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Walter Mitty versus the United States: the sad and strange case of Carter Page

Carter Page’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee shows an individual detached from reality but takes Russiagate allegations no further

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On 2nd November 2017 Carter Page, the former businessman and banker who was for a time a volunteer helper of the Trump campaign, gave evidence to the House Intelligence Committee, which is looking into the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Carter Page is a pivotal figure in the collusion theory that lies at the heart of the Russiagate scandal.

His name appears in several places in the Trump Dossier – which Carter Page has now confirmed is the basis for the whole Russiagate investigation – with the focus being on two trips he made to Moscow last year, one in July 2016 when he gave a speech to Moscow’s New Economic School, and one in December 2016 when some sections of the Russian media spoke of him – wrongly – as an emissary of President elect Trump.

On 22nd April 2017 in an article for The Duran I said that Carter Page is in reality a fantasist with only a tenuous grasp of reality.

He managed to get a place in the Trump campaign by exaggerating his qualifications and background – pretending to a Ph.D he does not have – whilst fooling some Russians (including the board of the New Economic School) into thinking that he was much closer to Donald Trump than he really was.

At the same time, like George Papadopoulos – the other Trump campaign aide who was recently indicted – he was trying to impress the Trump campaign by pretending to contacts with senior Russian officials which in reality he never had.

Here is what I said about Carter Page in my previous article about him written on 22nd April 2017

This account points up an important aspect of Carter Page’s personality, which has been the source of much confusion and trouble.  This is his habit of self-aggrandisement.  He seems to have fooled Trump into appointing him a foreign policy adviser on the strength of his having a Ph.D, when he doesn’t have a Ph.D. 

This is how Carter Page’s Wikipedia entry explains this

Page was one of five people named as foreign policy advisors by Donald Trump in March 2016, and was also attributed by Trump as having a PhD.[19] It is unknown at this time whether Trump was mistaken as to Page’s credentials or if Page falsified them in applying for an advisory position with the Trump team. There is no evidence, as confirmed by Trump campaign staffers, that Page had ever met or briefed Trump.[3]

In addition, as the extract from the CNN article I have quoted shows, instead of frankly admitting that he had only a minimal role in the Trump campaign – saving everyone a great deal of trouble – Carter Page persists in pretending otherwise, and passes off visits to public spaces within Trump Tower as ‘proof’ of this.

This makes it impossible to take Carter Page seriously, and makes it difficult to see how he deserves the attention he is getting.  Moreover Carter Page’s proclivity for self-aggrandisement makes the whole thesis the Russians used him to “try to infiltrate” the Trump campaign – much less that they succeeded in doing so – look immediately fanciful.

In truth Carter Page comes across as a something of a busy body who briefly managed to fool the Russians last year into thinking he was closer to Trump than he really was.  On the strength of this he was able to wangle an invitation to give a talk to Moscow’s New Economic School at a time last summer when the Russians would have been anxious to know what candidate Trump’s policies towards Russia actually were.  The article provides information from a source in the New Economic School showing how this happened

…..a spokesman for the school told CNN that Page’s ties to Trump helped secure the invitation.  “The organizing committee for the commencement last year thought that he was a colorful and interesting character,” said Denis Klimentov, a spokesman for the New Economic School. “It was partially supported by the fact that The Washington Post, the newspaper, back in the spring of 2016, cited Carter as one of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy advisors.”

(bold italics added)

Carter Page followed this up with a second invitation in December, after Trump had won the election, when the Russians would have been even more anxious to find out what now President-elect Trump’s policies towards Russia were, and when they would have been especially anxious to hear what someone who they clearly still thought was one of the President-elect’s key foreign policy advisers would say.

That this is what the Russians still thought Carter Page was at the time of his second visit is shown by this comment of Leonid Reshetnikov, the Director of Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies, quoted by CNN in the article

“It’s quite possible that Trump’s advisor is a pragmatist and a realist.  This is probably not an ordinary visit. He has probably received some instructions from the President-elect. I don’t think that meetings at the highest level will take place, but (the possibility) cannot be excluded.”

In reality Carter Page had no ‘instructions’ from President-elect Trump, it seems he and Trump had never even met, and – needless to say – no “meetings at the highest level” took place.  Once the new administration was formed it quickly became clear Carter Page had no role in it and was not close to Trump at all and did not speak for the new President.  At that point the misapprehension the Russians had about him would have ended, and they lost interest in him.

There is not a scintilla of evidence in any of this of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  On the contrary the fact the Russians mistook a Walter Mitty figure like Carter Page for an important adviser of Trump’s shows how poorly informed about Trump they actually were.  That does not speak of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  On the contrary if anything it shows that no such collusion was taking place.

Since the Russiagate scandal broke Carter Page has made things worse for himself and has caused a huge amount of trouble by (unlike George Papadopoulos) failing to come clean.  Instead he continues to pretend that his obviously fictional contacts in Moscow were real ones whilst simultaneously denying their importance.

Moreover he has disastrously compounded the trouble by his incredibly stupid decision not to instruct a lawyer.  Instead he is purporting to represent himself, taking on the FBI, the CIA, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Justice Department, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the entire US media all by himself.

The result is the farce of the hearing which took place on 2nd November 2017 the transcript of which in combination with Carter Page’s written submissions goes on for an extraordinary 208 pages.

Anyone who takes the trouble to plough through this extraordinary document cannot fail but notice the bemusement of the members of the House Intelligence Committee as they found themselves dealing with a witness the like of which none of them have probably ever previously come across.

Their bafflement was elegantly captured in a lengthy discussion of Carter Page’s testimony by The Atlantic, which has given the best account of it

Schiff summed the situation up cleanly: “Were you being honest in your communication with the campaign? Are you being honest in your testimony? Because it doesn’t seem possible for both to be true.”

Schiff wasn’t the only one baffled. Republican Trey Gowdy, who frequently sounds incredulous during his portions of the testimony, asked, “I didn’t think I’d ever be going through this with anyone, but we’ve got to, I guess. You seem to draw a distinction between a meeting, a greeting, a conversation, and you hearing a speech.”

Elsewhere The Atlantic captures perfectly the madcap quality of Carter Page’s testimony

It’s just one example of how Page comes across as hopelessly self-aggrandizing throughout the testimony. He brags about his connections and credentials, dropping references to Harvard, Cambridge, and New York universities, and even noting his Delta frequent-flyer status. Describing his several email accounts, Page mentioned receiving many emails from Gary Sick, a respected Middle East scholar at Columbia University. Reached by email, Sick told me he’d briefly met Page in the 1990s or early 2000s and had not had any contact since, and that the emails in question came from a listserv of some 2,000 people.

There develops a strange dichotomy, in which Page presents himself as an important and respected man in Russia, invited to give a commencement speech independent of his work for the Trump campaign, and yet also downplays his importance to the Trump team, calling himself a very junior staffer. (Gowdy, again: “Mr. Page, I wrote down: volunteer, unpaid, informal, unofficial. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell your role was with the Trump campaign.”)

Elsewhere The Atlantic discusses the bafflement of the members of the Committee as Carter Page (1) simultaneously invoked the Fifth Amendment for certain of his documents only to say that they were actually less “incriminating” than other documents the FBI had already seized; (2) simultaneously confirmed and denied having a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovitch (he finally appeared to admit the ‘meeting’ took place, but said it was not really a ‘meeting’ because it went no further than an exchange of pleasantries); and (3) gave contradictory explanations for emails he sent to the Trump campaign, in which he purported to discuss opinions he said he had been given by senior Russian officials and members of the Duma, but which he told the Committee were actually gleaned from things he had read in the newspapers.

Though I have had no contact with Carter Page and my knowledge of him and his activities derives purely from what the media has written about him I can assist the members of the House Intelligence Committee with all these questions.

Just as I said back in April that Carter Page was a self-aggrandising fantasist – something The Atlantic now admits is the case – so I can now say with confidence that the purported meeting with Dvorkovitch almost certainly never took place and that the other meetings which Carter Page wrote about in his emails to the Trump campaign never happened either.

Possibly Carter Page did meet Dvorkovitch briefly in July 2016, though personally I doubt it.  If he did meet Dvorkovitch it would have been – as he now says – a brief and accidental encounter which went no further than an exchange of pleasantries.

As for the other meetings with senior officials of the Russian government, of the Presidential administration, and of the Duma, which Carter Page claimed had happened in his emails to the Trump campaign, I am quite sure these never happened.

The only person who has ever said these meetings ever happened is Carter Page himself.  Given the fact that he is now admitted to be a self-aggrandising fantasist there is no more reason to suppose that he spoke the truth about these meetings than that he is telling the truth about anything else.

As for Carter Page’s decision to claim the Fifth Amendment for some of his “less incriminating'”documents, that is almost certainly nothing more than a case of attention-seeking and self-aggrandisement.

Personally the only parts of Carter Page’s testimony which I take seriously are (1) his confirmation that the entire Russiagate investigation is based upon and is guided by the Trump Dossier; and (2) that the accounts of his activities set out in the Trump Dossier are untrue.

I would of course add that the reason I believe these parts of Carter Page’s testimony are true is not because he says them.  It is because there is abundant independent evidence which corroborates them.

Needless to say nothing Carter Page said in his testimony – and none of the questions which were put to him by the members of the Committee – provide the slightest grounds for thinking that the central claim of the Russiagate scandal – that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to steal and publish the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails – is true.

On the contrary – as was the case with the emails sent by George Papadopoulos – Carter Page’s emails actually show that no collusion took place.

As to those who say that it is an amazing coincidence that two fantasists – George Papadopoulos and Carter Page – were both simultaneously working for the Trump campaign, I would say two things:

Firstly, it is not a coincidence at all.  At any point in time there are any number of such people around, and given their overwhelming need for attention joining a Presidential campaign holds an obvious attraction to them.

Political campaigns – and I have personal knowledge of several – are always prey to such people.  Tough and clear-sighted management filters them out, but as Jared Kushner has recently admitted the Trump campaign was disastrously short of such management, which is why people like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page were able to find their way in.

Secondly, there is a fundamental difference between George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

Papadopoulos comes across as a well-meaning but inexperienced young man who got swept along by the excitement of the moment, causing him to represent both himself and his contacts to the Trump campaign as far more important than they really were.

Carter Page by contrast comes across as a far more troubled and disturbed individual.

At some level he was probably trying to leverage his role in the Trump campaign to enhance his business in Russia whilst simultaneously using the fact that he had an established business connection with Russia to enhance his position in the Trump campaign.

However the extent of Carter Page’s detachment from reality as shown by his Congressional testimony together with his bizarre decision to represent himself rather than act through a lawyer suggests someone who is going through a deep personal crisis.

Putting a person like that through the sort of grinder that Carter Page is being put through is in my opinion a profound cruelty, all the more so as he is an obvious suicide risk.  I hope someone has taken note of that fact and is taking the necessary precautions.

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