Two years ago this month, President Obama’s FBI began investigating Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Four campaign associates were targeted: campaign manager Paul Manafort; Trump’s foreign policy advisor and Obama’s former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn; and foreign policy aides George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.
The timing was not coincidental. Polling in late July 2016 showed the presidential race tightening following a relatively successful Republican National Convention and a messy Democratic National Convention marked by intraparty strife. The FBI was still under fire after James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton from any wrongdoing related to her private email server.
Although the reigning political wisdom at the time was that Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Trump in November, top FBI officials wanted a backup plan in the event their favored candidate lost. In August 2016, then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly met with lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok and FBI counsel Lisa Page to concoct an “insurance policy” in case of a Trump victory.
And so began the first known federal investigation into a sitting president’s political foe and potential successor in U.S. history.
Two years later, three of the four original suspects remain in legal trouble. Paul Manafort is now on trial and being held in solitary confinement, indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in two separate jurisdictions for charges unrelated to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor who resigned after being set-up by Obama holdovers, is awaiting sentencing for pleading guilty to one count of lying to federal agents. And George Papadopoulos is scheduled to be sentenced next month on one charge of making false statements to federal investigators.
The only man still not charged with any crime is Carter Page. Two years later, the Trump campaign volunteer who was accused of being a secret agent for the Russians is a free man. And the FBI has yet to explain why.
Page—an Eagle Scout and Naval Academy graduate—arguably has suffered the greatest personal price. After helping the FBI nab a Russian foreign agent in 2016, Page suddenly became an FBI target when then-candidate Trump announced Page would serve as one of his foreign policy advisors. (Page has never met Trump and was not paid by the campaign for his work.)
Then the FBI started to set him up. According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey convened a meeting to brief Obama’s National Security Council principals on the alleged threat that Page posed to America. Although there is no confirmation of who attended the meeting in late spring 2016, some news outlets have reported the participants included Lynch, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (The vice president and secretary of state also serve on the council.)
At the same time, the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign hired a politically connected law firm to retain Fusion GPS to dig up dirt about the Trump team’s ties with Russia. Fusion contracted with ex-British spy Christopher Steele (who was already working with the FBI according to newly-released documents) to come up with proof.
Now think about this: Carter Page—a Ph.D., MBA, top graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, and a former staffer on Capitol Hill—was about to have the most powerful government and political forces in the world come down on his head. And he was powerless to stop it.
The Beginning of a Nightmare
Shortly after he returned from giving a speech in Moscow in July 2016 (an event where Hillary Clinton pal Madeleine Albright also was a speaker), Page began getting calls from reporters asking about his ties to Russia and alleged meetings with Putin associates. Little did he know that those accusations were included in the so-called Steele dossier. Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson was peddling the dossier as legitimate intelligence to his former colleagues in the D.C. press claque. Page’s first call was from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, where Simpson used to work.
One reporter finally took Simpson’s bait: Michael Isikoff published a story in Yahoo News on September 23, 2016 that claimed the government was looking into Page’s ties to Russia. Isikoff cited a “well-placed Western intelligence source” who ended up being Steele. (Isikoff later admitted he privately met with his “old friend, Glenn Simpson” and Steele in a D.C. restaurant that same month.)
That set off, as Page told me a few months ago, his “nightmare.”
More news coverage followed. The Trump campaign distanced itself from him. Page wrote a letter to Comey, offering to meet with FBI investigators to “put these outrageous allegations to rest.” He stepped down from the Trump campaign. Despite all this, James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed an application in October 2016 and submitted it to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, accusing Page of being a Russian foreign agent—a crime that could land him in prison for years. Their proof? The politically sourced, unverified Steele dossier and the Isikoff article. (Manafort and possibly Flynn were also under FISC-authorized surveillance.)
Even while Page was meeting with congressional investigators, the FBI, and Robert Mueller’s team, the government continued to spy on him, listening to his phone calls and seizing all of his electronic communications.
At the same time, the news media continued its assault on Page aided by illegal leaks of information from people at the top echelons in government. He has received death threats, and been mocked by news reporters and by some Republican lawmakers: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) called him a “clown” and “more like Inspector Gadget than James Bond.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) recently defended the government’s surveillance of Page. People on social media have asked me why I defend Page, suggesting he is odd or weird or acts suspiciously. (If that’s the barometer for getting the feds attention, everyone in D.C. should be under surveillance.)
The court-ordered surveillance ended in September 2017. So, nearly one year later—after submitting to lengthy interviews with every legal entity investigating Trump-Russia collusion—Carter Page, 47, has not been charged with a crime. The man that the federal government accused of being a criminal, who “knowingly engage[d] in clandestine intelligence activities” on behalf of Russia, is doing interviews on cable news shows and trying to put his life back together. (He is also suing the parent company of Yahoo News.)
So, where is the outrage?
Where is the ACLU, which has a long history of criticizing FISA?
Where is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also a long-time critic of FISA?
Where are the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post, demanding justice for Carter Page and apologizing for its nonstop coverage to smear him? (The Post has published 612 articles mentioning Page in the past year alone.) Where are the mea culpas from every single reporter and pundit who fell for this sham?
Where are Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—who just said the wiretapping against Page was unjustified and called the FISA application “a bunch of garbage”—demanding that the FBI explain its egregious actions against Page?
Speaking of, where are FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions? When will they explain to the American people, many of whom were convinced Page was a Russian spy working for the Trump campaign, why Page has not been charged? When will they officially clear his name?
It’s not as if the FBI is afraid to explain to the public why certain public figures are innocent of suspected crimes, right?
Two years ago this month, top officials of the Obama Administration launched a politically motivated investigation and worked with their accomplices in the media to harass, intimidate and defame Carter Page. Two years later, he has not been found guilty of any crime.
When will President Trump’s Justice Department give Carter Page his reputation back?
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