Smoke Signals from The Swamp: Carter PageMore Info
Since last we spoke, the steadfast Special Counsel has successfully penetrated the inner circle, indicting Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and wresting guilty pleas from George Papadopolous, and most importantly, from Michael Flynn. Flynn has admitted his false statements and omissions have impeded and “had a material impact on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
While Mueller’s team knows, the press scurries to figure out exactly who Flynn was talking about: the “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” and the “senior official of the Presidential Transition Team” and “the other senior members” of the Team. People who instructed, then communicated with Flynn about not only sabotaging an Obama administration UN effort on Israeli settlements but, even more critically, communicating with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia for its meddling.
But while the press focuses its attention on Flynn, the major character of the moment, I’d like to continue our efforts to learn about the entire cast.
D.C. professionals just don’t know what to do with Carter Page. He’s a bit like that stand-up comic who, with almost no sense of timing, more often than not tumbles into tastelessness. So, you sit there wondering what possessed him to take the stage in the first place. Trying to figure out how you and the significant other can get up and out of there without making too much of a fuss.
And yet he along with Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos might just bring down a Presidency.
Not surprisingly in this kingdom of spies and wanna-be-spies, there’s an on-going debate whether Carter Page, he of the red hat, is just crazy or crazy like a fox. The Shakespearean fool of the story.
Like many of our protagonists, Carter Page’s story keeps changing. He didn’t meet with Russians. He did meet with Russians. But they were scholars or businesspeople. Nothing happened. Or maybe something did happen. But really nothing of substance. Well, actually maybe he did meet Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. But really it was hardly worth mentioning.
Looking back, Carter Page didn’t receive the most enthusiastic welcome to Presidential Politics. On March 21, 2016 Candidate Donald Trump met with the Editorial Board of the Washington Post. The first question he was asked was: “We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly … Any you can share with us?
“TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names. Walid Phares, who you probably know, Ph.D., adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, Ph.D.; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that’s a representative group.”
The next day, the New York Times greeted this announcement with the following headline: “Top Experts Confounded by Advisers to Donald Trump” then this: “When Donald J. Trump finally began to reveal the names of his foreign policy advisers during a swing through Washington this week, the Republican foreign policy establishment looked at them and had a pretty universal reaction: Who?”
I’m pretty sure none of us at that moment fully appreciated how often we’d feel trapped in the World’s Worst Comedy Club. The Times continued: “Mr. Papadopoulos, a London-based energy analyst who lists his participation in the 2012 Model United Nations on his résumé, was traveling, and his employer said he was unreachable. And others could say little about how they were helping Mr. Trump. None have spoken to their new boss.
“Mr. Page, a managing partner at Global Energy Capital, who will be advising Mr. Trump on energy policy and Russia, said that he had just been sending policy memos to the Trump campaign and that the details of his role remained unclear. Mr. Page did not comment when asked if he supported Mr. Trump’s views on torture or the moratorium on Muslim immigration.”
Before we embark on a more thorough investigation of whether Carter Page’s activities re Russia occurred on behalf of, and/or in support of the Trump Campaign and Transition, let’s begin with Mr. Page’s denial. In testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on November 2, 2017 he unequivocally declared: “I have no personal information that the Russian government or anyone associated with it played any role in the 2016 U.S. election. Furthermore, during my visits to Moscow in July 2016 and December 2016, I was never approached by any Russian official or person associated with the Russian government who led me to in any way believe they had some intention to negatively impact the U.S. Government or the 2016 election which the Obama Administration was severely manipulating.”
It’s hard to leave that last Obama phrase alone. I can only assume he’s referring to the fact that our Intelligence Services – or in Carter Page terms, the Obama/Hillary Intelligence Services — were concerned by Mr. Page’s continuing contact with Russians. They had first investigated him in 2013 and then again during the 2016 campaign.
The story begins in 2010. On July 1, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported on the: “FBI’s decade-long investigation into a ring of Russian sleeper agents who were tasked with integrating into American society. The investigation was code-named Operation Ghost Stories because six of the 10 agents had assumed the identities of dead people … Several were getting close to high-ranking officials … One had gone to work for a confidant of a U.S. Cabinet member, he added, declining to offer details. In the course of their 2010 investigation the FBI learned that beyond the ten agents who were expelled were several other Russian agents operating out of New York.” (Emphasis added.)
Let’s jump ahead to January 23, 2015 when we learned more about those other Russian agents at work in New York City. Evgeny Buryakov, “Zhenya,” Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy were charged in the Southern District of New York with “Conspiracy to Act as an Unregistered Agent of a Foreign Government.”
The Complaint explained: “The SVR is the foreign intelligence agency for the Russian Federation. The SVR headquarters is located in Moscow and is known as ‘Moscow Center’ or ‘Center.’ The SVR deploys its agents to foreign countries using several different methods to conceal the agents’ work as intelligence agents. Certain agents are sent on ‘deep cover’ assignments, meaning they are directed to assume false identities, work seemingly normal jobs, and attempt to conceal all of their connections to Russia. Certain other SVR agents operating abroad do not conceal their connections to Russia …
“The FBI’s investigation has revealed that EVGENY BURYAKOV, ‘Zhenya,’ the defendant, is working within the United States as an SVR agent under ‘non-official cover,’ meaning he entered and has remained in the United States as a private citizen. Specifically, BURYAKOV is posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank (‘Bank-1’). In fact, BURYAKOV is an employee of the SVR working to gather intelligence on behalf of Russia. A recently conducted review of DOJ records indicates that BURYAKOV has never notified DOJ that he is an agent of the Russian Federation, or of any other country.
“The intelligence-gathering efforts of IGOR SPORYSHEV and VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendants, included, among other things, (i) attempting to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources for the Russian Federation; (ii) tasking EVGENY BURYAKOV, a/k/a ‘Zhenya,’ the defendant, to gather intelligence; and (iii) transmitting intelligence reports prepared by BURYAKOV back to SVR headquarters in Moscow …
“The directives from Moscow Center to EVGENY BURYAKOV, a/k/a ‘Zhenya,’ IGOR SPORYSHEV, and VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendants, as well as to other covert SVR agents acting within the United States, included requests to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential United States sanctions against the Russian Federation and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources.
“In the course of this investigation, the FBI has employed a variety of lawful investigative methods. For example, the FBI has conducted extensive physical and electronic surveillance of the defendants – including the covert placement of microphone-type listening devices in certain locations; the covert placement of video cameras in public locations; the monitoring and recording of the phone calls of certain of the defendants; and the use of a confidential source. In addition, and among other things, the FBI has lawfully obtained multiple audio recordings of discussions involving certain of the defendants that occurred at various send and receive intelligence reports and assignments from Moscow Center (the ‘SVR NY Office’).”
The complaint alleges that “on or about April 8, 2013, IGOR SPORYSHEV and VICTOR PODOBNY, the defendants, discussed PODOBNYY’s efforts to recruit a male working as a consultant in New York City (‘Male-1’) as an intelligence source: “VP: [Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could be rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money ….
IS: Without a doubt.
VP: He said that they have a new project right now, new energy boom … He says that it is about to take off. I don’t say anything for now.
IS: Yeah, first we will spend a couple of borrowed million and then ….
VP: [UI] [laughs] it’s worth it. I like that he takes on everything. For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot: that I have connections in the Trade Representation, meaning you that you can push contracts [laughs]. I will feed him empty promises …”
IS: Shit, then he will write me. Not even me, to our clean one.
VP: I didn’t say the Trade Representation . . . I did not even indicate that this is connected to a government agency. This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go fuck himself. But not to upset you, I will take you to a restaurant and give you an expensive gift. You just need to sign for it. This is ideal working method.” (Emphasis added.)
In June 2013, the FBI “interviewed Male-1. Male-1 stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, PODOBNYY gave Male-1 PODOBNYY’s business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-1’s outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business.” (Emphasis added.)
On September 23, 2016, Michael Isikoff broke the Carter Page story for Yahoo News: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.
“The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and ‘high ranking sanctioned individuals’ in Moscow over the summer as evidence of ‘significant and disturbing ties’ between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.”
On April 4, 2017, we learned from the New York Times that “Male-1” in the Southern District of New York case was Carter Page. He told ABC News he cooperated in the case and felt the feds “unmasked” him by describing him in January 2015 in a manner that would be known to energy insiders. “I didn’t want to be a spy,” he said in an interview. “I’m not a spy.”
While the New York Russians had decided he was an idiot, they and others imagined he could prove a useful idiot.
A quick look at his website shows why Page might have piqued the interests of the Russians: “Founder and managing partner of Global Energy Capital,” Carter Page “spent 7 years as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in London, Moscow and New York where he most recently served as Chief Operating Officer of the Energy and Power Group. He was involved in over $25 billion of transactions in the energy and power sector. He spent 3 years in Moscow where he was responsible for the opening of the Merrill office and was an advisor on key transactions for Gazprom, RAO UES and others. Previously, Carter was a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations where he was responsible for energy-related research on the Caspian Sea region. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, holds a MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. Carter is a frequent writer and lecturer on energy sector development in emerging markets.” (Emphasis added.)
The Washington Post writes: “In a two-hour interview with Bloomberg News … he said he advised Gazprom on its largest deals, including buying a stake in an oil and natural gas field near Russia’s Sakhalin Island and the merging of two classes of Gazprom stock, one of which was restricted to foreigners and the other to Russians.
The Post continued: “Page has offered that experience as one of his main areas of expertise, but his boss at Merrill Lynch at the time says that Page’s claims are exaggerated. Sergey Aleksashenko, former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank and former chairman of Merrill Lynch Russia, says that Page did not play a key role at that time. ‘He was a vice president, and the job of vice president is not to organize deals but to execute,’ Aleksashenko said … ‘Gazprom did not need any advice,’ Aleksashenko said. ‘It was not a commercially driven transaction …’ Aleksashenko said when he heard that Trump named Page as an adviser, ‘I was laughing because he was never ready to discuss foreign policy.’” (Emphasis added.)
Luke Harding, the former U.K. Guardian correspondent in Moscow writes about Carter Page in “Collusion,” his recent examination of Russia and Trump: “His apparent Russian sympathies were evident from the beginning. In 1998 Page spent three months working for the Eurasia Group, a strategy consulting firm. Its founder, Ian Bremer, later described Page as his “most wackadoodle alumnus.” Page’s vehemently pro-Kremlin views meant ‘he wasn’t a good fit,’ Bremer said.
“After Carter Page’s years working for Merrill Lynch in Moscow he was back in New York and his private equity business, Global Energy Capital LLC. His partner was Russian – a former Gazprom manager named Sergei Yatsenko.” Harding wonders whether Yatsenko knew the SVR agents who in 2013 were reeling in Page?
“In the worsening dispute between Putin and the Obama administration, Page sided with Moscow. He was against U.S. sanctions imposed by Obama on Russia in the wake of its annexation of Crimea. In a blog post for Global Policy, an online journal, he wrote that Putin wasn’t to blame for the 2014 Ukraine conflict. The White House’s superior ‘smack-down’ approach had ‘started the crisis in the first place.’
“Page’s rampant pro-Moscow views were at odds with the U.S. State Department under Clinton and with almost all American scholars of Russia. After all, it was Putin who had smuggled tanks across the border into eastern Ukraine. Not that Page’s opinions counted for much. Global Policy had a small circulation. It was edited out of Durham University in the north of England. His relationship with the journal fizzled out when he wrote an opinion piece lavishly praising a pro-Russian candidate ahead of the U.S. presidential election – Donald Trump.
“And then something odd happened.” What was odd was that when Donald Trump was asked by the Washington Post about who was advising him on foreign affairs he named Carter Page.
According to Harding: “Page’s real qualification for the role, it appeared, had little to do with his restless CV. What seemed to appeal to Trump was his boundless enthusiasm for Putin and his corresponding loathing of Obama and Clinton. Page’s view of the world was not unlike the Kremlin’s. Boiled down: the United States’ attempts to spread democracy had brought chaos and disaster.”
Harding continues: “Podobnyy and Sporyshev approached their duties with a certain cynicism laced with boredom and a shot of homesickness. Page, by contrast, was the rarest of birds: an American who apparently believed that Putin was wise and virtuous and kind … In July 2016 Page went back to Russia, on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. There was keen interest. Page was someone who might give sharper definition to the candidate’s view on future U.S.-Russian relations. Moscow sources suggest that certain people in the Russian government arranged Page’s visit. ‘We were told: Can you bring this guy over?’ one source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.” (Emphasis added.)
The Russians might have been cheered by remarks Page made in June 2016 at a meeting of foreign policy experts and the Prime Minister of India. The Washington Post reports he went “off topic with effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump. The adviser, Carter Page, hailed Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama, according to three people who were present at the closed-door meeting at Blair House — and then touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations.”
Back to Carter Page’s trip to Moscow and his talks on July 7 and 8, 2016. Not everybody shares Harding’s view that Carter Page was acting as an emissary when he took this trip. Still while the White House and Carter Page both vehemently denied there was any connection, we later learned of an email trail about the trip between Page, J.D. Gordon, Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks.
Thanks to United States of America v. George Papadopoulos, we’ve recently learned more about the circumstances surrounding Carter Page’s speech in Moscow. Mr. Papadopoulos admitted to making false statements to the FBI on January 27, 2017 when they interviewed him regarding his role in the Trump Campaign. In his plea agreement Papadopoulos stipulated to the following facts:
“On or about March 21, 2016, the Campaign told The Washington Post that defendant PAPADOPOULOS was one of five named foreign policy advisors for the Campaign.
“On or about March 24, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met with the Professor in London. The Professor brought with him a female Russian national (the “Female Russian National”), introduced to defendant PAPADOPOULOS as a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to senior Russian government officials.
“Following his March 24, 2016 meeting … PAPADOPOULOS emailed the Campaign Supervisor and several members of the Campaign’s foreign policy team and stated that he had just met with his ‘good friend’ the Professor, who had introduced him to the Female Russian National (described by defendant PAPADOPOULOS in the email as ‘Putin’s niece’) and the Russian Ambassador in London. (Defendant PAPADOPOULOS later learned that the Female Russian National was not in fact a relative of President Putin …)
“Defendant PAPADOPOULOS stated that the topic of their discussion was ‘to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.’ The Campaign Supervisor responded that he would ‘work it through the campaign,’ but that no commitments should be made at that point. The Campaign Supervisor added: ‘Great work.’
“On or about March 31, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS attended a ‘national security meeting’ in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisors for the Campaign. When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.
“On or about April 18, 2016, the Professor introduced defendant PAPADOPOULOS over email to an individual in Moscow (the ‘Russian MFA Connection’) who told defendant PAPADOPOULOS he had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (‘MFA’). The MFA is the executive entity in Russia responsible for Russian foreign relations. Over the next several weeks, defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Russian MFA Connection had multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting ‘the groundwork’ for a ‘potential’ meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.
“On or about May 21, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed another high-ranking Campaign official, with the subject line ‘Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.’ Footnote: The government notes that the official forwarded defendant PAPADOPOULOS’s email to another Campaign official (without including defendant PAPADOPOULOS) and stated: ‘Let[’]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.’) (Emphasis added)
It’s interesting to think about Carter Page’s trip to make a speech in to Moscow on July 7 2016 in light of these ongoing conversations. Was he indeed the low-level representative of the campaign?
In its “Timeline of Carter Page’s Contacts With Russia,” Slate Magazine adds more detail to the campaign’s consideration of the trip: “Then–Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approves Page’s trip to Moscow on condition that he not act as an official representative of the campaign while there. Page initially asks J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the national security team, who strongly advises against taking the trip. Then, Page emails Lewandowski and Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks for official approval, and Lewandowski approves. The Trump campaign would refuse to acknowledge whether it had approved Page’s trip for several months, until Politico broke the story.”
About Page’s Moscow speech, the U.K. Guardian wrote: “The announced topic of Page’s discussion was ‘the evolution of the world economy,’ but much of it involved semi-coherent analysis of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. In passing, Page castigated the US for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and pursuing ‘regime change’ in former Soviet countries.
“Page, an investment banker who previously worked in Russia, insisted he was in Russia on a private visit, although he is likely to meet Russian officials when he gives the commencement speech at the New Economic School in Moscow on Friday. He refused to comment on whether he had any meetings with officials planned. That was not the only thing he refused to comment on.
“Would he advise Donald Trump to remove sanctions on Russia? ‘I’m not here at all talking about my work outside of my academic endeavors. It’s not appropriate time to speak about that.’ How could relations between Russia and the west be improved? ‘There’s a time and a place to have all discussions, today is not the time and place.’”
The Washington Post put it this way: “Page dumbfounded foreign policy experts again by giving another speech harshly critical of U.S. policy — this time in Moscow. The United States and other Western nations have ‘criticized these regions for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period,’ Page said in a lecture at the New Economic School commencement. ‘Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.’”
It’s not difficult to see why his willingness to dispense with the pesky issues of democracy, inequality and corruption might make him welcome in Moscow. In Yahoo News! Isikoff wrote: “‘He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,’ said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time … He hasn’t been shy about expressing those views in the U.S. as well … Page told Bloomberg News he had been an adviser to, and investor in, Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. He then blamed Obama administration sanctions — imposed as a response to the Russian annexation of Crimea — for driving down the company’s stock. ‘So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,’ Page said in the interview. ‘There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.’”
Harding adds some additional perspective to Page’s trip to Moscow: “One of Russia’s top private universities, the New Economics School, invited Page to give a public lecture. This was no ordinary event but the prestigious commencement address to its class of graduating students. The venue was Moscow’s World Trade Center.
“Seven years earlier, in July 2009, I had watched President Obama give the end-of-year address at the NES … Obama began by praising Russia’s contribution to civilization … then went on to deliver a subtle rebuke. A year earlier, in 2008, Russian military forces had rolled into neighboring Georgia … ‘In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries,’ Obama said … Obama rejected the doctrine that Russia has ‘privileged interests’ in former Soviet countries, a key Putin idea. That evening I watched Russian state TV report on Obama’s speech. It fell to the bottom of the schedule.
“By contrast, Russia’s media hailed Page as a ‘celebrated American economist.’ This, despite the fact that Page’s lecture was distinctly strange – a content-free ramble verging on the bizarre. Page, it seemed, was criticizing U.S. led attempts at ‘regime change’ in the former Soviet world. Nobody could be sure. His audience included students and local Trump fans, some of whom were visibly nodding off by the end.
“Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s Russia correspondent, had attended an event given by Page the previous evening. He described Page’s PowerPoint presentation as ‘really weird.’ ‘It looked as if it had been done for a Kazakhistan gas conference,’ Walker said. ‘He was talking about the United States’ attempts to spread democracy, and how disgraceful they were. … So what was he doing in Moscow.’
“According to the Steele dossier,” Harding reminds us “ – and vehemently disputed by Page – the real purpose of Page’s trip was clandestine. He had come to meet with the Kremlin, and in particular with Igor Sechin. Sechin was a former spy and, more important, someone who commanded Putin’s absolute confidence. He was in effect Russia’s second most powerful official, its de facto deputy leader. By this point Sechin had been at Putin’s side for more than three decades. He had begun his career in the KGB and served as a military translator in Mozambique … When Putin was elected president, Sechin became his deputy chief of staff and from 2004, executive chairman of the Russian state oil firm Rosneft, the country’s biggest oil producer … It was clear that Sechin had Russia’s entire security services at his disposal. He would be willing to personally reward anyone who advanced the objectives of the Russian state …”
“In 2014, Page had written a sycophantic piece that lauded Sechin for his ‘great accomplishments.’ In a blog post for Global Policy, Page wrote that Sechin had done more to advance U.S.-Russian relations than anybody in decades. Sechin was a wronged Russian statesman, in Page’s view, unfairly punished and sanctioned by the Obama White House …”
Harding continues: “Eleven days after Page flew back from Russia to New York, Chris Steele filed a memo to Fusion in Washington … titled: ‘Russia: Secret Kremlin meeting attended by Trump advisor Carter Page in Moscow.’ Steele’s information came from anonymous sources. In this case that was someone described as ‘close’ to Sechin. Seemingly, there was a mole deep inside Rosneft – a person who discussed sensitive matters with other Russians …
“In Moscow, Page had held two secret meetings, Steele wrote. The first was with Sechin … The second was with Igor Diveykin, a senior official from Putin’s presidential administration and its internal political department … According to Steele, Sechin raised with Page the Kremlin’s desire for the United States to lift sanctions on Russia. This was Moscow’s strategic priority. Sechin offered the outlines of a deal. If a future Trump administration dropped ‘Ukraine-related sanctions,’ there could be an ‘associated move’ in the area of ‘bilateral energy cooperation.’ In other words lucrative contracts for U.S. energy firms. Page’s reaction to this offer was positive, Steele wrote, adding that Page was ‘generally non-committal in response.’
“Sechin’s motives for a deal were personal and political. U.S. sanctions had hurt the Russian economy and poleaxed Rosneft. A joint project between Rosneft and Exxon to explore the Russian Arctic had been put on hold. Sechin was banned from the United States. And the EU had sanctioned Rosneft. Sechin no longer joined his second wife, Olga, on their luxury yacht. When she visited Sardinia and Corsica, her favorite places, she did so without him.
“It was rumored that Sechin had a significant personal stake in Rosneft. If it existed, this, too, had suffered. Some observers said that Sechin had enriched himself relatively late, only once he had exited government and devoted himself to Rosneft … According to an ‘associate,’ Sechin was so keen to lift personal and corporate Western sanctions that he offered Page an unusual bribe. This was ‘the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return.’ In other words, a chunk of Rosneft was being sold off.
“No sums were mentioned. But a privatization on this scale would be the biggest in Russia in years. Any brokerage fee would be substantial, in the region of tens and probably hundreds of millions of dollars. At this point nobody outside the top of Rosneft knew the privatization plan existed. Page ‘expressed interest’ and confirmed that were Trump to become U.S. president, ‘then sanctions on Russia would be lifted,’ Steele wrote.”
“Sechin’s offer was the carrot. There was also a stick. The stick was flourished during Page’s alleged second meeting with Diveykin. The official reportedly told Page that the Kremlin had assembled a dossier of compromising material on Clinton and might possibly give it to Trump’s campaign. However, according to Steele, Diveykin also delivered a warning. He hinted – or even ‘indicated more strongly’ – that the Russian leadership had damaging material on Trump, too. Trump ‘should bear this in mind’ in his dealings with Moscow, Diveykin said.
“This was blackmail, clear and simple. Page was the go-between meant to relay this blunt message to Trump. Page was part of a chain of cultivation and conspiracy that stretched from Moscow to Fifth Avenue. Allegedly, that is. Over the coming months. Page would vehemently deny any wrongdoing. Or having taken the meetings. He would assert he was a victim.” (Emphasis added.)
“Meanwhile, Page’s career as a Trump advisor was entering its terminal phase. His speech in Moscow had provoked comment, much of it adverse. The campaign’s ties with Russia were becoming a source of controversy. According to The Washington Post, quoting a campaign manager, Page wrote policy memos and attended three dinners in Washington for Trump’s foreign advisory team. He sat in on meetings with Trump. Apparently, his attempts to meet Trump individually failed.
“Steele’s Rosneft source was right. In early December – less than a month after Trump won the White House – Rosneft announced it was selling 19.5 percent of its stock. This was one of the biggest privatizations since the 1990s and, on the face of it, a vote of confidence in the Russian economy. This, at least, is how Putin presented the sale on December 7, during a televised meeting with Sechin …According to Reuters, the source of the funding for almost a quarter of the purchase price was unknown … So who was behind it? The state bank VTB had underwritten the purchase. Shortly before the privatization it had sold bonds to Russia’s state bank. It appeared that state money from the Russian budget was driving the deal … Even the Russian cabinet had been kept in the dark. ‘Sechin did it all on his own – the government did not take part in this,’ one source told Reuters.”
The Politico story of March 3, 2017 that focused on Carter Page was entitled: “Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow.” It also highlighted Page’s interaction with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “In recent days, Page’s contact with Russians resurfaced with news reports that he, Gordon and senior Trump campaign adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions all engaged in discussions with Kislyak at an event on the sidelines of the GOP convention. Page has declined to comment on what they discussed, saying it was private, while Gordon characterized the conversations as harmless efforts to improve U.S.-Russia ties. The former campaign adviser said Page and the ambassador had a lengthy discussion and that they were at times joined by Gordon and two other ambassadors from the region. The adviser did not know whether Page or Kislyak initiated the conversation.”
Luke Harding notes: “A day after the Rosneft deal was unveiled, Page flew back to Moscow. During his previous July visit he’d been feted. Since then, however, Page had become a liability to the Trump campaign – and therefore to Russia, too. This time Page was an unperson, a toxic figure, at least officially. Dimitri Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, said government leaders had no plans to meet with him.
“Page’s own explanation for this visit was vague. He had come to see “business leaders and thought leaders,” he told RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency. He would be in Moscow for six days, he said.
“In the months to come, Page would vehemently deny the allegations against him. He portrayed himself as a ‘peace seeker.’ He even expressed sympathy for Podobny, the spy – whom he described as a ‘junior Russian diplomat.’ In an email to The Guardian, Page complained that Obama had persecuted Podobny, Sporyshev and him ‘in accordance with Cold War traditions.’
“He wrote: ‘The time has come to break out of this Cold War mentality and start focusing on real threats, rather than obsolete and imagined bogeymen in Russia.’ Page’s loyalty to the SVR was breathtaking …Whatever Page’s motives were for helping Russian intelligence – greed, naivete stupidity – his woes were about to get worse. The secret dossier in which he played a starring role was secret no more.”
Let’s circle back to the beginning and the question of whether Carter Page of the red hat is just crazy or crazy like a fox. Whatever the answer, enjoy for a moment the mad bob and weave and rope-a-dope Carter offered the House Select Committee on Intelligence:
Rep. Gowdy was asking him about his trip and any coordination with the Trump Campaign:
GOWDY: Who asked you to go to Moscow?
PAGE: I was just invited. I — there were a few Russian scholars who I met through previous speeches I had done in — in — what do you call it — over the years while I was working on my Ph.D. and related to some of that research.
GOWDY: Was the Trump campaign aware of your visit to Moscow in July of 2016?
PAGE: I had asked if, you know — I had mentioned it a few times to J.D. Gordon, and I had — you know, again, it was a standing invitation. And I sent a note around to a few of the members of our team and —
PAGE: Just to make sure that — again, I wanted to be very careful, because there was starting to be some — there was starting to be some allegations about or concerns about Russia in general. And I just wanted to be careful, and just given the fact that my name was —
GOWDY: Well, if you wanted to be super careful, why did you go?
PAGE: Because I’m trying to live my life and it’s something — I’ve spoken at these universities for well over a decade.
GOWDY: Well, if it was unrelated with the Trump campaign, why did you feel the need to email some of your ad hoc committee members to let them know you were going?
PAGE: Committee members, but also some members of the official campaign; I just — similar to the way I’m being very careful with you, I want to be overly cautious not to create any concerns, et cetera. So —
GOWDY: What were you worried about? What was the genesis of your desire for caution?
PAGE: … Again, things can get spun in the media and with certain politicians that want to advance some concept or a message. I could never have imagined how crazy it would have gotten with — particularly with Mr. Steele, et cetera. But anything’s possible.”
And lastly some of Page’s give and take with Rep. Adam Schiff:
SCHIFF: Following your meeting, your trip to Russia, did you send a memo back to the campaign that conveyed the results of your trip to Russia?
PAGE: I did offer some thoughts about some of my takeaways and experiences there, yes.
SCHIFF: And in that document, Dr. Page, didn’t you state, on Thursday and Friday, July 7 and 8, 2016: “Campaign Adviser Carter Page” — you’re referring to yourself in the third person — “presented before gatherings at the New Economic School, N.E.S., in Moscow, including their 2016 commencement ceremony. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and N.E.S. board member Arkadiy Dvorkovich also spoke before the event. In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems”? This is a document Bates stamped Dr. Page, did you write that?
PAGE: I did. It was a general sentiment of, you know, hope for the future. That’s all he expressed in that brief hello.” (Emphasis added.)
Remember, as Rep. Gowdy is well aware, here in The Swamp, anything is possible.
Transcript Donald Trump’s Meeting with Washington Post
March 21, 2016
David Choi, November 3, 2017, Business Insider
“Top Experts Confounded by Advisers to Donald Trump”
Alan Rappeport, March 22, 2016, New York Times
Testimony Of Carter Page
November 2, 2017
U.S. House of Representatives, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, D.C.
Carter Page’s Website:
“Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump”
Adam Goldman, April 4, 2017, New York Times
“Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,”
Luke Harding, Vintage Books, New York, 2017
“Russian spies were succeeding, FBI official says”
Ken Dilanian, October 31, 2011| Los Angeles Times
“FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”
Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous, April 11, 2016, Washington Post
“Trump adviser’s public comments, ties to Moscow stir unease in both parties”
Steven Mufson and Tom Hamburger August 5, 2016, Washington Post
“Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow”
By Josh Meyer and Kenneth P. Vogel, March 3, 2017, Politico
“A Timeline of Carter Page’s Contacts With Russia”
The Trump campaign adviser’s foreign dalliances, explained.
By Artin Afkhami