A federal judge told the Department of Justice to explain why the release of the House Intelligence Committee's memo today shouldn't force investigators to acknowledge the existence of more records related to foreign surveillance.
Until this point, the Justice Department said it couldn't confirm or deny the existence of foreign surveillance-related records regarding Donald Trump and his business and campaign associates. That disclosure would hurt national security and could interfere with the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian collusion and the election, the FBI has claimed.
The White House declassified and House Republicans released a controversial memo Friday that prompted the judge's action. The memo describes Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court actions that allowed federal authorities to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page in 2016 and 2017.
The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by the James Madison Project and USA Today reporter Brad Heath in April, sought records from the FBI of FISA applications and authorizations for surveillance of the Trump Organization, President Donald Trump, his campaign and associated people.
A filing from USA Today's lawyers Friday pointed out that the late-October 2016 issuance of the FISA warrant on Page matched the month that Trump claims the Obama administration started wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower in New York.
"I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!" Trump tweeted in March.
The Department of Justice's response is due February 14.