The Russiagate news has sharply accelerated over the past two weeks: the indictments of two senior Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates; the guilty plea from George Papadopoulos about his multiple campaign contacts with Russian officials and intermediaries, including those who told him they possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails,” before news of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was made public; the rumors that next to be indicted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russiagate, will be Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and perhaps his son, too; the avalanche of news about Russian bots and trolls’ using Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to exacerbate political divisions in 2016 and to support the election of Donald Trump, including the creation of numerous fake personalities; and, of course, the bob-and-weave testimony of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign policy aide, about his pattern of Russian contacts in 2016, delivered to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).
And there’s a lot more to come, including—according to The Wall Street Journal—the likely criminal indictment of at least six Russian officials for their role in the 2016 cyberattacks. In response, Trump, Page, and Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, are escalating their attacks on the CIA and its intelligence-community partners.
Page’s testimony, all 200-plus pages of it, is popcorn-worthy entertainment, with him denying, obfuscating, and prevaricating under intense questioning from both Republicans and Democrats on the HPSCI. For instance, there’s an exchange between Page and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff over Page’s exasperatingly asserting that he’s claiming his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self-incrimination, while at the same time announcing that he’s willing to turn over to the committee certain documents and e-mails, but not others (see pages 26–29 of the transcript). At one point, Schiff asks, “Dr. Page, is it your position that you have a Fifth Amendment right to provide nonincriminating emails or documents to the committee but withhold incriminating documents from the committee and selectively comply with the subpoena?”
What Page is apparently worried about is that, for years, the US intelligence community has been watching him and, no doubt, intercepting his e-mails, phone calls, and other communications, and that recorded transcripts and copies of all of those are in the HPSCI’s (and Mueller’s) files. As early as 2013, Page came to the attention of US authorities because of his contacts with suspected Russian spies, who apparently were seeking to recruit him. In 2016, during the campaign, Page was secretly monitored by US intel over renewed contacts with Russians while he was serving on Trump’s foreign-policy team. In April, The New York Times reported that the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court–ordered wiretap against Page in 2016 “based on evidence that he was operating as a Russian agent.” Among his contacts then were a range of leading Russian officials, including top executives of Gazprom, for whom Page was both an adviser and investor. In September 2016, Harry Reid, then the Senate minority leader, wrote to then–FBI Director James Comey about Page’s alleged contacts with “high-ranking sanctioned [Russian] individuals,” part of what Reid—who’d been briefed on what the intelligence community was learning—called evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, according to Yahoo News.