You might assume that Carter Page is having a worse summer than Penn Station, but he doesn’t see it that way.
Page is one of a handful of former Trump campaign hands reported to be under federal scrutiny for his ties to Russia—putting him in the company of Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, figures much more central to the scandal—and he claims he’s being stonewalled by congressional Democrats who don’t want him to clear his name in an open hearing. But he’s confident that there is no merit to the multiple probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, and has been eager to offer his account to anyone who’ll listen. He’s given numerous TV interviews and frequently blasts out to a list of reporters lengthy letters beseeching Congress for a date to testify in public.
Sitting on a bench at the Manhattan train station’s Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon, Page told TPM that his openness is not an act of self-promotion or the result of naiveté. Concerns that it may not be in the best interests of a person under scrutiny in of one of the most high-profile scandals ever to consume the White House to be so forthcoming don’t faze Page, either.
“It’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Page explained of his concerted effort to correct the record on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay” pulsed through the coffee shop’s speakers.
He said he takes inspiration from a Marine he met at a Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser, who’d accepted an invitation to visit former President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas after losing his arm in Iraq. Page said when he asked the veteran how he felt while visiting the politician who launched the war that cost him a body part, the veteran replied, “I’m just doing my job. I’m doing the right thing.”
“It’s the same exact thing here,” Page said of his pushback against the various Russia investigations. “It’s not really worrying about the personal price you pay; it’s more about the broader mission and the national security of the U.S., right?”
The 46-year-old oil-and-gas analyst was a footnote on Trump’s campaign, brought on as a national security adviser in March 2016 to bolster what was then a nonexistent foreign policy team. Though he stayed on for only five months, Page has played a disproportionately large role in the multiple probes into the contacts Trump’s campaign associates had with Russian operatives. The New York Times reported that his July 2016 visit to Moscow, where he delivered a speech promoting improved U.S.-Russia relations, actually prompted the FBI to launch its initial investigation.
Bureau agents obtained a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Page’s communications in summer 2016. Federal investigators are reportedly looking into his professional ties to Russia, as well as allegations that surfaced in a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer that accused Page and other Trump associates of being involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.
A 30-minute conversation with Page yielded little new information he was willing to share on the record but made clear how much those probes have consumed his life. He showed an encyclopedic knowledge of the content of the letters he sends to the congressional intelligence committees rebutting witness testimony; quoted what various Obama administration officials had said about the investigation on cable news; and rattled off the publication dates of major articles that revealed new facts about the probes. Page even employs a shorthand to refer to the major players. Former FBI director James Comey is Neidermeyer, the abusive ROTC leader from the frathouse comedy film “Animal House,” while he invariably refers to the Obama administration as the “Clinton-Obama-Comey regime.”
In person, Page appears as on-edge as he does during his frequent TV interviews. The Navy veteran periodically scanned the perimeter of the Starbucks from under the rim of a faded New York Yankees hat, lowering his voice to ensure no potential eavesdroppers could hear what he had to say. Page wouldn’t discuss his personal life except to acknowledge that he has never married, saying he doesn’t want anyone he names to end up on one of those “wire diagrams” mapping out the connections the Trump team has to Russian operatives. And he said it “goes without saying” that the investment management firm that he runs from a Midtown Manhattan co-working space, Global Energy Capital LLC, has lost business as a result of the investigations.
Despite these preoccupations, Page is not concerned about the prospect of legal consequences for his foreign contacts.
“There’s nothing to hide,” Page said, reiterating that he sat for over 10 hours of interviews with FBI agents without a lawyer present and is relying on unnamed “volunteers” for legal advice.
He said he feels certain that Democrats will be held responsible for what he calls the “crimes” and “civil rights violations” committed against him by issuing an “illegal” FISA warrant. Much of the cloud over him could be dispelled if he was allowed to testify publicly, Page insisted, complaining that congressional Democrats were trying to control the narrative of the investigations by only allowing witnesses who have “information that might look questionable” to appear in open session.
“Anything that would paint the President in a bad way, they want them immediately,” he said of Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Representatives for those committees, both of which are chaired by Republicans, told TPM that witness lists are agreed on in a bipartisan fashion.
“Invitations are issued by the Chairman & Vice Chairman, in consultation with Committee members,” Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Senate committee’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner (D-VA), told TPM in an email. Warner’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), has made similar comments in the past.
Page thinks that the book he is shopping around on the investigation will help clear both his name and that of the President, who he praised as a “serious person” who is “looking out for the little guy.”
Asked if he has any regrets about joining the campaign given the personal and professional consequences he says he’s suffered, Page shook his head.
“I go back to that statement from that Marine in Iraq, right?” he said. “I’m just doing the right thing.”