“It sounds a lot worse than reality,” Carter Page tells ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about his previous brush with Russian intelligence, but it’s an assessment that many think applies to the Russia-collusion story, too. Count Page among those, especially since, as he also tells Stephanopoulos, he’s never communicated at all with Donald Trump. Not once. Ever:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’ve been under surveillance from the court since 2016. Since that time have you ever spoken to Donald Trump?
PAGE: I never spoke with him since — I never spoke with him any time in my life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have never spoken to Donald Trump in your life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No e-mail, no text, nothing like that.
If that’s the case, then it puts a bit of a dent in the idea that Trump ran a collusion scheme with Russian intelligence to hack the DNC server or propagate disinformation during the election campaign. Of course, all we have at the moment is Page’s assertion for that, but it at least fits the public facts as is known until now. Page has become a bit of a household name among the cognoscenti over the last couple of years because of the collusion probe, but he was one foreign-policy adviser among many in the campaign. He was, however, a notable one for his connections to Russian insiders, as Bloomberg pointed out in March 2016, long before any controversy began.
Adjunct advisers added to presidential campaigns generally don’t directly advise the candidates. They work with campaign staffers to either generate policy positions or to give depth and specificity to the positions candidates already have. George Papadopoulos, another such adjunct adviser, provides an example of the limitations to the position. He apparently thought the position entailed more autonomy than that and tried to conduct a little foreign policy on his own and get the boss into meetings. Campaign staff put the kibosh on those aspirations, perhaps not quickly enough but eventually in a definitive manner, at least as far as we know now.
If Page is being truthful, then all of the collusion theories barked up the wrong tree, at least far as they concern Trump himself.
Page also tells Stephanopoulos that he’s rooting for the New York Times in its fight to get the FISA warrants on his surveillance published. That would be a curious position for a guilty man to take, but it could also just be bravado, too. Page insists that the FBI “shredded the Constitution” in its surveillance of him, but that’s only true if they knowingly made a material misrepresentation to the FISA court. Did they? We don’t know yet — and neither does Page, either. The only way to be sure would be for the FISA court to release the warrants or for the White House to declassify them. The fact that they still haven’t done so seems veeeerrrrry curious indeed.