December 16, 2019

ANALYSIS: TRUE. An apology to Carter Page.

After he was acquitted in a major fraud trial, former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” The trial was ruinous for Donovan, personally and financially, and the question was a fair one. Donovan, however, at least received a trial. Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has never been given a fair hearing, let alone a trial, to clear his name. As the two political parties spin the results of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, one matter remains unaddressed. Someone needs to apologize to Page.

I do not know Page and have had only one conversation with him that I can recall. Indeed, my only impression of him was shaped by the image, repeated in endless media segments, of a shady character who was at worst a Russian spy and at best a Russian stooge. Page became the face and focus for the justification of the Russia collusion investigation. His manifest guilt and sinister work in Moscow had to be accepted in order to combat those questioning the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. In other words, his guilt had to be indisputable in order for the Russia collusion investigation to be, so to speak, unimpeachable.

Ultimately, special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion or conspiracy by Trump associates or the campaign with those Russians intervening in the election. However, Horowitz found that the FBI never had any real evidence against Page before beginning its investigation, codenamed Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Soon after the investigation was opened, it became clear that Page had been wrongly accused and was, in fact, working for the CIA, not the Russians. Page himself later said he was working with the CIA, yet the media not only dismissed his claim but was very openly dismissive while portraying him as a bumbling fool.

Horowitz found that FBI investigators and lawyers had determined that the allegations involving Page fell short of a case for probable cause to open a secret warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Those investigators were then told by the eventually fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to look at the Steele dossier, which was actually funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Clinton campaign denied repeatedly that it funded the dossier but finally admitted doing so after being confronted by media with new information.

Despite warnings about the credibility of Steele and red flags over the unreliability of the dossier, Horowitz found that “FBI leadership” used the dossier to justify its application for a FISA warrant. Democratic members of Congress and a wide array of media outlets have long told the public that the dossier was just one part of the FISA application. That is false. Horowitz states that the dossier played the “central and essential role” in securing the secret surveillance of the Trump campaign, including four investigations with both electronic surveillance and undercover assets.

Early on, Horowitz found that an unnamed government agency, widely acknowledged to be the CIA, told the FBI that it was making a mistake about Page and that he was working for the agency as an “operational contact” in Moscow. Indeed, he was working as an asset for the CIA for years. While it was falsely reported that Page met with three suspicious individuals there, he had no contact with two of those individuals. More importantly, Page did the right thing and told American officials about being contacted by the third person, because he felt they should know.

It gets even worse.

I love how the CIA is hanging the FBI out to dry here. But the FBI will have an incentive to point out John Brennan’s involvement.

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