Margot Cleveland ran a blog yesterday that sheds light on this question: Carter Page: Obama’s FBI, DOJ May Have Spied On Trump Admin, Not Just Campaign. What emerges from recent statements by Page is that the FBI appears to have been spying on the inmost counsels of the new Trump administation--not just on the candidate, or the transitional President-Elect, but on the post-inauguration new Trump administration.
Over the weekend, Page told The Federalist that after he left the Trump campaign in late September 2016, he continued to communicate with individuals officially connected to the campaign. “Yes, I stayed in touch with them – including during the transition months and after the start of the new administration,” Page said. While Page refused to identify all of the individuals with whom he maintained a relationship in order to protect their privacy, he confirmed that he remained in contact with Steve Bannon.
Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, served as the chief executive for the Trump campaign beginning in August 2016. Following Trump’s 2016 victory, the president-elect appointed Bannon to serve as his chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon continued in that role following Trump’s inauguration, until the president fired him in August 2017.
Although the publicly released Page FISA orders redact the surveillance methods authorized and the modes of communication the FBI could target, it is safe to assume that any communication device Page used would be tapped, including cell phones, text, and email. Thus, the FBI would have access to any text and emails Page exchanged with Bannon or other members of the campaign, transition team, or administration, as well as the ability to eavesdrop on any telephone calls.
But Page went further, telling The Federalist ... “I can also tell you on the record,” Page said, “that one of the things that the FBI investigators were interested in were my early 2017 text messages with Steve Bannon (irrelevant as they may be).”
Page refused to expand on the content of his early 2017 text messages with Bannon, but suggested that the subject matter of those texts was unimportant—it was the FBI’s interest in, and probing about, his exchanges with Bannon that proved infinitely more significant. That probing came when the FBI interviewed Page multiple times in March 2017, at a time when James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok remained in charge of the Russia collusion investigation.
Since Team Mueller later questioned Trump himself as to whether he had tasked Bannon to establish a back channel communication method with Russia, one assumes that that may have been the subject of the questions the FBI posed to Page. The time frame would have been shortly after Michael Flynn had been forced, via illegal leaks, to step down as National Security Adviser. Further, it's important to note that the presumed subject of this probe--back channel communications with Russia--is perfectly legal and normal. Even necessary, or at least highly advisable, to avoid misunderstandings between two nuclear powers. Was the FBI still playing around with Sally Yates' absurd Logan Act theory?
One wonders what the United States Attorney General thought of these goings on? For reference here is a list of the Attorneys General during the first three months of the Trump administration:
Sally Yates (Acting) - January 20, 2017 to January 30, 2017 ￼
Dana Boente (Acting) - January 30, 2017 to February 9, 2017
(Currently General Counsel for the FBI, appointed by Chris Wray)
Jeff Sessions - February 9, 2017 to November 7, 2018
Sessions recused himself from Russia investigation matters on March 2, 2017. Thereafter,
Rod Rosenstein - March 2, 2017 for purposes of Russian investigation matters.
The working assumption must be that each of these individuals was aware that the FBI was running a FISA that was scooping up communications involving the POTUS' senior adviser(s) and conceivably the POTUS himself. To call this extraordinary hardly begins to adequately describe what was going on. It was justified on the basis of the Russia investigation, which the Mueller Dossier has confirmed to be a hoax--from start to finish.
Question: How does President Trump feel about this? Does he feel betrayed? Is it any surprise that he has lashed out publicly against those who betrayed him in this way?
AG Bill Barr might well want to "get his arms around" all this, get to the bottom of it all.
Does this suggest why Democrats are so desperate to change the conversation these days, before Trump starts declassing things? One assumes that at this point all they can keep mumbling to themselves is that the best defense is a good offense. That can't be much comfort.
UPDATE: Note that Carter Page was being grilled by the FBI, which had the benefit of FISA coverage for all his communications and conversations. Yet Page was never charged with anything, not even a bogus "process" crime. That's the kinda guy I'd like to use as a witness!