- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Will Russiagate Become Obamagate?

Russiagate’s latest celebrity is a former Donald Trump associate named Carter Page. Page, who worked for Merrill Lynch in Moscow and speaks Russian, is a banker and investor who early in 2016 was a part of the amorphous group that was advising Trump on foreign policy. There is no evidence to suggest that he was ever an insider with the Trump campaign—quite the contrary. The Washington Post reports that he made several efforts to meet directly with Donald Trump but that his entreaties were rejected.

So why the fuss? Page appears to have been a target of Russian intelligence [1] for a time, even though he had no sensitive information to give anyone and the presumed relationship appears to have ended long before the 2016 campaign. The possibility that Page might have been some kind of Moscow-controlled agent of influence close to Donald Trump has nevertheless excited Democratic Party critics who have been looking for some solid evidence of Russian government subversion of America’s electoral process. It has also provided some insights into the never-ending spy vs. counterspy battle, while suggesting that the Obama administration was not quite a wide-eyed innocent regarding FBI investigation of anyone plausibly linked to Trump.

Bear in mind that intelligence officers make a living and get promoted based on the “scalps” they acquire, to use the CIA expression, which means recruitment of possible sources of information. Page was and is somewhat of an expert on energy issues and, by virtue of his time spent in Russia, something of a Russophile. The combination would be very attractive to a Russian case officer looking for a new asset, so it is perhaps no surprise that Page bumped into Russian diplomat Victor Podobny at an energy conference in New York. The two soon established mutual interests in energy-industry developments and Page, apparently looking for business and investment opportunities, eventually passed some unclassified papers he had prepared to the Russian.

The passage of documents is a key case-officer objective. The assumption is that once documents are provided by the target and suitable noises are made about how they could result in wonderful business opportunities, this will lead to receipt of papers that are more sensitive. Then the prospective agent would be hooked, leading to his or her eventual acceptance of money or something in kind that seals the deal. If the transaction is completely illegal, so much the better, as the target would be disinclined to reveal the depth of involvement for fear of being exposed.

So Page passed papers to Podobny, not knowing that he was an intelligence officer. Pobodny in turn did not think much of his new prospect, telling a colleague in an intercepted phone conversation that Page was an “idiot” who “wants to earn a lot of money.” Pobodny observed that he would be reeled in by trading “favor for favor,” allowing the Russian to exploit him for whatever information of value he possessed before discarding him. The Page saga ended when diplomatic-covered Podobny was exposed and expelled as “persona non grata” from the United States in 2013. Page was interviewed by the FBI but it was determined that he had not compromised any confidential information.

But the story did not end there. Three years later, in July 2016, the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor the communications of Page, who was at the time associating with the Trump campaign. It has been alleged that Page became a person of interest after meeting with some unidentified Russians, but the only evidence that has surfaced possibly relating to that is a claim that in July 2016 he met with Igor Sechin, chief executive of the energy company Rosneft and a reported Putin crony. Page has reportedly denied that the meeting even took place. The Washington Post also claims that Page gave a speech in Moscow “harshly critical of the United States’ policy towards Russia.”

The FISA warrant was presumably granted based on that visit. As a former intelligence officer, I can attest that the recruitment of someone who is close to a potential presidential candidate in any country is a prize worth having. It is referred to as an agent in place or an agent of influence, but its value is that it provides a possible insight into what another foreign leader actually intends to do. It is far more valuable than a stack of emails. So the possibility that Russian intelligence realized what potential access Page might provide and acted upon it should not be dismissed. And, of course, it is also possible that nothing of the sort happened, that the Russians did not realize what they might have and slept through the entire Page visit.

In either case, we might someday know what happened or possibly not. But one other thing that is clear is that the Obama administration did not hesitate to go after someone presumed to be close to GOP candidate Donald Trump based on evidence that may or may not have been compelling. Page himself denounced [2] the FISA warrant as “unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance.” Bear in mind that the FISA court tends to approve most [3] surveillance requests, not making much effort to challenge the executive branch.

The arguments that President Obama and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice have been making, asserting that they knew nothing about politically charged and highly sensitive FBI investigations are, of course, nonsense. Rice’s request for the identities of Americans appearing on transcripts of communications intercepts reveals that there was very much a heightened sense of the political dimensions of what was taking place. And she would have undoubtedly conveyed as much to her boss, suggesting yet again that the latest chapter in Russiagate may turn out to be Obamagate after all.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "Will Russiagate Become Obamagate?"

#1 Comment By Ken T On April 12, 2017 @ 10:35 pm

So you are still trying desperately to push the meme that when the Obama administration caught Trump associates colluding with Russian agents, the “real crime” was the Obama administration tracking who these Russians were dealing with.

I can’t help wondering what you would be saying if instead of this, the stories being leaked were saying something like “the Obama administration found evidence that Russian agents were dealing with unnamed Americans, and made no attempt to identify those Americans”. I suspect you would be screaming that Obama was guilty of treason, right?

It must be getting lonely up there on the Trump bandwagon.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 12, 2017 @ 11:06 pm

No doubt, but expect the upturned chin, the turn to profile, and eyes lowered half-lidded as the unctuous non-denial denial passes the lips in that measured, reasonable tone.

#3 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 12, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

C’mon son, you’re better than that. Am I the only one who believes if Page (“idiot” or not) was the target of a Russian intelligence hedge bet (“agent in place” or “agent of influence”), Russia was attempting to INFLUENCE the election, hence the need for surveillance. Whether or not took the bait, or was determined to be a waste of (Kremlin) time is moot. Ipso facto, the intelligence/counter intelligence apparatus (under Obama) did its job. And let us not forget, Page is just one of a half-dozen or so associates of the 45th POTUS and his campaign team (Manafort, Kushner, Trump, Jr., Flynn, Stone) who had contact with Russia. It is entirely possible the House and IC investigations will produce a ‘no harm, no foul’ resolution, but it is also possible there was collusion. And finally, I find the “gate” suffix interesting, as we know the break in was not what bit Nixon in the butt. It was the (sloppy) cover-up. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the 45th POTUS was the victim of a cover-up he never had to execute?

#4 Comment By icarusr On April 13, 2017 @ 3:40 am

Short answer: “No.”

This was the FBI getting a FISA warrant from a court. You guys are embarrassing yourselves.

#5 Comment By Msnthrop On April 13, 2017 @ 4:26 am

Will Russiagate become Obamagate…No, because the FBI initiated these investigations without consulting anyone in the Obama administration.

#6 Comment By mohammad On April 13, 2017 @ 7:09 am

You have it wrong! All thr Russiagate stuff was a tool to force Trump into becoming yet another war party politician. Now that he has become a good boy and behaves properly and bombs whomever the war party tells him to, these stuff go away, at least until next election cycle.

#7 Comment By cupera1 On April 13, 2017 @ 9:05 am

This Trump /Russia story has all the same ear marks of the October Surprise story that started the Reagan administration. A history professor at Columbia, Gary Sick wrote a book, October Surprise, that accusing George H.W. Bush, Bush 41 of secretly flying to Paris on a SR-71 before he was vice president to meet with the Iranians Ayatollahs to have them hold the hostages until after the election. . The Democrats insisted on and got an investigation.

Speaker of the House Tom Foley said, “The seriousness of the charge mandates that we investigate this.” “Even though there is no evidence,” he said, “the seriousness of the charge is what matters.” There has been ZERO evidence that ONE VOTE that was changed in the election. So when the democrats bring this up they must be asked what evidence they have that it happened. All the Obama wire taps and spying on Trump has not found any evidence of collusion with the Russians. If there was anything to the democrat’s claims the relevant transcripts and audio tape would have come out during the campaign to help Hillary.

#8 Comment By Mark Thomason On April 13, 2017 @ 9:24 am

If this is their best shot, then there is not much there.

Carter Page is someone who never met Trump, someone who was just once in the same crowded room as Sessions, someone who never actually had or passed any information even while he was watched the whole time.

This is just not much. And yes, they are trying desperately to make it more than it is. That suggests they don’t have anything better.

The Russians Are NOT Coming. What a surprise.

#9 Comment By Dan Wafford On April 13, 2017 @ 9:50 am

The more the Democrats dig, the more dirt they turn up — on Obama. Notice how very, very quiet the press is about all this? Shooting oneself in the foot is all too apt.

#10 Comment By Ian Greenwood On April 13, 2017 @ 10:46 am

Right the scandal here is not the possible collusion with the Russian government to attack the US democratic system. It is the investigation into that possible collusion.

If Obama’s motivations were political why did he not use any of the information from this investigation politically? I’m sure it would have really helped Hillary if came out the Trump was under FBI investigation too before the election.

#11 Comment By collin On April 13, 2017 @ 11:01 am

I find it exceptionally weird that the Trump administration stating their campaign members were being investigation is proof that the Obama Administration was massively evil here. I simply don’t know how this is going to Trump with independent and Democratic voters.

1) Most people realize there is constant spying and I bet some of the Bush Administration was ‘spying’ on the Obama campaign & post-election months. But with Obama/Bush the stuff was low level that it did not cause concerns.
2) For all the Obama howling, why did he not make announcement about this before the elections? He had FBI recommendations here and the FBI continued to officially state there was no connections before the election. Having Comey give a press conference on November 1st on these connections, might have impacted the election.
3) Where are the lines to Obama? And what did Rice do illegally? Really, what National Security Advisor does not ask to unmask an US officials have concerning conversations with foreign ambassadors? (And most likely the FBI spotted Rice the F….N letters here so it was confirmation in reality.)

#12 Comment By Aegis On April 13, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

An excellent article that raises more questions than it answered.

#13 Comment By Anne On April 13, 2017 @ 12:34 pm

You’re making an enormous leap, trying to equate signing off on the investigation with what was being investigated. No matter who knew what or when on the investigatory side, the more issue everybody cares about is still going to be *what* (and who) was being investigated. Trying to change the focus is obfuscation, if not just plain chutzpah.
Just as chutzpah-heavy Trump is now blaming Obama for not ordering air strikes against Assad in 2013 (as if), I’ve no doubt that when and if Russiagate yields its smoking gun, there’ll be Republicans blaming Obama and his DOJ for not disclosing the ongoing FBI investigation of Trump campaign officials’ Russia ties before the 2016 election, if not during the primaries when voters might have asked questions. After all, the FBI kept the public up to date on the Clinton investigations, so why weren’t Republicans — and Democrats — informed that something even potentially bigger might erupt on their side?

#14 Comment By Dana Pavlick On April 13, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“Who will guard the guards?) Juvenal

“Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other.” John Adams

Obama’s abuse of Constitutional power explained.

Philip Giraldi’s Constitutional ( and most commendable) use of Fourth Estate powers explained.

#15 Comment By MoreFreedom On April 13, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

Consider everything Giraldi has written, from the perspective that Hillary Clinton would be a great Russian asset, whose scalp may have been acquired via hacking of her emails (including ones from Obama suspiciously using an alias suggesting Obama didn’t want the contents of those emails associated with him – and recall he lied about learning of Hillary’s server in news reports long after he sent her emails), or via over $145 million in Russian donations to her Clinton Foundation (where 90% of its spending ends up in the hands of Clinton operatives). Clinton of course, had her servers wiped clean of any logs that would show who hacked them, and which also could have proven her servers weren’t hacked.

Clinton, being naive about computers, probably thought since she only emailed a select few, that no one outside that circle of politically friendly people, would learn of her server that was setup in 2008. Even the State Dept. told a court it had none of her emails (even though she emailed several people working in the State Dept. using their State Dept. email addresses, and even though she told them to not use email addresses outside the government). Trying to keep her server secret, she didn’t hire security experts to protect it from hacking, just a guy who knew how to setup an email server.

Computer experts know that her email metadata could be intercepted from her wireless devices, as did the Russians, to discover her server which they could attempt to hack, and likely succeeded in doing.

This possibility makes Obama’s and Clinton’s actions all look like a cover up of their being blackmailed by Putin. Do you remember Obama telling Medvedev he’d have more flexibility towards Russia after the election in 2012? That’s at least how long they’ve been working to cover it up: by mishandling their investigation of her server, by creating this Russian narrative (just after she lost – Russia was our friend until then which Clinton allowed to obtain 20% of the US’s uranium reserves).

What better distraction from the blackmail of Obama/Clinton, than to claim Trump is subject to Russian blackmail and is cahoots with them?

As Ann Coulter observed, if you want to know what the Democrats are secretly doing, look at their accusations about Republicans.

#16 Comment By Tangled Web On April 13, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

“And she would have undoubtedly conveyed as much to her boss, suggesting yet again that the latest chapter in Russiagate may turn out to be Obamagate after all. “

… of course “her boss” was campaigning for Hillary. If any of this was communicated to the Clinton campaign or DNC then it ceases to about only about what is permissible in the national security context and becomes about the Executive Branch using the national security apparatus to help the Clinton campaign.

That’s big time.

#17 Comment By jamie On April 13, 2017 @ 3:07 pm

You know what they say about headlines that end with question marks.

#18 Comment By Clark Slade On April 13, 2017 @ 3:21 pm

Say a presidential candidate was truly compromised by foreign influence. Would not an administration be held responsible for not having caught this? This affair is comparable to the excitement a few years ago over the IRS examination of Tea Party associated outfits which were the growth industry of the time and thus merited extraordinary surveillance.

#19 Comment By The Other Sands On April 13, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

“Will Russiagate Become Obamagate?”

No.

But just keep on hopin’ that invoking the ghosts of Obama and Hillary will somehow bail you out of this incompetent boob your party put in office, and the ineptitude of the GOP congress.

#20 Comment By Kevin On April 13, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

” There has been ZERO evidence that ONE VOTE that was changed in the election. So when the democrats bring this up they must be asked what evidence they have that it happened”

Good luck sir- you had vanquished the strawman!

#21 Comment By Flavius On April 13, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

It is worth noting that when one side or the other calls the person with whom they are working a “spy” and “administers” that person in their bureaucracy as a spy, it does not make them a spy. What matters is the substance of the material being divulged and what can be determined from the circumstances of the transmission. Normally, no classified material, no case.
In the Carter Page situation, it would be revealing to know whether Page had any pre FISA dealings with our CIA or FBI for the value he represented to us, and if he was not approached, why was he not. Indeed, what was the predicate material that made him the target of a FISA application, two applications reportedly, the first of which for some reason was rejected, the second of which, presumably augmented with additional information, was accepted.
Something not right here.

#22 Comment By Marc Aurele On April 13, 2017 @ 5:46 pm

Will Russiagate become Obamagate? It has already, and it is only the very beginning. Enjoy!

#23 Comment By Douglas Proudfoot On April 13, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

The law is that the names aren’t supposed to be made public unless there’s an indictment. The suspicion is that all of Mr. Page’s telephone transcripts were circulated in the West Wing. The further suspicion is that there wasn’t much of a case against any of the Americans who were monitored with FISA warrants, and that the whole thing was a ruse to wire tap people involved in Trump’s campaign under color of authority.

#24 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On April 13, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

“No doubt, but expect the upturned chin, the turn to profile, and eyes lowered half-lidded as the unctuous non-denial denial passes the lips in that measured, reasonable tone.”

Obama in a nutshell. But future historians won’t be as easy to fool as contemporary journalists. Clinical self-deception will surely figure heavily in those historians’ accounts.

#25 Comment By Ben Stone On April 13, 2017 @ 6:54 pm

The desperation reeks.

Oh by the way, the FBI has new evidence about to drop with will devastate the Trump administration. Tick tock.

#26 Comment By Jack O’Rourke On April 13, 2017 @ 8:09 pm

The trap that we have fallen into is the assumption that any contact any American has with today’s Russia is considered a treasonous act.
We can’t get our heads around the fact that Stalin’s Communist Russia doesn’t exist any more than Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
I suspect that the story being presented by our 17 different spy agencies with regard to Putin’s Russia has more to do with their collective imagination than it has to do with hard concrete facts.
I also suspect that if today’s spy mechanisms had existed during WWII, we might still be fighting it.

#27 Comment By Slow Rider On April 13, 2017 @ 8:51 pm

This Russia election hacking business bemuses me.

If you want to worry about a country that interferes in our electoral process very effectively and spies on us at roughly the same level as Russia and China, worry about Israel.

How many US politicians have had private meetings with Israelis? How many American politicians have sought Israeli help against their fellow American opponents? How many US politicians have gone on junkets to Israel? Which US presidential campaigns had contacts with Israelis? Which Israeli officials did they meet with? How many US politicians have taken money from Israel’s US lobbyists and then given Israel money or weapons?

These questions seem more pertinent to national security and the integrity of our electoral process than what we’ve seen so far of the Trump/Russia brouhaha.

#28 Comment By Ellimist000 On April 14, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

Keep trying Phil,

By all means don’t take note what happened to the Democrats after they continued to attempt to prosecute the previous administration whenever they messed up after 4 years

#29 Comment By Rob Smith On April 14, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

See it all, annotated at

[4]

#30 Comment By Dave Cearley On April 14, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

Joe, by your rationale it would be reasonable for every incumbent administration to spy on their opponents. Has there ever been a major. Andidate who’s team didn’t have conversations with representatives of foreign governments?
Obama himself met with several back in 07. Should Bush white house have surveilled Obama’s team? Bull.

#31 Comment By Rhetoric On April 14, 2017 @ 5:37 pm

While a Republican controlled executive branch and a Republican controlled congress might not be the ideal conditions for Rapprochement with Russia, it is, like single payer health care, a policy goal at the core of what progressives profess. That the DNC leadership, the rump of Mrs. Clinton’s defeated coterie, refuse to lobby for single payer (preferring instead to prop up their version of the Heritage Foundation’s Romneycare); and not only refuse to support Rapprochement, but to actively exploit it as an Achilles’s heel, leaves Trump and his government as the only viable structure for digesting policy issues.

Opportunists like Page need to be managed because they inevitably will compose some of the major points of contact during detente. That Mr. Page emerges from this partisan witch hunt as an honorable martyr should embarrass those who jumped on the McResistance bandwagon. Sadly, still suffering from the embraces of Mrs. Clinton, they are shameless.

#32 Comment By TOBOR On April 14, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

It always amazes me when you have all of these people, on both the Left and Right, who think they know exactly what happened when they have absolutely no access to the facts and evidence! JUDGE and JURY with no proof! Americans are Uneducated fools!

#33 Comment By Sidney Cartar On April 14, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

Sessions recused himself. Nunes recused himself. Flynn was fired. Manafort was fired. Both of the latter have had to register now as foreign agents. Kushner lied on his security clearance forms. British and Estonian intelligence are saying that they picked up Trump campaign officials talking to Russia about how to use hacked material. The FBI is investigating. Manafort is being investigated for money laundering by banks in Cyprus, after apparently taking illegal payments from Putin’s cronies in Ukraine. All 17 intelligence agencies agree that Russia hacked into the DNC and Podesta and ran a propaganda campaign in support of Trump. What is it going to take for you guys to take this seriously?

[5]

#34 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 15, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

@David Cearly. Excuse the “Taxi Driver” riff, but (respectfully), are you talking to me? There are two separate issues here, and it would appear they’ve been conflated by the current administration. The first is; the extent (and methods) any foreign entity sought to interfere/influence the 2016 election. It has been established that several U.S. intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies were aware of this (June or July of 2016, I believe). In addition, Carter Page, who linked to Russian intelligence operatives in 2013, once again appeared on the IC radar when he was a member of the Trump campaign team. Again, I haven’t seen anything to suggest he was viewed as a spy or had been compromised/turned by any foreign government (not so sure about Michael Flynn, but that’s another kettle of fish), or that the previous administration sought to make political hay out of the information. Have you ever asked yourself why the previous administration did not pull a “Comey” and out Page, Flynn, Stone, Manafort, Trump, Jr. et al prior to November? Two possible answers. 1 – They found no evidence to support the possibility the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia – regarless of Russian intelligence efforts. 2 – US intelligence/counter-intelligence was just doing ITS JOB, which included NOT using any past or ongoing surveillance to “influence” the election (alternative ‘deep state’ as it were). It seems to me, it has been the 45th POTUS (via Twitter) and his surrogates – including Fox News) who has weaponized this “IC just doing what the IC does” by offering conspiracies about everything from the “deep state” to “cameras embedded in microwave ovens”. Or, claiming the whole “scandal” was created by the Democrats as a sour grapes response to the results of the National election. But back to Carter Page. As recently as this week he has admitted sanctions may have been discussed – a walk back from, I don’t recall any conversations which was a walk-back from I did not discuss any campaign issues… And again, what I find interesting is the idea that both Page and Flynn have “military intelligence” all over their resumes. So, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the Trump campaign team knowingly “colluded” with any foreign power, or if they were so many “useful idiots”.

#35 Comment By DoubleHelix On April 15, 2017 @ 5:04 pm

“has nevertheless excited Democratic Party critics who have been looking for some solid evidence of Russian government subversion of America’s electoral process.”

Um, here’s one non-Democrat who’s extremely concerned by what I considered to be very persuasive circumstantial evidence that the Russians colluded with the Trump campaign to sway our election.

The integrity of our elections and the legitimacy of our elected officials should not be a partisan issue.

#36 Comment By Johann On June 9, 2017 @ 10:03 am

“All 17 intelligence agencies agree that Russia hacked into the DNC and Podesta and ran a propaganda campaign in support of Trump. ”

Democrat talking points must be mass distributed. Surely millions of people can’t come up with the same absurd talking points.

Why would the Coast Guard Intelligence analyze the DNC hacking? Why would the Department of Energy Intelligence, who is supposed to protect nuclear weapons secrets and nuclear materials analyze the DNC hack?

I suspect in order to get that talking point, the Obama administration had a meeting with the heads of all 17 intelligence agencies where the NSA and CIA presented their case, and then they all nodded that yeah, Russia did it. That still doesn’t mean it isn’t a moronish statement invented for foolish gullible people.

#37 Comment By Bob Newton On June 10, 2017 @ 2:00 am

Is it really credible that Russians have any influence in US elections given that US lobbyists contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the campaigns, PACS and foundations of our candidates?
Our democracy is under attack? Well, yes, but from the inside.