FBI surveillance of Carter Page might have picked up Bannon

Source: Politico | February 8, 2018 | Kyle Cheney

The former Trump campaign adviser says he spoke to Trump aide Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017, at a time when the FBI had a controversial warrant to monitor Page’s communications.

The FBI was monitoring Carter Page when the former Trump campaign adviser says he spoke with Trump adviser Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017, raising the strong possibility that the FBI intercepted a conversation between the two men.

Page told Congress in November about the call. But it has been cast into a new light by last week’s release of a Republican memo revealing that the FBI was monitoring Page’s communications at the time.

“If Page was using one of his standard phones, it was probably picked up,” said Elizabeth Goitein, a former Justice Department trial attorney and congressional counsel who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program.

The significance of a possible FBI recording depends on the exact content of the conversation between Bannon and Page, about which Page has been vague. But it means the FBI’s surveillance of Page — which has been the subject of intense partisan anger in Washington — may have touched one of the highest-ranking figures in Trump’s incoming administration just days before inauguration.

Bannon hasn’t been accused of any impropriety. Neither he nor his lawyer would comment on Page’s account of the purported conversation.

Experts in national security law said the FBI would have retained the conversation as evidence if it seemed pertinent to their investigation into allegations that Trump associates coordinated with the Kremlin — an inquiry that has since widened to focus on whether any officials, including Trump himself, tried to obstruct the probe.

Bannon, once among Trump’s most trusted campaign and White House advisers, is expected to meet soon with special counsel Robert Mueller.

In November testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Page told lawmakers that Bannon called him sometime shortly before Trump’s Jan. 21, 2017 inauguration, asking him to cancel a planned television appearance on that day. By then the former investment banker and energy consultant had long been exiled from the Trump orbit following reports that he was under investigation for ties to Moscow.

Page said that he then brought up an explosive private intelligence dossier, published online a few days earlier, which alleged the Kremlin had compromising information on Trump and worked with his campaign to influence the election.

Page has at times proven an unreliable narrator — his account of the details of the call appeared to shift as he discussed it with lawmakers — and the existence of the call cannot be independently confirmed.

Page says the Bannon call, which he described as “brief,” occurred as Trump’s transition team was reeling from the dossier’s Jan. 11 publication by BuzzFeed.

The dossier portrayed Page as an intermediary between Trump and the Russian government. Trump officials say the dossier is the defamatory product of Democratic-funded opposition research. Page insists he has never been a Russian agent.

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