“Carter Page seemed to us to be a typical person who the Russians would attempt to co-opt or compromise or manipulate,” Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a transcript released Tuesday.
Simpson cited what he described as Page’s youth, his ambition, and his naïveté as three reasons the Kremlin would have targeted Page, an energy consultant who served as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign.
Simpson’s testimony took place in August but was released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee.
Simpson also testified he had “reason to believe” someone had offered Page business deals designed to influence him.
Simpson’s assessment is in line with that of former US intelligence professionals who spoke on the record to Talking Points Memo in November. They described Page as a soft target. “Most spies are Fredos,” ex-CIA officer David Chasteen said, referring to Michael Corleone’s hapless brother in The Godfather.
“There was a fair amount of open source [public information] on his consulting firm, his complaint that he’d lost money on Russian investments and he owned stock in [state-owned Russian oil giant] Gazprom and he was really mad about the sanctions [on Russia by the U.S.] and he went over there in this hastily-arranged trip to speak to this school and that was all pretty unusual,” Simpson told Senate investigators in August, “but there’s a lot of skepticism in the press about whether he could be linked between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign because he seemed like a zero, a lightweight.”
“I remember sort of not being able to kind of explain to people [in the press], that’s exactly why he would end up as someone who they would try to co-opt,” Simpson said.
Simpson listed Page’s speech in Moscow as one of several events that gave him pause alongside the Trump campaign’s surprisingly friendly stance toward Russia.
“[T]hey changed the Republican platform,” Simpson recalled. “Carter Page shows up in Moscow and gives a speech. He’s a campaign advisor and he gives a speech about dropping sanctions. Trump continues to say mysterious things about what a great guy Putin is.”
Simpson observed that Christopher Steele’s raw intelligence dossier — the primary topic of discussion during the hearing — identified Page as someone who “seemed to be in the middle of the campaign, between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and he later turned out to be an espionage suspect who was, in fact, someone that the FBI had been investigating for years.”
That confluence of credulousness and access, John Sipher, another former CIA officer, told TPM in November, is very rare in the world of clandestine work. Simpson, too, observed that people often spy without knowing it — something intelligence agents as high up as former CIA director John O. Brennan have said publicly.
“[T]he definition of compromised is someone who has been influenced sometimes without even without their knowledge,” Simpson said. “We had reason to believe that he had, in fact, been offered business deals that were — that would tend to influence him, business arrangements.”
Read Tierney Sneed’s story on the transcript and the transcript itself here.