One of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers said Monday he was stepping down from the campaign, while pushing back on allegations that he had engaged in private communications with top Russian officials.Carter Page said in an interview with Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin that the claims were "just complete garbage," but nonetheless he had chosen to take a leave of absence from campaign because the accusations were causing a "distraction."
In March, Donald Trump sat down with the Washington Post, which asked the Republican candidate to name some of his top foreign-policy advisers. Trump listed a handful of people, but near the top of the list was a man named Carter Page.Last week, this became something of a problem. As we discussed yesterday, Yahoo News published a report on Friday that said U.S. intelligence officials are "seeking to determine whether [Page] has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president."A day later, a Trump campaign spokesperson made no effort to deny the accuracy of the report, instead arguing that Page "is not an advisor and has made no contribution to the campaign. He's never been a part of our campaign, period." Sunday, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway added that Page is "certainly not part" of Team Trump.It therefore came as something of a surprise yesterday afternoon when Page announced he's parting ways with the candidate's operation.
So, according to the Trump campaign, Page has "never been a part" of the team. According to Page, he's been part of the team, but he's now taking a leave of absence (announced hours before a highly anticipated debate, when news like this is likely to be noticed).Hmm.Given the circumstances, it's probably worth noting that Trump continues to play the role of ally to Vladimir Putin's government in Russia. In last night's debate, Hillary Clinton noted Russia's suspected role in American computer hacks, but the GOP nominee defended the foreign rival."I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC," Trump said. "She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't -- maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?"