing.” Page was serving as counsel to then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
There have also been direct ties between the spying and the campaign of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The FBI and DOJ relied heavily on unverified allegations contained in the so-called Trump dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
1. National Security Letters
The FBI, which at the time was headed by FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director McCabe, used counterintelligence tools known as national security letters to spy on the Trump campaign.
Marc Ruskin, a 27-year veteran of the FBI, told The Epoch Times that the agency has strict guidelines regulating the use of different types of investigations, such as national security, criminal, and terrorism investigations. Launching a foreign counterintelligence investigation (FCI), which falls under the FBI’s national security guidelines, must meet a lower bar of probable cause than do criminal investigations.
Using an FCI to investigate the Trump campaign, the FBI was able to gather intelligence—not necessarily evidence—which it would likely not have been able to do using a criminal investigation, given the lack of probable cause.
However, the FBI appears to have used the FCI tools—potentially illegally—to launch a subsequent criminal investigation.
Comey told Congress under oath in June 2017 that the investigation did not target Trump, even though it had spied on his campaign.
Similarly, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, said in April that Trump is not a target of Mueller’s investigation.
2. FISA Warrant