“The Goals That Are Being Scored” … the Carter Page Saga

In the middle of the Carter Page testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last week, Adam Schiff tried to get him to answer whether he spoke about buying a stake of Rosneft during his July 2016 trip to Moscow — a key claim from the Steele dossier. Page professed that it might be possible, but he couldn’t remember such a discussion because he was watching Ronaldo on TV at the time.

He may have briefly mentioned it when we were looking up from this Portugal — Ronaldo, whoever the — you know, the goals that are being scored. That may have come up. But I have no definitive recollection of that.

Page comes off, often, as someone utterly clueless about how both the Trump campaign officials and the Russians trying to use him were doing so.

It depends on the definition of meet

That said, the most interesting bits involve the things Page tried to hide or obfuscate, such as his claim he never met Trump even after having been in a lot of meetings with him.

Mr. Rooney: Did you ever meet Mr. Trump?

Mr. Page: I have never met him in my life. I’ve been in a lot of meetings with him, and I’ve learned a lot from him, but never actually met him face-to-face.

He does the same with Arkadiy Dvorkovich, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, when Adam Schiff tries to point out that meeting him in July 2016 would amount to meeting a senior official.

Mr. Schiff: And you don’t consider him to be a high-up official or someone in an official capacity?

Mr. Page: I — nothing I — it was — again, I did not meet with him. I greeted him briefly as he was walking off the stage after his speech.

Page even compares these two instances of not-meetings later in his testimony.

[I]t goes back to the point I mentioned with listening to speeches, listening to particularly Arkadiy Dvorkovich’s speech, right. Again, great insights just like I learned great insights — even though I’ve met — I’ve never met Donald J. Trump in my life, I’ve learned a lot from him.

Ultimately, even Trey Gowdy finds this obfuscation around the word “meet” to be too much.

Mr. Gowdy: All right. I’ve written down four different words. I didn’t think I’d ever be going through this with anyone, but we’ve got to, I guess. You seem to draw a distinction between a meeting, a greeting, a conversation, and you hearing a speech.

JD Gordon’s central role

I pointed out last week how JD Gordon was playing the press in the wake of the Papadopoulos plea agreement being unsealed. Page’s testimony may explain why: because Gordon was the key person coordinating Page’s activities.

Page at first tries to hide this, before he admits that JD Gordon was his supervisor on the campaign.

And J.D. Gordon was brought in, and he was sort of the de facto organizers [sic] for our group, although not — there was no official command structure, because, again, it was an informal quasi think tank, if you will.

Page later describes Gordon as the most formal of the foreign policy group.

[T]he thing with J.D. is that — again, we’re an informal group, right. He was probably the most formal. I believe he may have even had — if I’m not mistaken, he may have had a Trump campaign email address. I had spoken with him on that — a few occasions that are — you know, we’d get together for a dinner. I may have sent an email or two to him on that. And again, he never definitively answered one way or another.

And Page seems to have treated his conversations with Gordon with some sensitivity (though there’s any number of reasons why this might be true, including that they were running a cutthroat political campaign). Eric Swalwell walks Page through an email in which he warned Gordon, in advance of a call, that he’d be in the “Third World” Laguardia Sky Club so could only listen, not speak.

Mr. Swalwell: In a May 24th, 2016, email to J.D. Gordon, Bates stamped [redacted], you wrote: “FYI: At the Newark Sky Club, Delta has a private room when you can have a confidential conversation, but, unfortunately, no such luck at Third World LaGuardia. So I’ll mostly be on receive mode, since there are a significant number of people in the lounge.”

Later in testimony, Schiff describes an email Page sent two days later, telling Gordon, “I’m planning to speak alongside the chairman and CEO of Sberbank as we’ll both be giving commencement addresses as Mosscow’s New economic School on July 8” (in fact the meeting never happened; though that may be because Dvorkovich replaced him).

Perhaps most damning of all, when Page “mentioned to [Jeff Sessions] in passing” (yet another exchange that shows Sessions perjured himself before the Senate) that he was about to go to Moscow, Gordon and Papadopoulos were present as well.

Mr. Schiff: Let me take you back to what we were discussing before our break, the meeting you had at the Republican National Headquarters I think is the building you’re referring to, if I understand correctly. What was the nature of the discussions at that meeting with Mr. Sessions, then-Senator Sessions — was J.D. Gordon present?

Mr. Page: I believe he was.

Mr. Schiff: And George Papadopoulos you believe was there?

Mr. Page: I believe, yes, to the best of my recollection.

This puts some of the key players together, discussing how Page’s trip to Moscow might benefit the campaign.

Finally, in spite of his efforts to downplay his exchange with Dvokovich, Page’s letter to Gordon boasting about it was a key focus.

Mr. Schiff: And in that [email], 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 Schoo, NES, in Moscow, including their 2006 [sic] commencement ceremony. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and NES 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 toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems”?

The others

While less substantive than the focus on JD Gordon, it’s clear Democratic members were interested in the roles of others: Corey Lewandowski, who “hired” Page and okayed his trip to Russia, Hope Hicks, who was in the loop, Sam Clovis, who made him sign an NDA and had another meeting with him before he left for Russia, and Michael Cohen, who kept the NDA (and in fact didn’t provide Page his promised copy). Schiff also got the list of those responsible for changing the platform (which I think is overblown) into the record: in addition to Gordon, Joseph Schmitz, Bert Mizusawa, Chuck Kubic, Walid Phares, and Tera Dahl.

But the most interesting exchange came right at the end, when Schiff walked Page through a list of people he might have interacted when. When he asked about Eric Trump, Page admitted to sending his resignation to the son.

Mr. Schiff: Eric Trump.

Mr. Page: I — when I sent in my letter of — saying that I am taking a leave of absence from the campaign, I sent an email to him and a bunch of other individuals. So that was on — late Sunday night, after I sent the letter to James Comey. I sent a copy of that to them.

Mr. Schiff: So you sent a letter to Eric Trump, but you have had no other interaction with him apart from that?

Mr. Page: No. No.

Mueller probably interviewed Page during the Papadopoulos lag

Finally, there is perhaps the most important detail. Page admits he has spoken with the FBI this year 4-5 times (he appears to have been represented by a lawyer earlier this year, but he’s now draining his savings and representing himself). When asked if he has met with Mueller’s investigators, he notes what I did: his October 10 letter sort of pleading the Fifth was addressed, first and foremost, to Robert Mueller, which would put his testimony between the time George Papadopoulos pled guilty to false statements and the time it was unsealed — the time when Mueller was locking in the testimony of everyone implicated by Papadopoulos’ cooperation.

As I noted the other day, in the affidavit the FBI wrote explaining why they wanted to seal any notice of Papadopoulos’ plea deal, they described their plans to get the testimony of the people who had knowledge between Russians and the campaign.

The investigation is ongoing and includes pursuing leads from information provided by and related to the defendant regarding communications he had, inter alia, with certain other individuals associated with the campaign. The government will very shortly seek, among other investigative steps, to interview certain individuals who may have knowledge of contacts between Russian nationals (or Russia-connected foreign nationals) and the campaign, including the contacts between the defendant and foreign nationals set forth in the Statement of Offense incorporated into the defendants plea agreement.

All the people interviewed in what I’ll call the Papadopoulos lag — the time between when he pled guilty and the time they unsealed his plea — likely operated with the false confidence that the Mueller team would not know of conversations among campaign staffers. It appears that Page (like Sam Clovis, and, probably,JD Gordon) was interviewed in that period.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

54 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    “. . . likely operated with the false confidence that . . .”

    You can probably save this phrase, because something tells me you’re going to need it a lot in the days and weeks ahead.

    For that matter, it probably could be applied to anyone doing anything in the Oval Office since Jan 20, 2017.

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Gordon just told NBC that he tried to stop the Moscow trip but that Page went over his head “directly to campaign leadership”.

    The cited emails seem to be a lot more succinct than either the screeds he’s addressed to various people, or the way he speaks in interviews and testimony. (If his thesis reads like those, I’m just going to laugh and laugh and laugh at SOAS.) A wee bit florid, perhaps, but mostly to the point. And we’d assume that Gordon and others in the campaign wouldn’t need an extended discussion of the meaning of “meet”. But maybe he was bullshitting them as well?

    I did notice how wibbly he got about perhaps having to turn over his WhatsApp messages.

    We should certainly assume that Gordon’s sudden burst of publicity was like that of Toensing-for-Clovis: that is, he already got called in by Mueller during the Papadopoulos lag and wanted to get his story out for the public record and anybody who hasn’t yet had a chat with the SCO, such as Hope Hicks. I wonder why the WH specifically confirmed that Hicks was booked in with Mueller after the Asia trip?

    • emptywheel says:

      Right. And that “behind the back” claim is the same thing he said about Papadopoulos. It seems clear there are comms that belie that.

  3. Peterr says:

    That opening conversation had to have been on July 6th, as Portugal and Ronaldo were taking out Wales in the UEFA European championship semifinals.  In the finals on July 10 against the home team France, Ronaldo went off early with an injury, in a game that did not end until a Portugal goal in overtime settled things 1-0.

    For someone who brags about his international chops and is known for his love of things Russian, being ignorant of international soccer does not help boost his image — especially since Russia is supposed to host the 2018 World Cup.

  4. orionATL says:

    i’ve never had a great deal of confidence that the trump “rolling chaos” campaign actually got around to co-ordinating activities with the russians to damage the clinton campaign, but the more i read here and the more i learn of mueller’s discoveries, the more i think some sort of co-operation and some sort of tacitly understood quid pro quo, may well have been operating to damage to the clinton effort.

    overall though the key issue of motive to co-ordinate is clouded by the fact that each side had its own incentive to go after clinton – neither needed to bribe the other.

    nonetheless, it does seem that a number of the trump guys were all-in to work with the russians (i keep wanting to type “soviets”). was this motive personal preferance (experience with russians), ideology, or maybe a sense of a disadvantaged campaign that needed all the outside help it could get? starting with experienced hands like sen. sessions, gen. flynn, oil businessman carter page and then lesser lights, these folks gravitated toward russia like moths to the flame. why? maybe trump set the tone for his campaign; he had had at least 20 yrs of business experience with russians.

    a “problem” in my mind is that there are a lot of threads (people) tangled together, but they all seem weak threads – no one is ever caught in an email exchange or in a hotel room with an fsb guy. but maybe that’s the way sophisticated subversion efforts work if they are illegal.** on the other hand there is a pattern slowly emerging of a number of these trump men communicating with each other and with russians with ties leading to putin. (there are no women – none – described so far among the trumpsters.)

    ** the “clinton cash” gambit was a legal move. on the origins of that smear from mercer, bannon, and peter schweizer seeb

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/07/steve-bannon-bermuda-robert-mercer https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/07/steve-bannon-bermuda-robert-mercer

    • jp says:

      a “problem” in my mind is that there are a lot of threads (people) tangled together, but they all seem weak threads – no one is ever caught in an email exchange or in a hotel room with an fsb guy. but maybe that’s the way sophisticated subversion efforts work if they are illegal.

       

      Excuse me for asking but did you just say witch hunt ? To my eyes dunking stools comes to mind reading the above.

      • orionATL says:

        this is NOT a witch hunt. this is an investigation of an effort by the russian gov’t to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election – which they succeeded in doing. an important question that is part of the larger investigation is whether the trump campaign, or solo trump operatives, assisted the russians in those efforts.

        at the heart of the russian effort to influence the election was a massive, co-ordinated use of new technology in the form of internet social networks, e. g., facebook, twitter, combined with advertising marketing psychology to create and disseminate election propaganda on a wide scale.

        for an example of how this is influencing the current governor’s race in virginia see:

        https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/twitter-bots-sockpuppets-trump-virginia_us_5a01039de4b0368a4e869817?

      • SC says:

        Huh? Pierce quotes Swalwell and Page’s dates about Page’s December 2016 trip to Russia. Pierce makes no claims I see about dates related to Page being impacted by the dossier. That Yahoo article, as far as I can tell, doesn’t mention Page, his trip to Russia, threats, or the dossier.

         

         

        • orionATL says:

          yeah. i noticed that too. don’t understand why the yahoo cite was used. it seems all about the dnc hack.

          many a slip twixt…

      • orionATL says:

        steve m. –

        what were the sept smears isikoff promoted?

        your yahoo cite seems unhelpful in this regard. here is another (isikoff, sept. 23, 2016)that seems more relevant:

        https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-s-intel-officials-probe-ties-between-trump-adviser-and-kremlin-175046002.html

        as for the “smear” in the dossier, are you referring to a meeting with sechin?

        if so, i already cited this below (3:58pm), which seems highly relevant for a dossier that was clearly gossip, aka raw intell, i. e., loose assertions about something that had in fact happened:

        “… In particular, the dossier claimed that Page met with two particular Russians during his trip, but Page insisted that he’s never met either.

        One of those was Igor Sechin, the CEO of the Rosneft oil company, which is majority owned by the Russian government. According to the dossier, Sechin and Page had a secret meeting on Moscow on either July 7 or July 8, at which Sechin offered Trump associates a large stake in his company and Page said Trump would lift US sanctions on Rosneft if elected.

        Page contemptuously denied all of this, straightforwardly asserting that he’s never met Sechin in a way that sounded more or less believable.

        But then, under questioning, Page admitted that during that trip, he met with one of Sechin’s subordinates — Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, with whom he had a preexisting relationship.

        Page went on to admit that they may have discussed sanctions in “general” terms, and that they might have discussed the planned sale of a large stake in Rosneft because it was “in the news.”… ”

        in this case at least it sounds, not surprisingly, that the steele dossier gossip was “sort of” right, just as archaeologists often find that native tales of events far back in their history are substantially correct… “

        • maybe ryan says:

          Who knows. The dossier could be right.

          But I imagine most Americans in Russia that summer were discussing both sanctions and the imminent sale of Rosneft.  Here again, Page’s admissions don’t actually admit to anything interesting.

          If he was just lying, you’d think he’d lie completely and say they talked about other things.

          His hedging seems based on his fear that they have him on tape, and can prove he’s lying about talking about sanctions.  But if they have him on tape offering the end of sanctions in exchange for a share of Rosneft, then guilty, case closed, without any need to resort to a charge of lying to Congress.

          This seems to line up best with someone who believes tapes would largely exonerate him, but wants to avoid getting charged for some minor discrepancy in his testimony.

          • greengiant says:

            3/21/16 Carter Page appointed Foreign policy advisoer,  recommended by Sessions and GP meets Mifsud and a Russian national.

            5/3/16  Chalupa complains about state sponsored attacks on her email  after starting to investigate Manafort while she worked for DNC

            7/21/16 ,  Rosneft owes Western banks 30 billion,  no approval to acquire Bashneft.

            http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/07/21/putin-puts-the-brakes-on-sechin/

            7/25/16,  Isikoff  reports Russians hacked DNC   ( Not based on Guccifer 2.0 metadata ? )

            One can guess that the Page hunt is on in August if not earlier, and this WaPo article has enough crazy in it to make interest in Page independent of the dossier. Hicks refers to Page as an “informal foreign affairs adviser”   August 5th,  2016

            Compare Pages comments to Professor Mifsud’s and current Trumpian agitprop.

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-advisers-public-comments-ties-to-moscow-stir-unease-in-both-parties/2016/08/05/2e8722fa-5815-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html

            Above orionATL links the, ( relentlessly anti Trump), Isikoff Sept 23, 2016 article above.https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-s-intel-officials-probe-ties-between-trump-adviser-and-kremlin-175046002.html,   Rumors were that Fusion GPS was shopping the dossier at this point.

             

            • maybe ryan says:

              Thanks for the links, which are interesting.  Obviously you object to some of what I had written, but I’m not sure exactly what part, nor exactly how you think these links point in a different direction.

              Clearly Page was pro-Russia.  To me, these links also show that Page had his Russia crush prior to joining team Trump.

              I think what gets ignored, as shown by Josh Marshall wondering out loud whether there could be any other excuse for all this, is that there was a real strain of foreign policy thinking before Trump that called for closer ties to Russia.  Page seems to have been part of this.  As the Syrian moderates lost to both extremes, the pro-Russia party grew in strength (watch the progression at Pat Lang’s Turcopolier for instance), and the migrant crisis brought it to the fore, while crystalizing links with nativism here and in Europe, especially in southern Europe, where the migrant crisis hit hardest.  That’s the crucible for Trumpism.

              I have no doubt there was a strong, coordinated Russian attack on the American election, and that Trump and many around him welcomed it.  I suspect there was coordination.

              But I’m dubious that that coordination flowed through Carter Page, and even question whether he knew about it.  The emails that others read as hinting at larger plots seem far too hapless to me.  He’s cc-ing too many people.  They’re too enthusiastic.  His fall from grace with the campaign seems too real.  And no one seems to be helping him now.  If he knew anything, he’d have a lawyer, and a job.  To some degree, I think the same of Papadopoulos.  As some have said of Page, if this is an act, he is the consummate actor.

              To the degree I believe Page might have had any role in the coordination of the Russian attack, I think the questioning from Schiff was utterly incompetent.  For instance, the Post piece you link to has a quote from a Russian saying Page merely “met with some university professors for informal coffees.”  As I said elsewhere, if Page was exchanging significant information or consummating deals, it didn’t happen in the handshake line after his speech.  So Schiff should have been focused on what else Page did while he was there, who else he met, when, where.

              That Schiff zeroed in on the silly line of attack that Page “met/met with/had a meeting with” Dvorkovich in the lecture hall while others milled about tells me that Schiff doesn’t think there’s any value in getting to the bottom of who all Page might have talked to, when and where, in trying to trip him up on his real whereabouts.

              Since I doubt Schiff is incompetent, that ginning up fake controversy had more value than exploring real issues, that the only value of Page to Democrats is in treason theater, and that Mueller is likely looking elsewhere for real treason.

              Of course, any cannier foreign policy hand would have been more cautious than Page.  He did meet with a Russian intelligence agent in 2013.  He did talk blithely to people who should have made him uneasy.

              That does run counter to my analysis, and keeps me wondering whether maybe he was an early courier, laying the basis for stronger lines of communication through Manafort and/or the Cohen/Sater connection and/or the Kushners.

        • Steve McIntyre says:

          yes, that’s correct link for Sept 23 Isikoff article that I mentioned (sorry for wrong link).

          Steele Dossier allegation was that Page was key intermediary in the supposed collusion between Russian government and Trump campaign. Meetings with Sechin and Diveykin were supposedly episodes of collusion. Page had worked with Gazprom in the past and had friends in it. I don’t see anything untoward in Page meeting with a prior friend. It’s what people do.

          Steele Dossier assertion that Page had been personally offered 19.5% of Rozneft (billions of dollars) in exchange for lifting sanctions is laughable on its face.  Entirely different than whether they discussed Rosneft’s proposed sale of 19.5% of its shares. That’s the sort of thing that business people would reasonably discuss.

          I don’t believe for a minute that Page was part of a complicated conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

          He’ll probably get charged by Mueller’s thugs who will claim that his inconsistent and mixed up answers were obstruction of justice, rather than someone lost in the headlights. One of Mueller’s thugs, Andrew Weissman, has a history of ruining innocent or non-culpable parties and that appears to be their intent once again.

           

           

           

  5. Steve McIntyre says:

    if Eskimos have 20 words for snow, then Washington should accommodate more than one word for “meeting”.  Seems entirely reasonable for Page to distinguish between a few words in a reception line or scrum and a formal meeting in an office.

    Page was originally charged in the dossier with being one of the key conduits for collusion between Trump campaign and Kremlin and to have held secret meetings with Sechin and Diveykin.  These charges seem to be total fantasy on the part of the Steele dossier and Clinton campaign.

    I read all of Page’s evidence and feel sorry for the guy. He was libeled by Steele and DNC. He now has no income, limited savings and has to try to put his life together while being bullied by Mueller’s thugs, FBI and Washington committees, pursuing false lead from Steele libel.

     

    • Avattoir says:

      That entry in the dossier was derived from the RUs pov, da nyet? If the goal was burrowing into the Trump campaign, whether for influence or kompromat, then it should not surprise that those at the RUs end might attribute to those such as Page & Papadopoulos more status than the scattering activities of those left to defend the Trump campaign would acknowledge.

      Also, I don’t get the sympathy for Page, at all. He certainly hasn’t earned any from either his testimonial attitude or his public crying.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Oh, pish. He was at very best (going by the Julia Ioffe profile published in September 2016) a blagger and chancer and hanger-on who wanted to cash in on the dodgy Russian/ex-USSR energy industry and had already hung out with SVR agents pretending to be attachés for “Russian conversational practice.”

      He doesn’t even have the “too young, too dumb” excuse that Papadopoulos might claim. He had agency throughout. Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

      Was Steele reporting back disinfo about Page? It looks fairly likely. Do you feel sorry for Steele, who presumably was just doing his job in the same murky environment, and also has limited income and savings to live off as a result?

      • orionATL says:

        vox says this about that :)

        “… In particular, the dossier claimed that Page met with two particular Russians during his trip, but Page insisted that he’s never met either.

        One of those was Igor Sechin, the CEO of the Rosneft oil company, which is majority owned by the Russian government. According to the dossier, Sechin and Page had a secret meeting on Moscow on either July 7 or July 8, at which Sechin offered Trump associates a large stake in his company and Page said Trump would lift US sanctions on Rosneft if elected.

        Page contemptuously denied all of this, straightforwardly asserting that he’s never met Sechin in a way that sounded more or less believable.

        But then, under questioning, Page admitted that during that trip, he met with one of Sechin’s subordinates — Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, with whom he had a preexisting relationship.

        Page went on to admit that they may have discussed sanctions in “general” terms, and that they might have discussed the planned sale of a large stake in Rosneft because it was “in the news.”… ”

        in this case at least it sounds, not surprisingly, that the steele dossier gossip was “sort of” right, just as archaeologists often find that native tales of events far back in their history are substantially correct.

        quote taken from this vox reporting (“cater page’s bizzare testimoney”) :

        https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/7/16616912/carter-page-testimony-trump-russia

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          The Steele account of Page’s Moscow jaunt in July (which was written up fast, within a couple of weeks) reads more like a game-of-telephone version of what Page sorta-kinda-testified to the committee.

          It’s definitely less disinfo-ish than the I Know What Michael Cohen Did This Summer stuff that showed up later, when Steele’s work was more widely known.

          • orionATL says:

            yes. i keep waiting for michael cohen’s time in the spotlight, given he sure as hell can’t claim he doesn’t know trump personally, but so far no joy.

  6. Rugger9 says:

    Since the transcript has been released I’m sure Mueller is going over it now for (ahem) inconsistencies with what his team had been told before.

    Carter, Junior, Eric, Dougie…. tough choice for the stupidest f__ing person on the planet.  Schwarzkopf chose too soon.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Mad Man Theory, as applied by a potentially key witness. Page may have decided it would be harder to attempt if he were accompanied by a lawyer, an odd decision given that he seems to work inside the Beltway, where half the denizens are lawyers.  It’s like that early scene in Trading Places (in the Heritage Club – With Liberty and Justice for All – Members Only): when the street bum played by Eddie Murphy asks if there’s a lawyer in the house, the members all guiltily turn away.

    It will be interesting to see whether Page’s behavior improves or becomes more chaotic, whether and when he gets a lawyer and who pays for her.  Do I hear the tumbril rolling on the cobblestones?

  8. dc says:

    Who brought these specific guys (PapaD and Page) into the campaign and for what purpose?
    It was not because of their knowledge or experience of national security.

    The only thing they seem to share is being bumbling doofuses, contact with Russians and Russophilia.

    So who wanted to create a portfolio of advisors with those specific qualities?  Was naming them as advisors or letting them join campaign a part of a deal for dirt? An initial test for cooperativity that was supplanted by agreements between Trump Jr and the Russians in June?

    • Peterr says:

      The only thing they seem to share is being bumbling doofuses, contact with Russians and Russophilia.

      You left off the most important thing they share, and that is the very thing that brought them into the campaign: an unswerving and unthinking willingness to lavish obsequious praise upon Donald J. Trump, the Most Amazing Man in the World — a man who is never wrong, always right, and not to be questioned.

  9. maybe ryan says:

    I still find Page and his activities inscrutable.  As apparently does Josh Marshall.   I can’t feel sorry, because he may have been an idiot involved.  I can’t despise him, because he may have been an idiot in way over his head.

    I don’t make much of the literalist’s ‘conflict’ between saying you met someone but also saying you never had a meeting with them; I don’t find much useful in Page’s “admissions” that he shook hands with so and so or exchanged pleasantries; maybe it was more than a handshake, but he didn’t admit to that; I find his hesitance to discuss a presidential campaign in a public lobby of an airport unsurprising – I doubt I’d discuss strategy or policy for a state senate campaign in public; if there were any important exchanges of info between Page and anyone on his lecture trip, I doubt it happened in the receiving line after his speech, so I don’t find any of the so-called ‘admissions’ meaningful at all.

    I’m drawn to the instances of actual meetings of the foreign policy committee; the emails between them; the hierarchy demonstrated, centering on Gordon.  I haven’t yet seen much evidence that Page would have been at the center of anything, though who knows.  It’s hard to believe someone tasked with any important communication would write the way he does about the trip he’s about to have or about what happened on the trip.

    If I assume people put trust in Page, then all these admissions have a different coloration.  At this point, I could believe Page was an important courier; I could also believe he was ignorant of things going on at a higher level, and that his ‘meetings’ were a distraction.

    If I had been on the committee, I would have attempted to nail down his itinerary in Russia a bit more tightly, rather than wasting hours on the met/met with dichotomy.  (I’m sorry, not dichotomoy, conflation, since clearly everyone but me and Carter Page believes the two terms are identical in meaning.)

    At this point, I think the connection of Papadopoulos’s May trip to Athens with Putin’s simultaneous or near simultaneous visit seems far and away a more important story coming out of yesterday. I hope it starts to get some scrutiny.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      I still go back to that Julia Ioffe profile, and how she didn’t know what to make of Page. The impression it gave was that he was either a Zelig-like hanger-on who claimed more influence than he had and was too much of a doofus to open the right doors until getting into the campaign — and maybe too much of a doofus after that! — or someone operating under non-official cover. Re-reading her piece, I only just noticed that she obviously got a call from Steele and his associates (and some other oppo investigator) some time after July and was privy to the gossip:

      As I started looking into Page, I began getting calls from two separate “corporate investigators” digging into what they claim are all kinds of shady connections Page has to all kinds of shady Russians. One is working on behalf of various unnamed Democratic donors; the other won’t say who turned him on to Page’s scent.

      And it still raises the question: if he was such a doofus, with no real client base or access to the higher echelons of influence where lucrative deals are done in that region, how did he even make a living? How long can you sustain a lifestyle that requires a lot of international travel and schmoozing?

  10. maybe ryan says:

    I’d love to see Papadopoulos and Page timelined together.  Seth Abramson writes that ‘cryptic’ email to Gordon comes 72 hours before the Papadopoulos trip to Athens.

    • bmaz says:

      Warning: Seth Abramson is a vacuous dolt. So is Renato Mariotti.

      I know Twitter and media plays these shallow “experts” up like they actually are saying something important, but that is not correct. They are not, either one of them. Again, shallow bullshit.

      • maybe ryan says:

        Point taken.

        But I draw a bright line between reporters and commentators, and I’ve always preferred the former.  I don’t even read most of the columnists that even most intelligent people seem to get their news from.  There’s a big difference along those lines between Mariotti and Abramson.  I take Abramson’s analysis with a grain of salt, but he has found information that should be part of the discussion.

        The articles in Greek papers are a useful part of trying to define who Papadopoulos was.  No one else seems to have tracked them down.  His repeated meetings with Kammenos are interesting even if they have nothing to do with Putin’s trip.  I certainly don’t think anyone sent GP to sit down with Putin himself, but the timing is pretty suggestive of some effort at contact, given that it’s hard to understand why else GP would have gone back to Greece two weeks after his first trip.

        Prompted by Abramson’s idea of looking in foreign papers, I thought to search Italian papers, and found the Il Foglio article which a) confirmed my hunch that GP speaks Hebrew, a small but interesting fact that gives him a bit more credibility in his narrow specialty of the eastern Mediterranean; and b) reported on rumors current in DC in Nov/Dec 2016 that he would become Trump’s “Syria guy,” a frightening thought but also an interesting fact, suggesting that the true break with GP came later, sometime around the Inauguration.  I also found the Jerusalem Post columnist who called GP impressive, after lunching with him and Israeli researchers from the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  I don’t mean to puff up George Papa into George Kennan.  But one can see more easily why he had some currency in the campaign.  I started out believing him a stuffed shirt.  I’ve come to see him as a talented guy who was also stuffing his shirt, and had no idea how far he was in over his head.

        On a re-read of a number of things, I’ve become much more dubious of Page’s membership in the inner circle of any Russia conspiracy, and my thinking of Papadopoulos is similar. I’m even open to the possibility they had no idea what was going on.  They may have made mistakes, may have crossed lines of legality, may even have wanted to be involved in nefarious Russian efforts.  But I think people closer to Trump expelled them from whatever their roles were, because neither was a ‘made man.’

        I would still love to see them timelined together, and have started to do so, because I think it will tell us a lot about the initial Russian efforts in this hesitant courtship

        • maybe ryan says:

          Another angle on GP that I consider.  It’s interesting that Gordon at one point seemed to think GP was untouchable, but that he was on the outs with the campaign by September/October (per the Greek papers), then brought back in (reportedly by Trump himself) from Halloween and the Astoria trip through Inauguration or shortly before, then bounced once and for all.

          Did Manafort use him as a courier, which meant he knew too much?  But when Manafort moved on, the institutional memory was lost, and no one knew the importance of keeping GP inside the tent pissing out rather than outside pissing in.  Except Trump, who also forgot at some point.

          I’m sure the generals didn’t want GP as their “Syria guy,” but it’s still hard to believe no one found a place for him at all.

        • maybe ryan says:

          My “point taken” was meant to be BMaz’s point, but Willis’s comment, also a reasonable point, showed up in between.

    • bmaz says:

      As I said, I think he is ridiculously shallow for the publicity and media adoption he is relentlessly given.

  11. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Them? I am not liking how I parse this:

    Mr. Page: I — when I sent in my letter of — saying that I am taking a leave of absence from the campaign, I sent an email to him and a bunch of other individuals. So that was on — late Sunday night, after I sent the letter to James Comey. I sent a copy of that to them.

    [Sure sounds like he forwarded a copy of his email to Comey to Eric Trump and others!
    Not smart in my book. I’m sure Mueller knows who the others are]

    Mr. Schiff: So you sent a letter to Eric Trump, but you have had no other interaction with him apart from that?

    Mr. Page: No. No.

    [And Schiff carefully segues away from possible screwup slip by Page?]

    [I am missing the reason for an alternative parse, which would require Comey giving a damn that Page was dropping out]

  12. Desider says:

    Well, it seems everyone comes off as a self-possessed dolt in this passion play. Anyone doing better?

  13. perris says:

    as everyone knows the Republicans are normalizing the firing of Mueller, Stories being spread and conflict of interest being charged.

    I think it’s when, not if he gets fired by Trump,

    the Republicans will rejoice and say it should have happened sooner it will not be a Saturday night Massacre.

    I sure hope Mueller realizes this and already has additional secret indictments, for the time when not if he does get fired, if not I fear All Is Lost

    • Rugger9 says:

      “Trying” to normalize, but outside of the Fauxbots, no one in the media accepts the GOP stories that are being peddled now, and unless there is a clear smoking gun (not just innuendo) showing Mueller being unfair, no one will believe any cover story trotted out by the Kaiser and his minions.  We already have the example of the Comey firing and the ever-changing stories about meetings with the Russians plus admitted conduct from George P.  Why, just today Lewandowski “refreshed” his memory that he did send Page out to Russia after categorically denying it for months.

      This is why the Papadopoulos plea is so terrifying to the Palace, because it seems GP likely wore a wire and now all of those prior denials are going to be contradicted by tapes.  So, before Mueller charges them for lying the rats are busy trying to “correct the record” by whatever euphemism they choose to employ.

      With that said I think more hammers are dropping by Friday or at the latest Monday since if Flynn were interested in cooperating that would be apparent by now to Mueller.  Every indictment makes it harder to fire him, and he knows how to handle the political side.

  14. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Lewandowski is now beep-beep-beep-reversing in public and saying that his memory was “refreshed” by reading Page’s testimony. He was, I suppose, very busy at the time. His role in bringing Page on to the campaign at Ed Cox’s urging was, I think, a new data point.

  15. maybe ryan says:

    Another thing on Seth Abramson – he does seem to have zeroed in on Gordon quite early.

    People who do their own thinking make a lot of mistakes, some of them real rookie mistakes.  Abramson looks like one of those to me, a guy who is both making mistakes most reporters never would, and noticing things they never would.

  16. dalloway says:

    I think Page is a doofus with the attention span of a gnat, attached to the Drumpf campaign because he was Kremlin-approved, if not actively put in place by the Russians.  Few Republicans were willing to work for  Trump, they were scrambling to hire both during the campaign and after the election, and political novice Trump had no idea who was qualified and who wasn’t.  That’s a golden opportunity for Putin to stock the campaign and administration with personnel of his choosing —  most likely compromised themselves — who’d look after Russia’s interests, large and small, financial and political.  That universe is also small, which gave bottom of the barrel guys like Carter Page roles far bigger than their “talents.”

    • maybe ryan says:

      You may have a different definition of doofus. Perhaps you believe the curve of intelligence has an unlimited tail.  Then, depending on frame of reference, almost all of us are doofuses, so far inferior are we to those beyond us.

      I think the curve of intelligence is limited, and I would have trouble calling anyone a doofus who was put in two management positions at Merrill, and in a very different intellectual setting earned a Master’s at Georgetown.  By any normal standard he’s very bright.  My sense is that he was not so much beyond his capacity as he was beyond his field of experience being plopped into a Presidential campaign that had no one around who knew what they were doing. Arguably, he has the flaw of hubris, of not recognizing how much he doesn’t know.  But that’s pretty common.

      Loads of people think he’s an idiot for not having an attorney.  But most of those people think he did something wrong.  If he really just shook hands with dignitaries and met with a few academics and old friends who are mid-level apparatchiks at Rosneft, and is never charged, then who is the fool?

      Many campaigns would be delighted with a Carter Page-level person as a staffer or volunteer committee member. They would know how to use her.  They would have support services (like legal advice) to help keep her onside.  They would have a functioning committee structure with an agenda, work flows, conversations to vet ideas like “hey, I know a guy who knows Putin,” and determine which of the two guys who know a guy should follow up.  Most of the time, a member of a foreign policy committee isn’t running operations; or if they are, it’s exactly the type of thing Page was talking about – let’s get him speaking somewhere.  That his political judgment was utterly flawed is a separate issue.  Most campaigns don’t trust their foreign policy committee for political judgments.  They trust them to flesh out policy decisions that, for high-profile issues, flow from the political staff.

    • PG says:

      One could be called worse :)   In light of the cautionary tale against certainty and groupthink that Boas’ vindication (in this case) typifies, I thought it was worth posting the story.

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