Carter Page and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Testimony - by Greer Clem

Last Thursday, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page testified before the House Intelligence Committee about potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election. It did not go great. There’s a lot to parse through in the 243 page testimony, but here we’re going to cover the main points and the people Page is bringing down with him.

It’s important to note that Carter Page has long had a vested interest in the Russian economy. He worked for Merrill Lynch as the vice president of the Moscow Branch and oversaw deals with Russian energy companies including Gazprom, Russia’s largest natural gas company. He then co-founded Global Energy Capital, an investment fund also founded by a former Gazprom executive. So when Page was named by Trump as a foreign policy advisor to his campaign, questions naturally arose regarding his longstanding connections to Russia and Trump’s motivation for picking him. Despite efforts to assure investigators that Trump did not select Page because of his Russian ties, Page’s testimony hints at a different narrative.

The main instance being addressed in his testimony is a Moscow trip Page took in July, 2016. According to Page, he communicated with Corey Lewandowsky, Hope Hicks, JD Gordon, and Jeff Sessions regarding his upcoming trip. JD Gordon, the Trump campaign’s Director of National Security, has said that he told Page the trip was a bad idea and that Page subsequently went over his head to Lewandowski who then gave him the green light. Let us also not forget that Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no knowledge of communication between Trump campaign officials and Russian government agents. Unfortunately for Jeff, after Page’s trip, he sent an email saying that he would update the campaign regarding, “insights and outreach I received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration.” Sessions knew Page was going to Moscow and Page followed up with intel – so that leaves Sessions under the dark cloud of perjury.

Page, who we know had previous connections to the Russian energy sector, confirmed in his testimony that he did meet with a representative of the Russian energy company, Rosneft. This particular point is key, because it stems from accusations made in the now infamous “Steele Dossier.” A quick reminder: the Steele Dossier is a private intelligence dossier collected by former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele. It was part of opposition research conducted during the 2016 election and primarily covers potential Russian interference and collaboration with the Trump campaign. Trump has dismissed the dossier as "fake news" and it is important to note that the majority of information within the dossier has yet to be confirmed by intelligence agencies. However, speculation that Page had met with Russian energy officials had already come to light. In the Steele Dossier, it was reported that Page had met with the head of Rosneft to discuss the US possibly removing sanctions against Russia in exchange for the Kremlin helping to get Trump elected. As of now, all we can confirm is that, despite initially saying he had met no Rosneft officials, Page has now admitted that he met a lower-level employee. He maintains they did not discuss US sanctions and that the meeting was just two old friends catching up…in the middle of the US presidential campaign…when Page was working for Trump.

Page’s various Moscow meetings might have passed as innocent had it not been for Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, during which he completely reversed previous GOP policies regarding Ukranian independence. Trump’s new platform would not call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian forces. At the time of this speech, other republicans expressed confusion and concern regarding Trump’s changing stance, some saying they did not understand the motivation behind it; it had long been the party’s policy that they supported Ukranian efforts to combat Russian tyranny. The motivation behind Trump’s platform switch is becoming clear in light of the Russia investigation.

So, after eight hours of testimony and lot of word vomit, we have new insight into the Trump campaign. We know that Page met with Russian officials while in Moscow in July, 2016. We know that, upon Page's return, Trump changed the party’s platform vis-à-vis Ukraine. And we also know, perhaps most importantly, that this investigation involves much bigger fish than Page and Papadopoulos. Page’s testimony alone implicates current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky, already indicted Paul Manafort, already guilty-of-lying and indicted George Papadopoulos, current White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, recently disgraced nominee for Department of Agriculture Chief Sam Clovis, and former campaign Director of National Security JD Gordon.   

How this information is being released is no coincidence: Mueller is starting small and working his way up the food chain. People like Page and Papadopoulos are going to be the downfall of those like Jeff Sessions and Trump himself. Take Papadopoulos, for example, a small cog in the Trump campaign’s machine, and yet he’s been cooperating with Mueller’s team for months. It was a piece of tape that started Watergate, but I’m willing to bet after reading Page’s testimony that Trump’s campaign left behind a great deal more.

Greer Clem