As part of the coordinated Republican pushback against the Russia investigation, Donald Trump's GOP allies have become heavily invested in Carter Page. That was almost certainly unwise.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for example, defended his party's antics last week, telling reporters, "There are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated." He was referring to Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.
On Friday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the key player behind the discredited partisan memo, told Fox News, "I don't believe that somebody like Mr. Page should be a target of the FBI."
Keep this in mind when reading the piece Time magazine published over the weekend:
Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page's contacts with the Russian government over the years.The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page."Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda," the letter reads.
If you're starting to think Republicans haven't fully thought through their entire gambit, you're not the only one.
As we discussed last week, the same year in which Carter identified himself in writing as an adviser to the Kremlin, he was targeted by a Russian spy ring, drawing FBI scrutiny.
Six months after the spy ring was broken up -- resulting in multiple criminal convictions -- Page joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser, despite having no apparent qualifications for the job. A few months later, Page, newly identified by Trump as someone who had the Republican candidate's ear on matters related to international affairs, traveled to Russia, met with prominent officials, and denounced U.S. sanctions against the Putin government.
It was the sort of thing that was likely to capture the interest of U.S. counter-intelligence officials -- and that's exactly what happened: In fact, Page was suspected as a possible agent of a foreign adversary.
Then Trump won the election, at which point, Page went back to Moscow for another visit, during which time he again met with leading Russian officials.
Remember, according to House Republicans, somebody like Mr. Page shouldn't be the subject of FBI scrutiny. This isn't just some random thought, either -- it's the cornerstone of the entire pro-Trump effort to undermine the federal investigation into the Russia scandal.
I still think the better question is why Trump brought on a suspected Russian agent as a foreign policy adviser for reasons no one in Trump World has yet explained.
Postscript: Asked by Time about his 2013 description of himself, Page, who has faced no charges, replied that his 2013 work was "really plain-vanilla stuff." He added, "Does that make me an evil villain, as some of your sources would like to have you think?"