Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has denied he was a Russian agent, after the FBI released hundreds of documents over the weekend revealing details of his surveillance in 2016 and 2017.
In an unusual move, the FBI released more than 400 pages of heavily-redacted documents outlining details of the FISA warrant for his surveillance. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts (FISA) allows the FBI to wiretap US citizens whom they suspect of being a foreign agent.
The surveillance of Mr Page has been a huge point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. Some Republicans have argued that the FBI's application to secure a warrant to wiretrap Mr Page was based on discredited information, based on the disputed "Steele Dossier" compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Tweeting from his golf club in New Jersey, Mr Trump said that the documents proved that the US intelligence agencies were illegally spying on the Trump campaign.
“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” he said in a tweet on Sunday morning, arguing that the documents confirmed “with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”
The documents released on Saturday describe Mr Page as a foreign agent. “The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” and has been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” the document states, describing Mr Page as a “former foreign policy advisor to a candidate for US president.”
But Mr Page, who lived in Russia between 2004 and 2007, took to the airwaves on Sunday to refute the allegations. "I've never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination," he told CNN in an interview. But he declined to specifically answer questions about an academic letter he wrote in 2013, in which he described himself as an "informal adviser" to the Kremlin.
The fresh allegations about Mr Page came as the controversy over the US president's meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin last week continued.
The director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, sought to downplay his apparent reproach of Mr Trump's decision to invite Mr Putin to Washington last week.
Mr Coats, during a live interview in Aspen on Thursday, was presented with the news Mr Trump had invited Mr Putin in Washington in the autumn. In the interview he said that he had not known about the proposed second meeting, replying “that will be special”. Amid reports that the Trump administration was annoyed at Mr Coats’ response, the nation’s top intelligence official issued a statement on Saturday, clarifying his comments. “My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticise the actions of the president,” he said. “I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump’s ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearise dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies.”
Separately, Mr Trump lashed out at his former attorney Michael Cohen on Saturday, a day after US media reported that Mr Cohen had secretly taped then candidate Mr Trump discussing payments to a former playboy model two months before the election.
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of,” he said on Twitter on Saturday morning. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favourite president did nothing wrong!”