The outdated adage man who represents himself has a idiot for a consumer has seldom been demonstrated fairly so colorfully as within the transcript of Carter Page’s testimony earlier than the House Intelligence Committee on November 2.
Page, a former foreign-policy adviser to the Trump marketing campaign, doesn’t have a lawyer. He agreed to testify on the situation that the transcript be made public, and whereas it’s exhausting to know what motivated him to make that deal—in reality, it’s typically exhausting to determine what motivates him—the end result doesn’t mirror kindly upon him.
If there’s one main focus to the 243-page transcript, it’s Page’s July 2016 journey to Russia, the place he delivered a graduation speech on the New Economic School in Moscow. Page made the journey in a non-public capability, reasonably than as a Trump marketing campaign official, as he took pains to level out. One of the individuals in attendance was Arkadiy Dvorkovich, a deputy prime minister of Russia.
“The only brief interaction I had with any Russian government official is after this commencement program or after the—after my commencement speech on that Friday in July—I believe it was July 8th—I briefly said hello to Arkadiy Dvorkovich,” Page stated.
Adam Schiff, the rating Democrat on the committee, quizzed Page about that, noting that Page stated final week on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC present that he had solely spoken to “men on the street.” Did he not think about Dvorkovich an official, Schiff requested? Page replied that he had not met with him, solely greeted him.
Schiff identified that in a memo to Trump marketing campaign staffers after the journey, he had written, “In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.” He additionally wrote an e mail to Trump marketing campaign staffers Tera Dahl and J.D. Gordon, saying, “On a related front, I’ll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here.”
Page acknowledged writing all this, however nonetheless claimed he had not spoken various phrases to Dvorkovich, and had as an alternative derived his insights from listening to speeches. Page was additionally fuzzy about an encounter with a person who works for the Russian oil big Rosneft, whom he referred to as an outdated good friend, saying he couldn’t recall who had contacted the opposite or whether or not they had mentioned U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Schiff summed the scenario up cleanly: “Were you being honest in your communication with the campaign? Are you being honest in your testimony? Because it doesn’t seem possible for both to be true.”
Schiff wasn’t the one one baffled. Republican Trey Gowdy, who steadily sounds incredulous throughout his parts of the testimony, requested, “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.”
It’s only one instance of how Page comes throughout as hopelessly self-aggrandizing all through the testimony. He brags about his connections and credentials, dropping references to Harvard, Cambridge, and New York universities, and even noting his Delta frequent-flyer standing. Describing his a number of e mail accounts, Page talked about receiving many emails from Gary Sick, a revered Middle East scholar at Columbia University. Reached by e mail, Sick informed me he’d briefly met Page within the 1990s or early 2000s and had not had any contact since, and that the emails in query got here from a listserv of some 2,000 individuals.
There develops an odd dichotomy, wherein Page presents himself as an essential and revered man in Russia, invited to present a graduation speech impartial of his work for the Trump marketing campaign, and but additionally downplays his significance to the Trump crew, calling himself a really junior staffer. (Gowdy, once more: “Mr. Page, I wrote down: volunteer, unpaid, informal, unofficial. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell your role was with the Trump campaign.”)
Trump and his aides, in addition to Page himself, have tried to argue that no matter Page did had no reference to the marketing campaign—they have been the rogue actions of a low-level determine. And whereas the Trump marketing campaign’s ties to Russia, from George Papadopoulos to Jeff Sessions to Jared Kushner to Michael Flynn to Paul Manafort, appear exhausting to understand as coincidences, it does appear believable from Page’s marble-mouthed explanations that he was puffing up his position and significance and connections to Russian figures as a way to improve his standing with the Trump marketing campaign.
This risk shades the revelation, delivered by Page to reporters after his testimony, that he had informed now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his journey prior to creating it.
Speaking to the committee, Page stated he had a “standing invitation” to make the speech. Asked who invited him he stated, “I was just invited,” although he later named Shlomo Weber, rector of the New Economic School, as his host. First, Page stated that Gordon was conscious of the journey, in addition to a number of different members of Trump’s marketing campaign crew.
Why had he informed them, Gowdy puzzled? “I wanted to be very careful, because there was starting to be some—there was starting to be some allegations about or concerns about Russia in general.” Then why go, Gowdy pressed. “Because I’m trying to live my life and it’s something—I’ve spoken at these universities for well over a decade.” A number of moments later, Page stated he’d informed then-campaign supervisor Corey Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks, now the White House communications director.
Later within the testimony, Page admitted he’d additionally informed then-Senator Jeff Sessions, however stated (just like the Dvorkovich dialog) that it had been very temporary, as they left a gathering in Washington. Schiff couldn’t perceive why Page would convey it up if it was so temporary, and Page’s reply didn’t actually make clear: “The point of bringing it up is I changed my schedule around. It was going to be my last two days in the United States for 3 weeks that Thursday night, just—just mentioned that I’m glad to have been able to do that. So it was more just sort of an administrative point.” Indeed, Page looks like the form of one who speaks incessantly about himself with out being invited.
According to Page, the record of Trump officers who have been knowledgeable in regards to the journey consists of on the very least Sessions, Hicks, Gordon, Lewandowski, and Sam Clovis, who final week withdrew his nomination for a USDA chief scientist job. This is tough to sq. with repeated marketing campaign denials of any contacts with the Russians, regardless of Page’s stage on the marketing campaign.
Despite Page’s repeated badertions that he made the journey exterior of his marketing campaign job, Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat, identified that in an e mail to the marketing campaign, Page wrote, “Please let me know if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you’d prefer me to focus these remarks.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Speier requested. “It would appear that you were soliciting from the campaign any messages you would like to have conveyed to those in attendance at the New Economic School.” Page referred to as it merely a “courtesy.”
Sessions, after all, claimed he was unaware of any such journeys, together with in sworn testimony to the Senate. But it has since grow to be clear that a number of Trump marketing campaign officers had contacts with Russians, together with Papadopoulos, who pleaded responsible final month to mendacity to the FBI about them. In Page’s case, there was a paper file—not simply his e mail request for feedback, but additionally the memo he despatched to J.D. Gordon afterwards.
“Now, this trip that was unrelated to the campaign, you wrote a memo in campaign format to debrief the campaign on your trip that was supposedly not about the campaign,” Schiff stated. “Is that what we are to understand?”
Schiff comes throughout as Page’s most probing and aggressive questioner. In explicit, they tangled over Page’s try and invoke the Fifth Amendment to keep away from complying with some requests for paperwork however not for others. “Is it your position that you have a Fifth Amendment right to provide nonincriminating emails or documents to the committee but withhold incriminating documents from the committee and selectively comply with the subpoena?”
Page stated there was nothing incriminating. Schiff replied, “If nothing you have is incriminating, then on what basis are you invoking the Fifth Amendment right?”
Page’s reply was unusual: He stated that he was each involved he would possibly overlook some paperwork in his try to supply them, and that he was involved that issues he stated may not “match up” with info obtained by regulation enforcement throughout surveillance that he claims is illegitimate. This is complicated, since any discrepancy would represent mendacity underneath oath.
Page stated he couldn’t recall precisely what number of instances he had spoken to the FBI, a lot to Gowdy’s shock. (“It is not difficult for me to remember the number of times that the FBI has interviewed me in 2016 because the answer would be zero.”) A portion of the transcript is redacted, however the context means that Page spoke to another law-enforcement company, and that the information got here as a shock to the panel.
Schiff additionally questioned Page extensively about an August 2016 journey to Budapest, the place he met with the Hungarian ambbadador to the United States, who he had met on the Republican National Convention. Initially Page was imprecise in regards to the objective of his journey, calling it a “long weekend.” Then he stated it concerned a potential enterprise undertaking involving renewable vitality—but he couldn’t recall whether or not he’d arrange conferences on the renewable vitality undertaking earlier than he traveled to Budapest or not, implying a special motive for the journey.
“You plan a trip to Budapest after meeting with the Hungarian ambbadador, but you can’t recall any specifics about what you discussed or why you’d be traveling there to meet with her?” Schiff requested.
“I have an interest in foreign policy, and I have an interest in energy markets, right?” Page replied. He denied that the ambbadador had invited him to Hungary due to his position on the Trump marketing campaign. Asked whether or not he had saved in contact with anybody from that journey, Page supplied a self-contradictory reply: “I believe it was just [the ambbadador], and there was one other person who was also a foreign-policy person who I stayed in touch with. I cannot remember his name.” Page additionally couldn’t recall what the person’s portfolio or position was. Asked whether or not he was an intelligence agent, Page stated, “People don’t wear badges. ”
That wasn’t the one ambbadador Page met on the RNC—he additionally bumped into then-Russian Ambbadador Sergey Kislyak. As with Dvorkovich, he characterised that encounter as brief and casual. He stated he couldn’t recall speaking with Kislyak about U.S. sanctions on Russia, however he wouldn’t rule out that it may have come up “in pbading.”
Other locations within the testimony indicated the pursuits of the Republican and Democratic members of the committee. Gowdy pursued a line of questions wherein Page denied that there had been any collusion between the Trump marketing campaign and the Russian authorities. Schiff requested him whether or not he had ever hid any contacts with Russians—maybe an try and pin Page down underneath oath—and Schiff and his colleague Eric Swalwell appeared fascinated with whether or not Page had ever obtained cash from the Russian authorities. Schiff requested whether or not he had any dialogue that “concerned getting Russian government or university funding for a joint effort, a think tank, a project, a thesis, any of the above?” Page, after a collection of evasions, supplied a bland, “I have no recollection of that, no.”
Swalwell was significantly interested by Page’s December 2016 journey to Russia, which the witness stated was business-related. But Page couldn’t say who he was badembly with or what tasks he was exploring. “Well, Dr. Page, surely you went over there with a plan, right?” Swalwell requested. “You didn’t just go over there to walk around and to find a ‘now hiring’ sign at the Red Square.”
Swalwell’s incredulity, together with that of Schiff, Gowdy, and different members of the panel, is comprehensible. Page’s testimony is a farrago of authorized claims, bluster, contradictions, and concessions. It’s exhausting to think about that Page’s testimony, and his Fifth Amendment blunder helped him. Nor do they badist the Trump administration a lot, whilst Page hastened to heap reward on the president. In locations, they help the general public by giving a fuller image of Page’s dealings, however simply as typically they depart the image much more complicated than it was earlier than.