by Tony Wyman
According to a poll taken late in 2017, three-quarters of Trump supporters believe the president should remain in office should the Mueller investigation prove the president colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
The same people who believe alleged FBI collusion with the Democrat Party is high treason, feel completely different about their man’s disturbingly close and surreptitious ties to the nation that has nearly 2000 nuclear warheads pointed at the United States. Just 14% of Trump’s faithful, believe Mr. Trump should step down if it is proven his campaign worked with Moscow to subvert America’s free and open elections.
Now, after Mr. Trump launched an unprecedented attack by a president on his own administration, the same folks who want former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe locked up in solitary confinement in Alcatraz until his bones are pecked to dust by crows are waging a campaign supporting admitted Russian agent Carter Page and his inclusion as Trump campaign foreign policy advisor during the 2016 election.
Mr. Page, as you know, was the focus of the FBI’s surveillance that led to the FISA warrant objected to by House Intelligence Committee chairman and serial hysteric Devin Nunes.
To understand why the FBI was so interested in Mr. Page and alarmed by his presence in the Trump campaign, we have to go back to 2013 and learn about a Russian named Viktor Podobnyy, an attache to Russia’s U.N. delegation, who was living in New York City at the time.
Mr. Podobnyy was actually an agent of the same spy service once led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR), and his mission was to recruit Americans to spy on their own country.
His partner in this effort was another member of Russia’s diplomatic community, Igor Sporyshev.
Mr. Podobnyy and Mr. Sporyshev worked with another Russian spy in New York, a banker named Evgeny Buryakov. Unlike the two SVR agents, Mr. Buryakov didn’t enjoy the immunity from prosecution his handlers had since he was not part of Russia’s diplomatic corps. He would later plead guilty to being a foreign spy and would serve more than two years in prison for his crimes.
But, prior to being arrested, Mr. Buryakov targeted Carter Page as a likely recruit to work for Moscow as a spy against the United States. In an FBI wiretap, Mr. Buryakov is heard telling his handlers that Mr. Page, who he called “Male 1,” was a possible, if dense, candidate.
PODOBNYY: [Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practise the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on [the Russian state energy company] Gazprom, thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious he wants to earn loads of money.
SPORYSHEV: Without a doubt.
Over the course of several months, Mr. Sporyshev courted Mr. Page, taking him to expensive dinners, giving him gifts, and building their relationship. According to the FBI, Mr. Page even gave the Russian documents about the American oil industry, the business sector for whom Mr. Page worked.
While it is possible that Mr. Page didn’t know he was meeting with a Russian spy – return to the earlier comment from Mr. Sporyshev that Mr. Page is an “idiot” – he did know he was working with a man tied closely with Russia’s oil giant Gazprom, a company closely controlled by Moscow and Vladimir Putin.
As the relationship between Mr. Sporyshev and his American target grew, Mr. Page rented expensive office space at 590 Madison Avenue, a building linked by a glass atrium to Trump Tower.
Mr. Page isn’t the sort of man movies portray spies to be. He is scrawny, nervous, twitchy, hardly masculine in appearance or demeanor. Those who know him call him “awkward” and say he grins in an overly demonstrative manner when he is nervous, which, apparently, is most of the time. Despite his less-than-impressive appearance, Mr. Page has a fairly impressive past – at least on paper.
He served in the U.S. Navy for five-and-a-half years, graduating from Naval officer school as a “Distinguished Graduate.” During his time in uniform, he served as a United Nations peace-keeping mission intelligence officer in the western Sahara region and was selected for the Navy’s “Trident Scholar Program,” a highly prestigious post for officers given the opportunity to do independent research on an array of subjects.
Mr. Page, in addition to holding a bachelor’s from New York University and a master’s from Georgetown in Foreign Relations, was also a Ph.d graduate of the London School of Economics, earning his doctorate, despite failing twice, something almost unprecedented, with a concentration in Asian and African Studies.
So, it is difficult to believe that he was completely obtuse when it came to the true nature of the interest in him shown by the three Russian spies recruiting Mr. Page to serve the Kremlin. At least, that is what the FBI thought.
Agents discovered Mr. Page’s past also included a stint working for a consulting group called “The Eurasia Group,” whose head, Ian Bremmer, fired Mr. Page for his strong pro-Kremlin views, calling his former employee his “most wackadoodle alumnus” and saying his feelings about Moscow meant “…he wasn’t a good fit.”
Mr. Page also wasn’t a good fit at Merrill Lynch in Moscow, either, where he went to work in 2004 following his brief time at the Eurasia Group. In Russia, Mr. Carter developed strong working relations with Gazprom, advising the company on a variety of subjects, including buying gas fields near the contentious territory around the Sakhalin Islands.
After three years at Merrill, where his work was described by his former boss as, “in no way exceptional”, Mr. Page returned to New York City where he started his own consultancy next to Trump Tower, called Global Energy Capital LLC. His partner was a wealthy Russian Gazprom executive named Sergei Yatsenko. Mr. Yatsenko, who was Deputy Finance Director for Gazprom, said about Mr Page, “He doesn’t tolerate the sharp criticisms of Russia” referencing sanctions placed on Moscow by the American government.
Which made sense. Mr. Page’s business was greatly harmed by those “sharp criticisms.” When they first came out, Mr. Page was very vocally opposed to them, continuing his attacks on America’s response to such Russian crimes as the invasion and annexation of Crimea even after joining the Trump campaign team.
It was no secret to anyone in the campaign – or, at least, shouldn’t have been – that Mr. Page had close ties with Russia; close ties with three men who were known Russian spies. By this point, Mr. Buryakov had served jail time and Mr. Probobnyy and Mr. Sporyshev had been thrown out of the country for being foreign agents.
Yet, despite this, despite years of working closely with Russians tied to Gazprom, despite his history of siding with Russian over American interests (he blamed the United States for the Crimea crisis, writing a blog article claiming the U.S. “started the conflict in the first place”, the Trump campaign welcomed Mr. Page into their fold, giving him a position as a foreign policy advisor.
When Mr. Trump announced that Mr. Page was one of his five foreign policy advisors, former colleagues at The Eurasia Group were stunned. One of them told reporters “We had wanted people who could engage in critical analysis of what’s going on. This is a guy who has no critical insight into the situation. He wasn’t a smart person.”
So, what were the credentials that got Mr. Page his leadership post in the Trump campaign? What made him more qualified than thousands of other men and women in the GOP with decades of real experience and knowledge that could have helped the least foreign policy savvy presidential candidate in recent memory get a leg up on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the election?
Other than Mr. Page and Mr. Trump shared the same view of America’s role in the world, that U.S. attempts to spread democracy and capitalism under President Obama had brought discord, chaos and violence to places where we got involved, there isn’t much to justify his appointment.
Of course, our efforts to help other nations find the freedom and prosperity we’ve enjoyed in this country, if successful, would have come at the expense of Russia, a nation that, thanks to its leader, Mr. Putin, still believes the world is a zero sum, Cold War battle between the United States and the Soviet Union.
If we succeeded in freeing Syria, for example, from the tyranny of the Assad regime, Russia would be the big loser. If we succeeded in establishing a stable, peaceful and prosperous Ukraine on Russia’s border, not only would the Kremlin lose a valuable ally on its southern flank, it would also have a bordering neighbor providing an example of how real democracy, real freedom can improve the lives of people brave enough to throw off the shackles of a tyrant.
So, when the FBI decided to apply for a FISA warrant to eavesdrop on Mr. Page, they didn’t need the Steele Dossier to justify their interests. There was more than enough real evidence that Mr. Page’s ties to Russian spies made him a man this country should watch.
And when he was welcomed into the Trump Team with open arms and given one of only five spots advising the next president of the United States on foreign policy, on policy that would affect the lives of all the people on the planet, the court was wise to grant the FBI’s petition.