It’s hard to get a read on Carter Page.
Since the Trump campaign volunteer became a central figure in the Obama administration’s plot to sabotage Donald Trump’s candidacy and undermine—if not destroy—his presidency, Page has been the target of numerous death threats. He is mocked by opinion writers and the public. (Just check out the replies to any tweet he posts.)
While Trump antagonist Stormy Daniels earns sympathetic coverage and victim status in the pages of major newspapers and even some conservative publications, Page’s plight is largely ignored. On Fox News in April, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) unkindly called him a “clown.” Leaders of his own government spied on him for a year, framing him as a traitorous villain in their stunning scheme to mount the most deceitful political warfare against a presidential candidate in U.S. history. His professional and personal life has suffered greatly.
Yet Page, 47, maintains an upbeat attitude and keeps a smile on his face. “I think Carter has been through more of a meat grinder than I have and he’s handled it as a gentleman,” former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo told Laura Ingraham in a joint interview with Page last month. “It looks like they were really abusing Carter, really treating him poorly, and I think a lot of us owe Carter an apology.”
But Page isn’t looking for apologies or sympathy: He is looking for justice. “This has been a long, torturous road, but I think the truth will start to come out a little bit,” he told me in a phone interview last month. “The [U.S.] Naval Academy gave me good training . . . to prepare for battle and roll with the punches.”
Page’s approach to handling his unwanted role in the Trump-Russia collusion ruse is a mix of patriotism and naiveté, if not stubbornness. He met with federal and congressional investigators without any legal representation: “I have nothing to hide,” he repeatedly insists. (In addition to the MBA and Ph.D. he already has, Page is now pursuing a law degree.) As he makes the rounds on cable news shows to discuss new revelations about his ties to a so-called federal informant, Page gives off the vibe that he is embracing the fame he earned the hard way.
According to Page, his saga began in July 2016 when he received a text out of the blue from a Wall Street Journal reporter he did not want to identify. (Fusion GPS owner Glenn Simpson once worked for the Journal and maintained close ties with his former colleagues.) The reporter asked Page specifically about an alleged meeting with a “senior Kremlin official” who had “solid kompromat on Clinton as well as Trump.” Other reporters reached out to Page, asking about his alleged meetings in Moscow. He did not provide any comment.
But Page said his “huge nightmare” started in September 2016, when Yahoo News posted an article written by Simpson’s friend, Michael Isikoff, who revealed Page was under federal investigation for his ties to Russian government officials. The piece was based on a series of memos compiled by Simpson’s hired gun, ex-British spy Christopher Steele, that would become known as the infamous “dossier,” although Yahoo did not publish the document in full. Isikoff cited several unnamed U.S. officials, including one who claimed Page was a “brazen apologist for anything Moscow did.” The article falsely reported that Page met with key Putin allies to discuss lifting sanctions against the country. (The public later would learn that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee paid Fusion to produce the dossier.)
Thus, the Trump-Russia collusion hoax went viral. And Page—an energy financier, former naval officer, and Capitol Hill staffer who never met Donald Trump and was never paid for his campaign work—had his life go up in flames.
A few days after the Yahoo News article, Page sent a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey, denying the allegations and offering to submit to questioning: “Although I have not been contacted by any member of your team in recent months, I would eagerly await their call to discuss any final questions they might possibly have in the interest of helping them put these outrageous allegations to rest while allowing each of us to shift our attention to relevant matters.” ( Page also stepped down from the campaign.)
But Comey didn’t accept Page’s offer. Instead, Comey sought and received a FISA warrant in October 2016 to spy on him. (In fact, the agency did not bring Page in for questioning until March 2017, when he testified for 10 hours without an attorney present.)
The media scrum worsened after the Yahoo News story appeared. Mother Jones reported on Page and the dossier on October 31, 2016; Buzzfeed published the full dossier in January 2017. In April 2017, the Washington Post broke the story about the FBI obtaining a FISA order against Page, which was the first time he learned he had been under surveillance. FISA warrants, reserved for individuals believed to be knowingly acting as an agent of a foreign power, were renewed three times. He since has been interviewed by congressional investigators and turned over dozens of documents.
In a lengthy lawsuit Page filed last year in U.S. District Court against Yahoo’s parent company, he calls the original Isikoff article “perhaps the most dangerous, reckless, irresponsible and historically-instrumental moments in modern-day sensational crime story journalism.” His lawsuit accuses Oath Inc. and the Broadcasting Board of Governors of defamation and “acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries” for causing Page to suffer “distrust, scorn, ridicule, hatred, contempt and death threats.”
Page told me that his business is at a standstill. Single and childless, Page said, “they knew I was an easy target. They knew I wouldn’t fight back like people such as [Trump’s personal lawyer Michael] Cohen who was also libeled the following year in the full dodgy dossier. I have always obeyed and respected the law.”
As Page tries to put his life back together, he finds inspiration in two people: Trump and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif).
“What the DOJ is doing to Nunes is similar to what they did to me,” Page said. “Smearing someone whose facts he is exposing may conflict with their longstanding false impressions. But he is an American hero. Look at what’s he’s done to help the country and the price he’s paid.”
Of the president, Page goes back to “what Trump said all the time on the campaign. This isn’t about me, it’s about us.”
When I asked whether he might sue the federal government for violating his rights, he paused and said he had thought about it. “Assuming that DOJ finally starts acting with some basic level of honesty and integrity, I would only ask for one dollar in damages. We are already $20 trillion in debt . . . Why should I take more money from U.S. taxpayers when we’re deep in the hole already?”
So, is Carter Page for real? How can anyone who’s been targeted by the top f law enforcement officials in the country—who perhaps acted criminally—be so magnanimous? After all, he has not been charged with any crime, including helping the Trump campaign collude with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The latest report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General indicates that office is investigating whether the FBI violated the law and department rules in seeking the FISA orders against him.
Page seems sincere, and talks as if being the scapegoat for Trump’s political enemies is a small price to pay to expose the corruption at the Justice Department and FBI. “I am hoping for a happy ending.”