NeverTrump Conservatives Started the Smear Campaign on Carter Page

In August 2015, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson sent an email that would launch the biggest political scandal in American history.

According to his new book, Simpson started fishing for haters of Donald Trump who might be interested in funding his budding opposition research project on the Manhattan mogul. Simpson admits that he didn’t know a lot about Trump at that point but suspected the Republican presidential candidate would provide a deep trove of dirt for political operatives to mine.

Simpson, however, did not reach out to Democrats or the Hillary Clinton campaign or the Bernie Sanders team. Instead, he contacted a “longtime Republican politico” to see if he might be interested in backing Fusion’s work. They spoke by phone later that same day.

“Simpson told the Republican operative that there were plenty of preliminary indications that Trump would be a fertile subject for investigation, and that some of the lines of inquiry would probably resonate with the media or primary voters,” Simpson wrote. (The book is oddly written in third-person.)

“The operative said he was interested but needed to secure funding for Fusion’s fee, about $50,000 for the first month.”

While he waited for an answer, Simpson assembled a team to begin collecting details about Trump’s personal and business affairs; one of his hires was Nellie Ohr, the wife of a top Obama Justice Department official.

The following month, perhaps ironically on September 11, 2015, Fusion got the go-ahead. “Fusion would be hired by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative on-line publication backed by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer.” Singer was “no fan of Trump,” the Fusion founder wrote.

The Free Beacon’s editor-in-chief was Matthew Continetti; his father-in-law is Bill Kristol. Beginning in 2015 and continuing until this day, Kristol has led the NeverTrump movement, a cabal of Trump-hating “conservatives” and Republicans: Simpson referred to his client as “Never Trump.” The Free Beacon, via Paul Singer, kept Fusion on a $50,000 per month retainer until January 2017.

In the wake of Michael Horowitz’s damning report about the way Barack Obama’s FBI—with the help of James Comey and small group of equally-corrupt degenerates—repeatedly misled a secret court in order to spy on a Trump campaign aide, lots of pundits want redemption for Carter Page. (Something American Greatness has been demanding since 2018.)

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar and Republican impeachment witness, asked when someone would apologize to Page for the nearly four-year-long media campaign to publicly defame, mock, and ridicule the Naval Academy graduate. “He is a victim of media ‘groupthink’ that portrayed him as the sinister link proving collusion with Russia, an allegation rejected by the FBI, by the inspector general, and by the special counsel,” Turley wrote over the weekend.

Turley confessed that his own opinion of Page had been shaped by a false portrait “repeated in endless media segments, of a shady character who was at worst a Russian spy and at best a Russian stooge.” His column went viral on social media as Americans finally realized the egregious and cruel targeting of Page.

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, retweeted Turley’s piece. “Spot on,” Lowry said.

But there’s a little problem. National Review and marquee conservative media were the first to publish hit pieces on Page. In April 2016, National Review published an article headlined, “Trump: The Kremlin’s Candidate.” It was a full-blown screed against Page, whom author Robert Zubrin called “an out-and-out Putinite.” Zubrin claimed, without evidence, that Page was “tight with the Kremlin’s foreign policy apparatus” and a shameless Russian propagandist.

It was an odd article for National Review to publish. Why would the country’s top conservative outlet spend several hundred words profiling an unknown foreign policy advisor no one had ever heard of? Turns out, Zubin’s article cribbed several talking points from the first known hit piece on Page—a March 2016 article in the Washington Free Beacon, the conservative website paying Fusion GPS for dirt on Donald Trump.

Less than 48 hours after the Washington Post disclosed Trump’s foreign policy team, which included Page, Free Beacon reporter Lachlan Markay had a detailed column on Page ready to go. “Energy investor Carter Page, one of Donald Trump’s handpicked foreign policy advisers, has heavily criticized what he considers American aggression toward Russia, even comparing U.S. policy to American slavery and high-profile police shootings,” Markay wrote, the same accusations also included in the National Review piece.

Even though Page’s name had just been announced, Markay already had an email from a think tank expert who said Carter Page’s “public remarks on Russia and Ukraine seem as though they have been lifted directly from the broadcast scripts of Russia Today.”

Now, there’s a small chance that the eagle-eye aces at the Free Beacon just happened to zone in on the one Trump campaign aide who would be targeted by Comey’s FBI a few months later. Sure, it’s a possibility that Markay works so fast that between the time the Washington Post published the names of Trump’s foreign policy team on the afternoon of March 21 and the time he published his own article on the morning of March 23, Markay quickly researched minute aspects of Page’s Russia views, his professional background, and had time to get reaction from experts and the Ted Cruz campaign.

It’s more likely, of course, that Fusion’s paid mercenaries dug up the information fast and fed it to the Free Beacon. After all, that was the whole purpose of the Fusion-Singer-Beacon relationship, right?

When the House Intelligence Committee closed in on Fusion’s role in concocting and executing the collusion ruse, the Free Beacon had to come clean.

“During the 2016 election cycle we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton,” Continetti disclosed in October 2017, a claim that contradicts Fusion’s timeline of events. “We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods. We consider it our duty to report verifiable information, not falsehoods or slander, and we believe that commitment has been well demonstrated by the quality of the journalism that we produce.”

The Free Beacon published other accusatory articles about Page. Bill Kristol, cited Page in a July 2016 article in The Weekly Standard, “Putin’s Party?” The column attempted to tie Page, Lt. General Mike Flynn, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to the Kremlin. Kristol insisted that those ties be “investigated” and Republicans pull their endorsement of Trump until such a probe was completed.

One week later, Comey’s FBI opened a counterintelligence probe into all three as well as into aide George Papadopoulos.

So, while apologies sound nice, they won’t do anything to restore Page’s damaged reputation. (Writing in National Review in February 2018 in defense of the now-debunked Adam Schiff memo, David French suggested Carter Page is a liar and that if he engaged in “deceptive behavior” as Schiff claimed, the FISA warrant against him was justified.)

Because of these egregious smears and many more by so-called “conservatives,” Page has endured death threats, lost business, and suffered humiliation in the news media and even on Capitol Hill. But the holier-than-thou NeverTrumpers don’t care who they hurt in their unhinged crusade to destroy Donald Trump. It’s all collateral damage in their pursuit of Bad Orange Man.

It’s important to remember that the character assassination of Carter Page started in “conservative” media, was funded by Paul Singer, and has been promoted by some of the top conservative influencers for years. (I emailed Rich Lowry over the weekend to ask if National Review would retract their April 2016 smear job on Page. He has not replied.)

Singer and Kristol now are at war with Fox News host Tucker Carlson; unclear whether Fusion is aiding that effort, too. (A hit piece on Carlson was published at the Daily Beast last week written by—surprise!—Lachlan Markay. Looks like he’s getting the Carter Page treatment.)

If editors and journalists are truly serious about wanting redemption for Carter Page, they should first hold their own accountable. Fire anyone who peddled the bogus Fusion-sourced dirt on Page, scrub your website of any references, and beg Page for forgiveness. Then maybe you will be taken seriously. Until then, NeverTrump is as culpable for the character assassination of Carter Page as James Comey is.

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.