A Steady Drip (Carter Page)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.

That is, everything else being what it is, did Donald Trump lead the discourse to this point, virtually guarantee the leaking of this warrant, last month when he pitched his fit? Questions swirled around Carter Page and his dealings with Russian interests from the outset, when candidate Trump invoked his name as the foreign policy expert he had been in contact with. He could give us some names, Mr. Trump said, pushing back against talk of his fragmented and directionless foreign policy and lack of any substantial team to address those issues. He said he could give some names, and he gave one. Mr. Trump named Carter Page.

From that point forward, the one thing nobody has been able to do is make Mr. Page’s strange apparent relationship with Russian interests look any less bizarre. When Zachary Milder, for instance, headlined over a year ago for Bloomberg that, “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”―

A globe-trotting American investment banker who’s built a career on deals with Russia and its state-run gas company, Carter Page says his business has suffered directly from the U.S. economic sanctions imposed after Russia’s escalating involvement in the Ukraine. When Donald Trump named him last week as one of his foreign-policy advisers, Page says his e-mail inbox filled up with positive notes from Russian contacts. “So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page said in a two-hour interview last week. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.”

―what would conventional wisdom have said about the prospect of these twists and turns? That low-key chatter would persist, but it would be Mr. Page himself, and Donald Trump, who drove it spectacularly forward in February and March, with a sitting president accusing a former president in such a manner that the one legitimate answer would be, well, the sort of investigation that produces FISA warrants.

But in February Mr. Page wrote a bizarre letter accusing Hillary Clinton; in March news reports compel Page to admit one contact with Russians; Donald Trump explodes in accusation after a week of bad headlines; Page pushes back against talk that he was recruited by spies; it turns out that Page did meet with spies, even gave them information, and, by the way, apparently didn’t disclose those contacts to the campaign, but we might also recall attempts to say Vice President was out of the loop on Gen. Flynn’s involvement with the Russians even though the disgraced former National Security Advisor’s team notified Mr. Pence directly, as part of the transition.

The rolling confessions are an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps President Trump will try the line he tried with Flynn, that he didn’t know but, you know, would have been okay with it even if … well, okay, come on. No, we’re not really going to hear that line.

The only thing about this that seems surprising is that it might be happening at all. Otherwise, it would seem we already know what’s coming because Team Trump keeps telling us.

____________________

(There is a joke going around about reading to the end; thus I can’t quite explain the irony of omitting a necessary tip o’the hat to, well, Steve Benen, though inability and irony alike on this occasion derive from the same stupid egocentrism because it’s true that we don’t always read to the end on a grab and go: Oh, yeah, that link. What’s even worse is the hemming and hawing over a Biblical joke in a title forsaken. #nevermind)

Maddow, Rachel. “Former Trump advisor Carter Page targeted by FISA warrant: WaPo”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 11 April 2017.

Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

Nakashima, Ellen, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous. “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”. The Washington Post. 11 April 2017.

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