Carter Page was the Camel's Nose in Trump's Tent

There is an old Arab proverb, "If the camel gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow." A metaphor for a small, insignificant action opening the door to something much larger and more nefarious.

Overlooked in this past weekend’s brouhaha over the Nunes memo is the role of Carter Page. A Russian spy or the FBI camel’s nose to get under the Trump tent? Given that to date Page has not been charged with a single crime, unlike Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, is he really a spy or just a dodgy business consultant who did business with Russia?

And who served conveniently as the camel’s nose to get under the Trump tent, so the Obama justice and intelligence departments could first try to influence the election, then having failed, to overturn the election results.

Byron York, in the Washington Examiner, reviews the history of Carter Page. An energy consultant doing business in Russia that Russia tried to recruit as a spy. Big deal. I suspect most Americans doing business with or within Russia have at one time been approached by the Russian intelligence services to see if they have any appetite for helping Mother Russia.

Page was supposedly viewed by the Russians as “an idiot”, according to Byron York’s piece. So what. Trump is called an idiot on CNN and MSNBC on a daily basis. Is Page an idiot?

His bio suggests otherwise. A distinguished graduate of the US Naval Academy, in the top 10 percent of his class. Unlike Senator John McCain who graduated 894th in a class of 899 at Annapolis.

Page received a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown, served five years in the Navy, was a fellow at the Council of Foreign relations, received an MBA from NYU, and worked as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in London, Moscow, and New York.

Adding to his resume, he earned a PhD from SOAS, University of London.

Could he still be an idiot? Sure. Plenty of Ivy League graduates populate the halls of media, academia, and government and could be called idiots, but characterizing Page as some rube plucked off the street to play his brief role as a Trump campaign advisor is a stretch.

Page’s activities in Russia placed him on the FBI’s Russian radar screen as Byron York observed. Reasonably so. Too bad the Obama FBI showed no similar interest in the Clintons’ for far more suspicious activities, such as the Uranium One deal and Bill Clinton receiving half a million dollars for giving a speech to a Russian investment bank with Kremlin ties. Far more than anything we know about Carter Page. The FBI radar screen was blind to the Clintons.

Trump, early in his campaign, needed a foreign policy advisory team. NeverTrumpers who would have gladly served in that role for candidate Jeb! or Kasich ran from Trump like scalded dogs. Carter Page, a Republican, was scooped up by the Trump campaign as a volunteer advisor, given the limited choices and media pressure on Trump to name his team.

Boom! Page was the camel’s nose under the tent. A suspicious character who worked in Russia. That was all the FBI needed. And the FBI camel wasted no time in crawling entirely into the tent.

As the Nunes memo clearly outlined, the FBI and DOJ had two choices at this point in their pursuit of Donald Trump via Carter Page. A FISA Title VII warrant, for surveillance of US persons abroad, specifically those in contact with potential terror organizations, which Page was not.

Or a FISA Title I warrant, with a much higher threshold. As Sundance at Conservative Treehouse has been explaining, Title I is reserved for an, “agent of a foreign power” who is “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence activities.” The evidence must show the American citizen is an agent of a foreign government. A spy. If Page is a Russian spy, why hasn’t he been arrested, indicted, and prosecuted?

The Obama administration made the claim that Carter Page was an actual Russian spy, basing the claim on the Steele dossier, which FBI director Comey at the time described to Congress as “salacious and unverified.” This FISA application was made on October 21, 2016, months after Page left the Trump campaign. Furthermore, the application was renewed three more times, twice while Trump was President.

Whether the FISA judge was duped or in on the charade is as of yet unknown, but the Obama justice and intelligence forces were now in the Trump tent.

Anyone and everyone who Page had contact with, past, present, and future, was fair game to spy on. If Page was an advisor to the Trump campaign, even if for only a few months, he undoubtedly had contact with every principal in the campaign, including candidate Trump and his family. Obama and Clinton were essentially embedded within the Trump campaign.

These “incidental contacts” of Carter Page could then be unmasked by Susan Rice and others in the Obama administration. This information then was placed in Obama’s Presidential Daily Brief. Not for the President’s eyes only, but disseminated to, “More than 30 recipients, including the president’s top strategic communications aide and speechwriter, and deputy secretaries of national security departments.”

A phone call away from the New York Times, Washington Post, or CNN. Or Adam Schiff or John McCain. Now the entire Democratic Party, mainstream media, and a cadre of NeverTrump Republicans were in the Trump tent. Trump might have well conducted his entire campaign as a reality TV show, strategies on full display to the world. Like broadcasting an NFL offensive huddle to the entire stadium.

All due to the FBI using Carter Page to get their nose under the Trump tent. Using dubious and likely illegal means to accomplish their goals. Fortunately not eliminating Trump thus far, but this has not played out yet.

Democrats in particular should be very afraid of this scandal. Rather than defending the Obama abuses, they should be screaming for oversight and an end to these practices.

How easy for Trump to use these tactics against the Democrats in 2020 or 2024? The current crop of Obama appointed FISA judges will be out as their terms are seven years, with a new appointment each year.

A sympathetic Trump-appointed judge may sign off on FISA Title 1 surveillance of candidate Bernie Sanders, since he honeymooned in the USSR and may be a spy. Or on Hillary Clinton, since she and her husband received large sums of money from the Russians. Or Elizabeth Warren, whose Indian ancestors were originally from Siberia, creating sympathies toward her ancestral country.

I doubt President Trump would do such a thing, but the precedent has been set. And as of yet, there has been no accountability or punishment for these misdeeds. Democrats would be wise to remember that by vociferously defending this corrupt process, they pave the way for future camels to poke their noses under Democrat tents.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.

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