Carter Page, former volunteer adviser to the campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, has detailed how an FBI investigation based on unfounded claims led to his ruin, both financial and personal.
Rather than the investigation itself, it was the constant leaks to the media regarding the allegations against Page that caused him the most difficulty. Even though the allegations ultimately proved to be unsubstantiated, the damage was done. People distanced themselves from him, his business declined, and even his girlfriend left him.
When Page visited his girlfriend in late 2016 in her London apartment, she was “freaking out with the fake news about me,” he said.
“Talking with her later in the evening after dinner, she told me that she didn’t want me staying there anymore, and that our relationship was over,” he told The New York Post.
Page began his journey to the Trump campaign in late 2015, when he made contact with Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, who introduced him to a few people in the campaign in early 2016, according to Page’s testimony to the House intelligence committee.
On March 21, 2016, Trump was interviewed by the editorial board of The Washington Post. At the onset of the interview, he was asked about his foreign policy team and whether he could reveal some names before announcing it officially.
Trump was handed a piece of paper by an aide and read five names. One of them was Page.
Page testified he never actually spoke with Trump, not even through text or email. He was mostly sending emails with ideas to some people in the campaign and, according to The Washington Post, attended three dinners held for the campaign’s volunteer foreign policy advisers.
A Naval Academy and New York University grad, Page worked as an investment broker at Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office from 2004 to 2007. He then founded his own investment firm, Global Energy Capital, and wrote articles and gave speeches as a foreign policy expert.
After Trump’s mentioning Page, his name piqued the interest of Julia Ioffe, a journalist who, as “a Russia wonk,” dug deep into Page’s history and, after several months of research, had a piece on him published by Politico on Sept. 23, 2016.
Based on Ioffe’s research, Page seemed to exaggerate his Russian contacts. He held a mid-level post at Merrill Lynch without any high-level access to Russian elites. His investment firm didn’t seem to get anywhere. Its Manhattan address next to the Trump Tower turned out to be a co-working space. His writings were pro-Russian in tone, like those of other Westerners doing business in Russia, Ioffe noted.
During the campaign, Page said he was an investor in Gazprom, a massive Russian natural gas company. He later said the stake was actually minuscule and that he had sold it in August 2016 at a loss.
The same day as Ioffe’s, another story about Page came out, written by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff.
It seemed to take full advantage of Page’s inflated profile, portraying him as a man with “extensive business interests in Russia,” who runs a consulting firm “located around the corner from Trump Tower, that specializes in oil and gas deals in Russia and other Central Asian countries.”
The article alleged Page “opened up private communications with senior Russian officials,” by meeting with Igor Diveykin, a high-ranking Russian official, and Igor Sechin, a top executive of a major Russian oil company Rosneft, during a short Moscow trip in early July 2016.
No evidence has emerged substantiating the claims. Page denied under oath ever meeting either individual.
Isikoff attributed the claims to a “Western intelligence source,” who was later revealed to be Christopher Steele, the former MI6 British intelligence agent who was paid by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up dirt on Trump.
Using mostly Russian sources, Steele put together a dossier characterized as “salacious and unverified” by then-FBI Director James Comey. Steele provided the dossier to the FBI, which used it as justification to spy on Page.
Then-CIA Director John Brennan allegedly promoted the dossier to Democratic leaders in Congress during the campaign and later lied about it under oath.
Steele’s employer, opposition research firm Fusion GPS, directed him to brief media, including Yahoo News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and The New Yorker, on the contents of the dossier, according to court documents filed in the UK.
It is not clear when the FBI started to spy on Page. In early July, Page was contacted by Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor with links to CIA and MI6, who was revealed to be a mole for the FBI investigation.
The two met at a Cambridge symposium held July 11–12, 2016, shortly after Page returned from the Moscow trip, and remained in contact for 14 months.
Between 2012 and Sept. 26, 2016, Halper was granted research and consultancy contracts totaling over $1 million from a Defense Department strategy think tank directly under the Defense Secretary.
On Oct. 21, 2016, the FBI obtained a warrant to spy on Page. A major part of the application for the warrant was the Steele dossier, according to a memo by the Republican majority on the House intelligence committee. The warrant extensively cited the Yahoo article as if it corroborated the dossier claims, the memo stated, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issued the warrant, wasn’t informed that the dossier was actually paid opposition research and that the Yahoo article was based on it.
Based on the intelligence agencies’ “two-hop” rule, the warrant allowed the FBI to not only access Page’s electronic communications, but also metadata, including the phone records of all people he was in contact with and all people in contact with them reaching back 18 months. That would likely involve many, if not all, in the Trump campaign.
Two days after the Yahoo article, Page sent a letter to Comey, offering to answer any questions the FBI may have. He wasn’t interviewed until March 2017, he said, and he hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
Page said the spying on him and the leaking of false information about him to the media was politically motivated—because he volunteered to help Trump.
Just as Trump did, he described the spying on the campaign as worse than the Watergate scandal.
“The crimes that have already been committed against President Trump, myself, and the entire Trump movement are much worse,” Page said.
“Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!” Trump said on Twitter on May 24.
Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
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