On the Grassley-Feinstein Dispute

In a podcast with Preet Bharara this week, Sheldon Whitehouse had the following exchange about whether he thought Carter Page should have been surveilled. (after 24:30)

Whitehouse: I’ve got to be a little bit careful because I’m one of the few Senators who have been given access to the underlying material.

Bharara: Meaning the affidavit in support of the FISA application.

Whitehouse And related documents, yes. The package.

Bharara: And you’ve gone to read them?

Whitehouse: I’ve gone to read them.

Bharara: You didn’t send Trey Gowdy?

Whitehouse: [Laughs] I did not send Trey Gowdy. I actually went through them. And, so I’ve got to be careful because some of this is still classified. But the conclusion that I’ve reached is that there was abundant evidence outside of the Steele dossier that would have provoked any responsible FBI with a counterintelligence concern to look at whether Carter Page was an undisclosed foreign agent. And to this day the FBI continues to assert that he was a undisclosed Russian foreign agent.

For the following discussion, then, keep in mind that a very sober former US Attorney has read the case against Carter Page and says that the FBI still — still, after Page is as far as we know no longer under a FISA order — asserts he “was” an undisclosed foreign agent (it’s not clear what that past tense “was” is doing, as it could mean he was a foreign agent until the attention on him got too intense or remains one; also, I believe John Ratcliffe, a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and also a former US Attorney, has read the application too).

With that background, I’d like to turn to the substance of the dispute between Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein over the dossier, which has played out in the form of a referral of Christopher Steele to FBI for lying. In the wake of the Nunes memo theatrics, Grassley released first a heavily redacted version of the referral he and Lindsey Graham sent the FBI in early January, followed by a less-redacted version this week. The referral, even as a transparent political stunt, is nevertheless more substantive than Devin Nunes’ memo, leading some to take it more seriously.  Which may be why Feinstein released a rebuttal this week.

In case you’re wondering, I’m tracking footnote escalation in these documents. They line up this way:

  • 0: Nunes memo (0 footnotes over 4 pages, or 1 over 6 if you count Don McGahn’s cover letter)
  • 2.6: Grassley referral (26 footnotes over 10 pages)
  • 3.6: Schiff memo (36 footnotes, per HPSCI transcript, over 10 pages)
  • 5.4: Feinstein rebuttal (27 footnotes over 5 pages)

So let me answer a series of questions about the memo as a way of arguing that, while by all means the FBI’s use of consultants might bear more scrutiny, this is still a side-show.

Did Christopher Steele lie?

The Grassely-Graham referral says Steele may have lied, but doesn’t commit to whether classified documents obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee (presumably including the first two Page applications), a declaration Steele submitted in a British lawsuit, or Steele’s statements to the FBI include lies.

The FBI has since provided the Committee access to classified documents relevant to the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele and whether the FBI relied on his dossier work. As explained in greater detail below, when information in those classified documents is evaluated in light of sworn statements by Mr. Steele in British litigation, it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements.

On September 3, 2017 — a good three months before the Grassley-Graham referral — I pointed to a number of things in the Steele declaration, specifically pertaining to who got the dossier or heard about it when, that I deemed “improbable.”

That was the genius of the joint (!!) Russian-Republican campaign of lawfare against the dossier. As Steele and BuzzFeed and Fusion tried to avoid liability for false claims against Webzilla and Alfa Bank and their owners, they were backed into corners where they had to admit that Democrats funded the dossier and made claims that might crumble as Congress scrutinized the dossier.

So, yeah, I think it quite possible that Steele told some stretchers.

Did Christopher Steele lie to the FBI?

But that only matters if he lied to the FBI (and not really even there). The UK is not about to extradite one of its former spies because of lies told in the UK — they’re not even going to extradite alleged hacker Lauri Love, because we’re a barbaric country. And I assume the Brits give their spooks even more leeway to fib a little to courts than the US does.

The most critical passage of the referral on this point, which appears to make a claim about whether Steele told the FBI he had shared information with the press before they first used his dossier in a Page application, looks like this.

The footnote in the middle of that redacted passage goes to an unredacted footnote that says,

The FBI has failed to provide the Committee the 1023s documenting all of Mr. Steele’s statements to the FBI, so the Committee is relying on the accuracy of the FBI’s representation to the FISC regarding the statements.

1023s are Confidential Human Source reports.

I say that’s the most important passage because the referral goes on to admit that in subsequent FISA applications the FBI explained that the relationship with Steele had been terminated because of his obvious involvement in the October 31, 2016 David Corn story. Graham and Grassley complain that the FBI didn’t use Steele’s defiance of the FBI request not to share this information with anyone besides the FBI to downgrade his credibility rankings. Apparently FISC was less concerned about that than Graham and Grassley, which may say more about standards for informants in FISA applications than Steele or Carter Page.

The footnote, though, is the biggest tell. That’s because Feinstein’s rebuttal makes it quite clear that after Grassley and Graham made their referral, SJC received documents — which, given what we know has been given to HPSCI, surely include those 1023s — that would alter the claims made in the referral.

The Department of Justice has provided documents regarding its interactions with Mr. Steele to the Judiciary Committee both before and after the criminal referral was made. Despite this, the Majority did not modify the criminal referral and pressed forward with its original claims, which do not take into account the additional information provided after the initial January 4 referral.

Feinstein then goes on to state, several times and underlining almost everything for emphasis, that the referral provides no proof that Steele was ever asked if he had served as the source for Isikoff.

  • Importantly, the criminal referral fails to identify when, if ever, Mr. Steele was asked about and provided a materially false statement about his press contacts.
  • Tellingly, it also fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI’s permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.


But the criminal referral provides no evidence that Steele was ever asked about the Isikoff article, or if asked that he lied.

In other words, between the redacted claim about what Steele said and Feinstein’s repeated claims that the referral presents no evidence Steele was asked about his prior contacts with the press, the evidence seems to suggest that Steele was probably not asked. And once he was, after the Corn article, he clearly did admit to the FBI he had spoken with the press. So while it appears Steele blew off the FBI’s warnings not to leak to the press, the evidence that he lied to the FBI appears far weaker.

Does it harm the viability of the FISA application?

That should end the analysis, because the ostensible purpose of the referral is a criminal referral, not to make an argument about the FISA process.

But let’s assess the memo’s efforts to discredit the FISA application.

In two places, the referral suggests the dossier played a bigger role in the FISA application than, for example, Whitehouse suggests.

Indeed, the documents we have reviewed show that the FBI took important investigative steps largely based on Mr. Steele’s information–and relying heavily on his credibility.


Mr. Steele’s information formed a significant portion of the FBI’s warrant application, and the FISA application relied more heavily on Steele’s credibility than on any independent verification or corroboration for his claims. Thus the basis for the warrant authorizing surveillance on a U.S. citizen rests largely on Mr. Steele’s credibility.

These claims would be more convincing, however, if they acknowledged that FBI had to have obtained valuable foreign intelligence off their Page wiretap over the course of the year they had him wiretapped to get three more applications approved.

Indeed, had Grassley and Graham commented on the addition of new information in each application, their more justifiable complaint that the FBI did not alert FISC to the UK filings in which Steele admitted more contact with the press than (they claim) show up in the applications would be more compelling. If you’re going to bitch about newly learned information not showing up in subsequent applications, then admit that newly acquired information showed up.

Likewise, I’m very sympathetic with the substance of the Grassley-Graham complaint that Steele’s discussions with the press made it more likely that disinformation got inserted into the dossier (see my most recently post on that topic), but I think the Grassley-Graham complaint undermines itself in several ways.

Simply put, the more people who contemporaneously knew that Mr. Steele was compiling his dossier, the more likely it was vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, the British litigation, which involves a post-election dossier memorandum, Mr. Steele admitted that he received and included in it unsolicited–and unverified–allegations. That filing implies that implies that he similar received unsolicited intelligence on these matters prior to the election as well, stating that Mr. Steele “continued to receive unsolicited intelligence on the matters covered by the pre-election memoranda after the US Presidential election.” [my underline]

The passage is followed by an entirely redacted paragraph that likely talks about disinformation.

This is actually an important claim, not just because it raises the possibility that Page might be unfairly surveilled as part of a Russian effort to distract attention from others (though its use in a secret application wouldn’t have sown the discord it has had it not leaked), but also because we can check whether their claims hold up against the Steele declaration. It’s one place we can check the referral to see whether their arguments accurately reflect the underlying evidence.

Importantly, to support a claim the potential for disinformation in the Steele dossier show up in the form of unsolicited information earlier than they otherwise substantiate, they claim a statement in Steele’s earlier declaration pertains to pre-election memos. Here’s what it looks like in that declaration:

That is, Steele didn’t say he was getting unsolicited information prior to the election; this was, in both declarations, a reference to the single December report.

Moreover, while I absolutely agree that the last report is the most likely to be disinformation, the referral is actually not clear whether that December 13 report ever actually got included in a FISA application. There’s no reason it would have been. While the last report mentions Page, the mention is only a referral back to earlier claims that Trump’s camp was trying to clean up after reports of Page’s involvement with the Russians got made public. So the risk that the December memorandum consisted partially or wholly of disinformation is likely utterly irrelevant to the validity of the three later FISA orders targeting Page.

Which is to say that, while I think worries about disinformation are real (particularly given their reference to Rinat Akhmetshin allegedly learning about the dossier during the summer, which I wrote about here), the case Grassley and Graham make on that point both miscites Steele’s own declaration and overstates the impact of their argued case on a Page application.

What about the Michael Isikoff reference?

Perhaps the most interesting detail in the Grassley-Graham referral pertains to their obsession with the applications’ references to the September 23 Michael Isikoff article based off Steele’s early discussions with the press. Grassley-Graham claim there’s no information corroborating the dossier (there’s a redacted Comey quote that likely says something similar). In that context, they point to the reference to Isikoff without explaining what it was doing there.

The application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page, although it does cite to a news article that appears to be sourced to Mr. Steele’s dossier as well.

Elsewhere, I’ve seen people suggest the reference to Isikoff may have justified the need for secrecy or something, rater than as corroboration. But neither the referral nor Feinstein’s rebuttal explains what the reference is doing.

In this passage, Grassley and Graham not only focus on Isikoff, but they ascribe certain motives to the way FBI referred to it, suggesting the claim that they did not believe Steele was a source for Isikoff was an attempt to “shield Mr. Steele’s credibility.”

There’s absolutely no reason the FBI would have seen the need to shield Steele’s credibility in October. He was credible. More troubling is that the FBI said much the same thing in January.

In the January reapplication, the FBI stated in a footnote that, “it did not believe that Steele gave information to Yahoo News that ‘published the September 23 News Article.”

Let’s do some math.

If I’m doing my math correctly, if the FISA reapplications happened at a regular 90 day interval, they’d look like this.

That’d be consistent with what the Nunes memo said about who signed what, and would fit the firing dates of January 30 for Yates and May 9 for Comey, as well as the start date for Rosenstein of April 26 (Chris Wray started on August 1).

If that’s right, then Isikoff wrote his second article on the Steele dossier, one that made it clear via a link his earlier piece had been based off Steele, before the second application was submitted (though the application would have been finished and submitted in preliminary form a week earlier, meaning FBI would have had to note the Isikoff piece immediately to get it into the application, but the topic of the Isikoff piece — that Steele was an FBI asset — might have attracted their attention).

But that’s probably not right because the Grassley-Graham referral describes a June, not July, reapplication, meaning the application would have been no later than the last week of June. That makes the reauthorization dates look more like this, distributing the extra days roughly proportionately:

That would put the second footnote claiming the FBI had no reason to believe the September Isikoff piece was based on Steele before the time when the second Isikoff piece made it clear.

I’m doing this for a second reason, however. It’s possible (particularly given Whitehouse’s comments) Carter Page remains under surveillance, but for some reason it’s no longer contentious.

That might be the case if the reapplications no longer rely on the dossier.

And I’m interested in that timing because, on September 9, I made what was implicit clear: That pointing to the September Isikoff piece to claim the Steele dossier had been corroborated was self-referential. I’m not positive I was the first, but by that point, the Isikoff thing would have been made explicit.

Does this matter at all to the Mueller inquiry?

Ultimately, though, particularly given the Nunes memo confirmation that the counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s people all stems from the George Papadopoulos tip, and not Page (particularly given the evidence that the FBI was very conservative in their investigation of him) there’s not enough in even the Grassley-Graham referral to raise questions about the Mueller investigation, especially given a point I made out in the Politico last week.

According to a mid-January status report in the case against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, the government has turned over “more than 590,000 items” to his defense team, “including (but not limited to) financial records, records from vendors identified in the indictment, email communications involving the defendants, and corporate records.” He and Gates have received imaged copies of 87 laptops, phones and thumb drives, and copies off 19 search-warrant applications. He has not received, however, a FISA notice, which the government would be required to provide if they planned to use anything acquired using evidence obtained using the reported FISA warrant against Manafort. That’s evidence of just how much of a distraction Manafort’s strategy [of using the Steele dossier to discredit the Mueller investigation] is, of turning the dossier into a surrogate for the far more substantive case against him and others.

And it’s not just Manafort. Not a single thing in the George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn guilty pleas—for lying to the FBI—stems from any recognizable mention in the dossier, either. Even if the Steele dossier were a poisoned fruit, rather than the kind of routine oppo research that Republicans themselves had pushed to the FBI to support investigations, Mueller has planted an entirely new tree blooming with incriminating details.

Thus the point of my graphic above. The Steele dossier evidence used in the Carter Page FISA application to support an investigation into Cater Page, no matter what else it says about the FISA application process or FBI candor, is just a small corner of the investigation into Trump’s people.


61 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lovely work. Thank you.

    Carter Page “was” an undisclosed foreign agent. That’s quite an assertion. It seems consistent with his public profile, which is itself odd. One expects a little deception in such things. Unless Page’s being an obtuse, easily seen through braggart was part of what his foreign handlers (and possibly Trump) found useful about him.

    So, over what period is/was Carter a foreign agent? If that overlaps with his work for Trump, who was he working for when he nominally worked for Trump?

    • Charles says:

      Considering that he was a figure in an espionage investigation in 2013, had met with Russian operatives after (no later than July 2016) he had been told that he was neck-deep in an espionage case, and was boasting about being an informal advisor to the Kremlin in 2013, a better question is why the FBI hadn’t wired him from head to toe a lot earlier.

      • TGuerrant says:

        Well put.  And the answer, I suspect, would be that Page’s psychosis makes him too erratic and self-destructive to be used in any way except as a subject of surveillance.

        • lefty665 says:

          Page was reportedly working for the FBI in the case and trial of a Russian spy from ’13 to spring ’16. That’s no certification of his sanity or rationality, but if the reporting is correct, he was of much more use to the FBI than a subject of surveillance.

          It will interesting to learn more of the Page story. It seems likely there is more there then most (including me) have believed.

        • bmaz says:

          Page was reportedly working for the FBI in the case and trial of a Russian spy from ’13 to spring ’16. 

          There is exactly zero competent evidence to support that statement.

  2. Karl Darx says:

    Marcy sure does a lot of research into the minutae of these complex events, and hard work it certainly must be. But she is still following the rotten red herring that Hillary has dragged through the political landscape. It’s all fake, from top to bottom. The garbage file was Mueller’s core info, and it is worthless.

    But meanwhile there’s tons of hard evidence popping up that Hillary tried to rig the general election after she rigged the primaries, and Obama and the weaponized intel agencies did her dirty work for her, after sweeping her email crimes under the rug. And all of a sudden top people are retiring without notice at the FBI and the DOJ.

    It is highly probable that Bill Priestap has been cooperating closely with the IG investigators since Comey tried to throw him under the bus when Rep. Elise Stefanik questioned him last March. THIS election-rigging is the real story, and it is the scandal of the century. Both Hillary and Obama will be facing serious criminal penalties for what they’ve done. Even with all their power and deep state connections. Nobody of either party should be celebrating – this is awful. Extremely dangerous to our democracy. We cannot let it go uncorrected.

    Trump may be the biggest most obnoxious grunt ever to set foot in the WH, but there was no collusion on his part. And it’s nonsense to think Putin would have wanted him to win. He already had Hillary doing everything he wanted!

    Time to clear out every dirty hand – no matter where, or on what “side”. Pray for America, we stand in a very perilous moment.

    • Charles says:

      To point out the obvious, Hillary is not the president and has essentially zero power in the American government. Investigation of her activities is not exactly urgent and is not suffering the high-level obstruction that the Mueller probe has faced.

      To point out the more-than-obvious, dozens of false and lurid claims have been churned out against Hillary over the last 25 years; none of the significant ones have been found to be true.  That suggests to any reasonable person that they might want to be cautious in giving any credence to the latest claims.

      • Trip says:

        I don’t know what is in Putin’s mind, but he was not overtly complimentary about Clinton, while he was fluffing Trump. The mutual admiration society went on through the entire 2016 campaign. Russian state news outlets were mimicking US tabloids on how Clinton was sick and going to die any minute. For someone looking to put Clinton in office, he used a helluva lot of reverse psychology, if I am to believe the Putin for Clinton narrative. (Including blaming Clinton for protests, and interfering in Russian elections)

    • matt says:

      Hilary thought she know what was best for the DP in the primaries by undermining Bernie Sanders.  A bad move for sure.  Speaking of “every dirty hand” have you considered  the methodical, organized, well funded, and insidious GOP effort for voter suppression and Republican enhanced redistricting?  Are you good with clearing that out too?

  3. TGuerrant says:

    Re: earlofhuntingdon’s comment

    The first half of 2013 is the earliest date I’ve seen for Carter Page’s exchanges with Russian intelligence operatives. He admits to passing information that year “about the energy business” to a Russian intelligence operative, Victor Podobnyy, who worked out of Russia’s UN mission in NYC. Page met Podobnyy at an energy conference in January 2013. In June 2013, FBI counterintelligence agents interviewed Page, so the document hand-off occurred in the first half of that year.

    The FBI had had an investigation running since 2010 with Podobnyy among its targets and would charge him, along with two other Russians, in 2015 with being SVR agents. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/nyregion/3-charged-with-working-as-agents-for-russia-in-new-york.html

    In 2013, the FBI had an intercept of Podobnyy and one of the men he’d be charged with, Igor Sporyshev, discussing the possible recruitment of “Male-1.” Page has confirmed publicly that he was “Male-1.” https://www.buzzfeed.com/alimwatkins/a-former-trump-adviser-met-with-a-russian-spy?utm_term=.gqpr7goXP#.lsl45ZDN8

    In the transcript Podobnyy tells Sporyshev, “I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am… He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. I also promised him a lot… 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.”

    Page had been working for Merrill Lynch in Russia and then as an independent consultant, trying to be a big swinging dick in Russian energy markets, so he may well have had earlier contacts with Russian intelligence operatives.

    So where did he get the brilliant idea to call Ed Cox and ask for an introduction to the Trump campaign in 2016? I haven’t seen that reported, though maybe it’s out there. I’d also like to read about Paul Manafort’s 2016 inspiration to return to U.S. politics in service to Donald Trump.

    • Karl Darx says:

      According to this post, Page was working undercover for the FBI in 2013 and 2016 : https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/02/05/in-march-2016-carter-page-was-an-fbi-employee-in-october-2016-fbi-told-fisa-court-hes-a-spy/

      Looks like it *could* be him.

      Maybe a Fibbie or some other fedgov person gave him the idea?

      • Trip says:

        I’m not going to read anything in a treehouse, but you do realize that assets aren’t always a part of government, right? They might be criminals, street thugs, drug addicts or people who stepped in shit and are trying to save their own butts. I’m not saying Carter Page is any of the above, but he might have stupidly walked into some things he shouldn’t have.

        Like snitches against the mob, after helping the gov’t, they may go on to do other criminal acts. I’m saying this to give you a more diverse perspective.

      • JacobLadder says:

        I’ve heard the same thing about Page, Karl. Imagine if it turns out to be true, and Comey took out a Title 1 warrant on one of this own guys? This would put the cherry on top of the absurd sundae that is the entire Russiagate charade.

        • bmaz says:

          Then you have been listening to idiots or reading nut job bunk like “The Conservative Treehouse”. As to your previous comment and question presented:

          Does anyone here ever bother to ponder such things? 

          Did you ever stop to “ponder” that you have no freaking idea how CI investigations work or how and when relevant criminal charging standards are exercised?

    • Rayne says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI had questions (perhaps already has) about Carter Page. This from WaPo:

      After earning a degree from New York University’s business school, Page moved in 2004 to Moscow, where he worked for Merrill Lynch until 2007. … After he left Moscow, Page worked as chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch’s energy and power department in New York. Later, he set up Global Energy Capital, which is around the corner from Trump Tower. …

      If you were Cox, would you let any walk-on who had just moved back from Moscow work on McCain’s campaign in 2008, then willingly introduce them in 2016 to Lewandowski, and then vouch for them? The window of time in which Cox got to know Page is so very tight. I don’t know, maybe the GOP isn’t picky about these kinds of things.

      (As an side: on going back and reading that WaPo bit, one thing struck me that I’d missed when I read it for my Carter Page timeline. This:

      Merrill Lynch was one of three firms that issued a fairness opinion on the price Gazprom eventually paid the Shell group.

      Page had been working for Merrill Lynch, ostensibly on Gazprom-related business until he left in 2007. He then “worked as chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch’s energy and power department in New York.”

      When did Page buy his Gazprom stock? He claimed he sold it at a loss in August 2016, but was he trying to capitalize on insider information? Was this entire Trump campaign work just a means to boost his own flagging Gazprom holding? Not the first time I’ve asked about insider trading but gee, the work history and timing… ~smh~)

  4. TGuerrant says:

    Re: Karl Darx
    (somehow I lack the mojo to reply directly under posts in any browser)

    Your “Conservative Treehouse” source has three obvious factual errors in it that it uses to float a pretty silly lie. Are you really that easy to fool?

    • Avattoir says:

      I can answer that on behalf of Karl: ‘Yes, I am.’

      The one value I see in these various comments by “Karl Darx” being posted here is that now any among us inclined to surf Reddit threads (“boards”, as the rw nazty boys call them) in search of the latest utterly unsupported trash gathering in the  Great Wingosphere Gyre, needn’t bother: Karl delivers.

      • Charles says:

        Thank you.  American politics is f–ked up enough without (take your pick) right-wing partisans/Russian trolls/total idiots (do I repeat myself?) spreading falsehoods.

      • matt says:

        Karl Darx is no troll- he represents 75% of the population of small town America where I live.  He’s well meaning, but ill-informed.  As painful as it is to dialog with these people… that’s what we have to do to turns things around.  And, also painful is the fact that- though we hate to hear it- there are some serious problems with the Democratic Party and the “Left.”

        I’m not in a big city where I can carefully select my peer group.  I have friends that are actually decent people, that just fawn over T.  Its a slow but steady process, but dialog does change minds over time.

        • JacobLadder says:

          I can’t wait til what really happened comes out, and misguided types like matt must face that scary singular moment of pure cognitive dissonance. As they grapple with the reality that these small-town middle-American yahoos they mocked, were the ones who had it right all along. Look around matt — six DOJ and FBI types already fired or demoted. Ask yourself why.

          McCabe gets shown the door mere hours after Wray reads the Nunes memo. Ask yourself why.

          Don’t worry matt, this is all beginning to come out now. No stopping it. No matter how many more pro-Russiagate posts get thrown out to the blogosphere.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Re reply button, when it doesn’t respond, try right clicking on button for the comment you want to reply to, open new tab.  The reply box should open.  Insert comment and post.  It will appear in the right spot in the string of comments.

    • Trip says:

      Tried to reply to someone and I’m getting 404 messages now.

      Well that was fixed quickly, lol.

      I wanted to mention Control key and select new tab from the menu is another option to reply.

  5. Charles says:

    TGuerrant, with respect to Carter Page’s “psychosis,” (I would prefer a more neutral word such as “eccentricity”), it’s my impression that intelligence agencies often exploit peculiar and even unstable people as sources or even agents, as long as they’re deniable. I have often wondered whether Page wasn’t working at the behest of US intelligence agencies, at least for a time. Certainly his apparent stupidity was an irresistible lure for Podobnyy, Sporyshev, and Buryakov, the spies busted in 2015, and the fact that he wasn’t locked out of Russian circles after the arrest of Buryakov could represent even more Russian hubris. Or he may well have been willing to play both sides of the fence. If US intelligence failed to recognize that he should have been continuously wiretapped, they were (IMO) pretty stupid.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Given Page’s public behavior, my guess would be that both sides might want to use him without his knowledge.  He’s smarter and more disciplined than Trump, but seems equally unable to avoid self-promotion, even when it is entirely uncalled for.

      Page’s public persona seems most like a patsy.  But he might be a useful source to and from supportive friends.  He would understand his role as bridge building, as cover for self-advancement.  A common approach and the only aspect of his persona that would be familiar in power circles.

      His would seem to be an odd role for someone with his education.  But he doesn’t seem to have synthesized much of it; he seems to use it like an aluminum siding salesman uses his foot, to keep the door from being closed on him.

      • Trip says:

        For the purpose of a hypothetical, even if Carter Page was/is an agent, that doesn’t necessarily prove some type of frame-up. An agent might simply act as a lure and spy. It still isn’t clear how Page was reeled into the Trump campaign, or if he was actively seeking a position on his own. His testimony seemed vague on that issue (peering into Trump tower windows is a strange answer). If Page was/is an agent, he was doing work in Russia before Trump ran for office. But eventually, I hope, we will find out what the real deal is with him.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Page seems to have been placed there, on one side by an adviser to Trump.  Not aware of the patron on Page’s side.  That alone seems squirrely.  The Trump campaign’s nearly complete lack of a networking and personnel function would seem to be a perfect vulnerability for someone to exploit.

          Patronage often plays a major role in such staffing, but vetting does too.  Dick Cheney was famous for it.  He controlled many government-wide staffing decisions under Bush the Younger (another highly unusual role for a Vice President).  His perspective, at least, was sound: personnel is policy.  The Trump administration demonstrates that every day, but not in a good way.

  6. Behemoth says:

    I’m unable to respond in-line, but this is in response to Karl Darx’s post on 2/11/18 at 21:15.

    “Male-1” (Page) was in contact with Podobnyy. The undercover FBI employee met with Sporyshev and passed the bugged binder to him. Yes, they both worked with energy concerns, and, yes, they both attended energy conferences, but there’s no evidence that they are, in fact, the same person. Nevermind, the leap from occupational coincidences to a sprawling conspiracy that led to the resignation of John Carlin that the author lays out. It’s worth noting that Page, when asked by Chuck Ross, denied that he was an undercover FBI employee. While it’s not impossible they are one and the same person, it does seem exceedingly unlikely.

  7. orionATL says:

    it really is a perverse outcome that christopher steele is being investigated and the fbi goosed by powerful republican congressional leaders to charge steele with lying to them.

    you might think steele would be due a presidential medal for being the individual responsible for first warning the nation publicly, thru journalists like isikoff (some irony there), of the connection between donald trump’s presidential campaign and the russian government – https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-s-intel-officials-probe-ties-between-trump-adviser-and-kremlin-175046002.html.

    you might also think, if in fact the russian cyberboys had salted the sources steele or his agents interviewed, that those russkies had outsmarted themselves by aiding and abetting steele to come up with convincing chapters in his dossier seriously detrimental to the trump campaign. in fact, steele is being portrayed as the fool.

    thus, curiously, steele is being presented to the american public as anything but a hero – a sucker, a liar, a tool of democratic campaign machinations.

    who is the hero these days? why by measure of attention in the national media that would be devin nunes – the devious republican congressman whose wide-eyed portrait has been all over the front pages and teevee screens.

    american politics these days is full of perversity and surprises.

    • orionATL says:

      at the very least christopher steele should be given credit for some important discoveries:

      – that the russian government was interested in helping donald trump become president

      – that in the latter half of 2016 the fbi was dragging its feet in pursuing the russia-trump connection

      – that the american print media needed to be made aware of the trump-putin alliance

      • greengiant says:

        Fact check request.  At what level of non US citizen involvement does election hacking,  by count, by disenfranchisement and so on become a federal rather than a state crime? I mean besides the FEC law that it is illegal for foreign and certain classes of US residents from donating cash or services.

        Also ponder the question of visitors under the US reciprocal tourist visa or student visa participating as self defined journalists in political demonstrations and events.  Customs and border patrol deny entry to people going to a “women’s march” but we have foreign pro Trump blog and social media personalities going to alt-Right events.

        I don’t give Steele nor Isikoff much credit.  Russian hacker involvement was already well known early in 2016.  By Aug. 5 Roger Stone writes a projection article denying Russian involvement. Notice the Assange-Trump-RT/Sputnik circle jerk by GOP operatives and media. Who did Peter W Smith and Chuck Johnson think they were dealing with on the dark web, the tooth fairy? Bannon’s plan to destroy both parties and the media totally coincided with Putin’s interests.

    • greengiant says:

      Heroes seem to depend on one’s mindset.  Whether paid by oligarchs, some of the people fooled all of the time, racists, misogynists, capitalists who think they are in the 0.1 percent or people burned by government intervention it takes all kinds.

    • Trip says:

      I think the ploy is to create a bad apple scenario, and to diffuse the case against Trump.  If the purpose was to explore abuses, in general, of the FISA court, why wouldn’t they hold an emergency meeting, begin investigations on that, and look to alter legislation? Instead, it’s picking off individual players, but only as they relate to Trump. There is no concern regarding any other subject of this type of surveillance. Their scope seems quite narrow in that regard.

      They want to go on with those same tools for everyone else.

      • orionATL says:

        trip writes:

        “…  If the purpose was to explore abuses, in general, of the FISA court, why wouldn’t they hold an emergency meeting, begin investigations on that, and look to alter legislation?…”

        why indeed :)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That works if the fight is over voter impressions, and assumes a GOP House and/or Senate would be able to stonewall any impeachment, regardless of who he shoots on Fifth Avenue.  We’ll see how that strategery works come November 2018.  When you combine it with normal Republican privilege and pillage, it’s an approach that would explain the many Republican decisions not to run again.

    • orionATL says:

      about the bold grassley-graham lie

      that christopher steele had lied to the fbi:

      ew writes

      “… In other words, between the redacted claim about what Steele said and Feinstein’s repeated claims that the referral presents no evidence Steele was asked about his prior contacts with the press, the evidence seems to suggest that Steele was probably not asked. And once he was, after the Corn article, he clearly did admit to the FBI he had spoken with the press. So while it appears Steele blew off the FBI’s warnings not to leak to the press, the evidence that he lied to the FBI appears far weaker…

      and then cites (sorry about imprecise copying)


      – Importantly, the criminal referral fails to identify when, if ever, Mr. Steele was asked about and provided a materially false statement about his press contacts.

      – Tellingly, it also fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI’s permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.


      But the criminal referral provides no evidence that Steele was ever asked about the Isikoff article, or if asked that he lied… ”

      so what might one infer from this information?

      i infer that the grassley-graham charges against steele are identical in credibility and in intent to the recently released “nunes memo”. thst is, those charges are calculated republican propaganda efforts designed to protect a president that both senator grassley and senator graham by now KNOW with great confidence colluded with the russian government to contravene a normal american presidential election by providing cyber-aid to the trump campaign with the purpose of installing donald trump as a puppet president as concerns russian government intererests.

      • Trip says:

        Also, as mentioned previously, why would you refer this back to the DOJ/FBI to investigate, since they were the original investigators, who would already be aware of said lie, if true?  It’s a sideshow of theater.

    • lefty665 says:

      You gloss over how little of the dossier has been confirmed even more than a year and a half later. Doesn’t mean none of it is true, but remember Marcy’s admonition and don’t be a “Stupid fucking Dem”. Relying on the dossier gives the Repubs an easy out to discount everything.


      • J-Mann says:

        heh   The partisan Rooskie/Trump hunters happily ignore all the flaws and still-not-confirmed status of Steele’s fantasia.  I bet some still spout the “all 17 Intel Agencies” canard.

        Don’t harsh their buzz, dude.  Or bmaz will barge in and insult you in 3…2…1…

        • lefty665 says:

          bmaz is pretty straight about what trips his trigger. Our opinions may vary, but we usually manage to disagree without being disagreeable. His opinions on the law are impeccable, I take off of them.

      • orionATL says:

        lefty –

        no one writing here is less qualified by reason of good intention when commenting on matters involving the dem party than you.

        newer commenters may not know that you have been commenting here for many years in the most bitter, vitriolic terms about virtually every dem leader since roosevelt and about any problem the dem party encounters.

        you are that angry, bitter, perpetually dissatisfied dem critic who twice in the last year brought up and then defended as legitimate criticism the nonsense about clinton having influenced the russian purchase of uranium. that nonsense, which you tried to perpetate here, perfectly encapsulates the meaning of “stupid fucking dem” critic.

        as for glossing over “how little of the dossier has been confirmed”, i’ve done no such thing.

        • lefty665 says:

          Anyone who has been around here for awhile knows that you are the epitome of the “Stupid Fucking Dems” Marcy has cautioned repeatedly about relying on the profoundly sketchy dossier. She has done that because it gives the Repubs the opportunity to discount and brush off all criticism as being without merit, just like the dossier. You could be a Repub provocateur in disguise attempting to discredit legitimate concerns. Or as Stalin used to say, a “useful idiot”.

          Go ahead, please keep extolling how Steele should be awarded “a presidential medal” for spreading phony political sewage. You can only help discredit the hysterical, stupid fucking wing of the Democratic Party. Once that is complete perhaps the country can get down to real issues, of which there are many. Among them are ridding the Democratic Party of elite neoliberals, tantruming hysterics, and getting back to New Deal roots that value working class Americans.

          There is no doubt Bill took $500,000 cold cash from a Russian bank that was involved in the uranium deal, and got a photo op yukking it up with Putin thrown in. The Clinton foundation also reaped $145,000,000 in “donations” from people and organizations involved with the deal.  Not bad pay for facilitating the sale of our country’s strategic uranium reserves to the Russians. Could that be why Hillary has not reaffiliated with the “Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation”? If she gets close to home the corruption is harder to ignore.

          Your ad hominem attacks on me are puerile, wrong and beyond the pale. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • bmaz says:

          BOTH of you stop this. We have relentless warned both. It is getting very tiresome. And you statements about the Uranium One deal vis a vis the Clintons are patently dishonest and false.

        • orionATL says:

          lefty is selling compost.

          bmaz isn’t buying.

          “… Iefty665 says:

          February 12, 2018 at 12:23 pm

          Page was reportedly working for the FBI in the case and trial of a Russian spy from ’13 to spring ’16. That’s no certification of his sanity or rationality, but if the reporting is correct, he was of much more use to the FBI than a subject of surveillance.

          It will interesting to learn more of the Page story. It seems likely there is more there then most (including me) have believed.


          bmaz says:

          February 12, 2018 at 2:57 pm

          Page was reportedly working for the FBI in the case and trial of a Russian spy from ’13 to spring ’16. 

          There is exactly zero competent evidence to support that statement.

          Reply… “

  8. TomA says:

    Has Mueller subpoenaed Page to testify before the Grand Jury yet? I think Page’s doofuss act is phony and he knows things that are non-trivial.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That would be more consistent with his academic achievements.  But that would imply that his failures to make an impression at Merrill in Moscow, at SOAS, and in running a peripheral small business were intentional.  One could afford to do that only if one already had a patron.  And it would mean Page is one hell of an actor and has been for a long time.  I would love to know how much Mueller is pursuing this.

      • lefty665 says:

        Curious isn’t it? Getting the license to be a certified financial advisor (FA) is not trivial. That lumps in with his academic credentials. Merrill would not have taken that lightly, nor perhaps would people with enough money to be dealing with him.  OTOH you don’t have to be very bright to be an FA if you’re willing to stick to pushing Merrill’s “Deal of the day”. The more we see, the more Page looks like one of those Russian nesting dolls. Wonder what’s at the core?

        • TGuerrant says:

          Simply put: Carter Page isn’t the man he used to be.

          His most recent academic work was of poorer quality than his earlier work. His British examiners failed his PhD thesis not once but twice.

          His employability has declined. No more Merrill Lynch; lives off his parents.

          His affect and his statements – written and oral – these days are disordered to a degree that would make becoming a naval officer highly unlikely.

          A worsening psychotic disorder would look a lot like that. He wouldn’t lose his intellect, but his ability to function effectively would decline.

  9. JacobLadder says:

    Yes, it’s such a joke that Nunes would send Gowdy to read the warrant, given Gowdy’s extensive experience in dealing with them. But let’s examine Whitehouse’s statement: “But the conclusion that I’ve reached is that there was abundant evidence outside of the Steele dossier that would have provoked any responsible FBI with a counterintelligence concern to look at whether Carter Page was an undisclosed foreign agent. And to this day the FBI continues to assert that he was a undisclosed Russian foreign agent.”

    SO much evidence Page was a Russian agent, which the FBI continues to insist. Yet after years of observation and multiple Title I warrants (resulting in the most intrusive surveillance possible), Page walks the streets a free man. Does anyone here ever bother to ponder such things? Or is that counter to the accepted narrative here?

    As for Feinstein, her memo deflects nicely to “look, nothing Steele said on that dossier can be proven false!” as if that’s material to the discussion. I also love the rationale that the British would never allow one of their own spies to face trial here — yet it’s fine if he shares “intel” with our FBI people and then runs behind their backs to guys at the DOJ after the Bureau cuts him loose. And intervenes in our own elections.


  10. JacobLadder says:

    Might this explain the Senator’s sudden interest in defending Steele’s honor?

    Chuck Ross @ChuckRossDC

    Mark Warner’s texts also revealed that former Dianne Feinstein aide Daniel Jones may have been a second back channel to Steele. Chuck Grassley recently identified Jones in a letter to Clinton/DNC officials.

    • bmaz says:

      Might this comment explain that you are bringing BS into our threads, and doing so repeatedly? Why are you here? Where did you come from to do so?

  11. orionATL says:

    re my comments above on 2-12 @10:34 and 10:47 and 11: 18

    honest to god, who could have ever have anticipated a mainstream media opinion piece like this one in wapo? certainly not me, but here it is.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy- post/wp/2018/02/14/christopher-steele-is-a-hero-and-americans-owe-him-their-thanks/

    you might think that republican party operatives/congresscritters like grassley, graham, and nunes working to destroy steele’s credibility and reputation plus russia working thru intermediaries to destroy steele financially might have made the media a tad suspicious of those parties’ intentions and inclined to give steele a bit of credit for his paul revere run in the summer and early fall of 2016.

    but not so, not until this opinion piece.

    in addition to being personally disinclined by nature to step into the traces and pull the load with the rest of the team, my sense of unfairness has been seriously aggravated by the one-sided scrutiny steele has had to endure over the last year.

    the attacks on bruce ohr for bringing steele into the fbi’s investigation heightened that sense of unfairness. it is well understood that much that happens in organizations happens thru informal social structures (friends, colleagues, work associates, outsiders with interest in the field) rather than formal ones (director, deputy, assistant,…). these informal channels can appear suspicious and be termed irregular or illegal by individuals with an ax to grind – like a congressman working to protect a president.

    it is not inconceivable that steele did something improper or illegal, but the evidence he did so doesn’t appear very convincing so far.

    so at this point, with respect to the efforts of congressman nunes and senators grassley and graham to skewer steele, we can remind the congressmen, acting as prosecutors and seeking referral for , prosecution, of a comment by justice robert jackson:

    “… If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm-in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself… ”

    most particularly for me,, “it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.” that’s rightvat the junction of the attacks on steele, ohr, the fbi, and its behavior in the fisa warrant process


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