In a March 2016 interview with the Washington Post editorial board, Donald Trump was asked who would be advising him on foreign policy, and he rattled off five names:
TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that’s a representative group.
Jeff Sessions was named as Trump’s chief foreign policy advisor later that same day. Six people were on the small team of foreign policy advisors. A relatively small team, no? And given the weight of the duties of foreign policy advisors, Donald Trump is likely to be keenly familiar with the team.
And yet, in January, then President-Elect Donald Trump sent Sean Spicer out to announce to the world that Carter Page and Trump did not know each other and they’d never met. Curious given that Trump had so easily rattled off Page’s name in that Washington Post interview.
Thursday night in a sudden reversal, Carter Page finally admitted to Chris Hayes that he did in fact meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the week of the Republican National Convention.
Back to the Republican National Convention. Trump’s campaign team bizarrely interfered with the Republican Party’s platform, which RNC delegates were voting on. Texas delegate Dianne Denman had proposed language to back a free and independent Ukraine, promising to give support, military and otherwise, if Russia invaded, as they appeared to be threatening to do. Why would the Trump campaign interfere in this one issue?
Trump staffers in the room, who are not delegates but are there to oversee the process, intervened. By working with pro-Trump delegates, they were able to get the issue tabled while they devised a method to roll back the language.
On the sideline, Denman tried to persuade the Trump staffers not to change the language, but failed. “I was troubled when they put aside my amendment and then watered it down,” Denman told me. “I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.”
Finally, Trump staffers wrote an amendment to Denman’s amendment that stripped out the platform’s call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” and replaced it with softer language calling for “appropriate assistance.”
Curious. And now we have confirmation that Sessions, J.D. Gordon and Carter Page all met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kiyslak during the Republican National Convention. The timing is significant because on July 22, Wikileaks released the DNC emails, hacked by the Russians. What a coincidence! Was this payback to Trump and his team for softening the language on Ukraine? Payback for promising to roll back Obama’s sanctions against Russia that was preventing a $500 BILLION deal between ExxonMobil (led by now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) and Putin?
Either way, the absolute and total denials that Trump knows Carter Page is smoke that could be seen from the moon. Why are they working so very hard to distance themselves from someone Trump once bragged about when asked about his foreign policy team? If these meetings were normal, par for the course, why has Trump’s campaign team worked to feverishly to cover them up? Check out Page’s evasive response when Hayes asked him what his role was with the Trump campaign:
HAYES: What did you do in that role and capacity?
PAGE: You know, similarly I don’t like talking about internal discussions. It’s the old first rule of fight club, don’t talk about fight club. I think if you look at a lot of the internal talks, a lot of leaks about what happened —
HAYES: Sure, but I’m asking you a question about sort of the genre of activity in which you engage as opposed to substance which is to say did you write memos about issues, did you get on conference calls? Was that the kind of thing you were engaged?
PAGE: I think the two points, I’m talking about — however —
HAYES: So why did they say you didn’t advise the campaign? That’s advising the campaign.
PAGE: No, that’s not what they — they said I was not directly briefing —
HAYES: The president or the man who’s now the president of the United States.
PAGE: Exactly, exactly.
This is a mess. One that directly affects our national security and our democracy. Since July 2016, representatives of Donald Trump issued no fewer than 20 denials they’d had contact with the Russians. And now it seems as if there aren’t any members of Trump’s team who didn’t meet with the Russians. Everyone involved needs to be under oath at the earliest possible moment. Yesterday. The American public deserves the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Below is a partial transcript of the interiew of former Trump advisor Carter Page on All in with Chris Hayes. Page’s barrage of evasive answers make the entire interview worth watching.
HAYES: With us tonight, USA today in addition to two other people during the Republican national convention in July met with ambassador Kislyak. Among them, a man named Carter Page, Page will join me for an interview momentarily. He was mentioned in a blockbuster “New York Times” story two weeks ago claiming trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence. Page named as one of four trump aides the FBI has examined. All four deny wrongdoing. Page is a former Merrill lynch investment banker whose biography indicates he spent three years in Moscow arranging blockbuster energy sect ordeals but a deeply reported Politico story found in the expat business community in Russia no one had ever heard of Carter Page. Page is a critic of U.S. Foreign policy, including U.S. Sanctions against Russia, last year reportedly hailed Vladimir Putin as a more reliable leader than president Obama. Last March then-candidate trump identified Page as a member of his foreign policy team.
[CLIP OF DONALD TRUMP INTERVIEW DURING THE CAMPAIGN]
REPORTER: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon.
TRUMP: You want me to give you some of the names? Carter Page, Phd.
HAYES: Trump insisted Page played no role in his campaign.
[CLIP OF SEAN SPICER PRESS CONFERENCE IN JANUARY]
SPICER: Carter Page is an individual that the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.
HAYES: Joining me now is Carter Page. I’m glad you’re here, you and a couple individuals and another adviser met with Sergey Kislyak at the return see in Cleveland. Is that true?
PAGE: Chris, it’s interesting, one of those pieces from the “Washington post” that you showed, it starts out with a discussion of a meeting that I participated in with prime minister Modi quoting a number of sources that — about things that I supposedly said which were completely false.
HAYES: Right, but I’m asking you —
PAGE: But that meeting was off the report record and I’m not talking about any — or that entire conference which —
HAYES: Which one are you talking about? At the RNC (Republican National Convention)? There’s a conference that put together — I want to give people the context. It’s not like you’re in a back alley with the Russian ambassador. There are a bunch of ambassadors that come in, it’s done every year, but you met with Sergey Kislyak.
PAGE: I’m not talking about meetings that I had there because I learned confidentiality rules when I was in the U.S. Navy and I’m sticking with the commitment I made to the organizers that I would keep it an off-the-record meeting. I’m not talking about individual discussions or people I may or may not have met with.
HAYES: So “USA Today is reporting this. You won’t confirm or deny it. Two weeks ago you were with Judy Woodruff and she said “Did you have meetings last year with Russian officials inside Russia, outside Russia anywhere?” You said “I had no meetings. No meetings.”
PAGE: No meetings relating to those issues which were being brought out or she was asking about — which was another front page– I can’t remember —
HAYES: Wait a second. I want to be clear. When you said “I had no meetings, no meetings” you are amending that to say no meetings relating to the issues specific to what Judy Woodruff was talking about?
PAGE: She was specifically talking about the investigation which came out the same day or the day previous so that was the context.
HAYES: Can I be totally honest with you here for a second?
HAYES: You know, there’s this pattern here where everything in concept — you can tell me yeah, I met with Sergey Kislyak, there was a bunch of different ambassadors, there was one from Germany and we talked, there’s no smoke here. And that may have been true about Michael Flynn talking to Sergei Kislyak and it may have been true at Jared Kushner’s meetings and it may be true about Jeff sessions but there’s this pattern which you appear to be part of in which there’s a bizarre dissembling about the basic facts of the matter. Do you understand that leads people to think it’s fishy?
PAGE: When you talk about today’s front page article when you talk about the ongoing works by the Obama White House to come after and burrow in all kinds of information, that’s the reason why this kind of question is being asked.
HAYES: I get you think this is being pursued by the opponents and enemies the president. I get that. I’m asking you straight up, just for a straight answer, you’re saying I can’t confirm or deny, “USA Today” is reporting it, you told one reporter I had no meeting with the Russians, now you’re saying you had no meeting with what they were talking about. I’m trying to get a straight answer. Did you meet Sergey Kislyak?
PAGE: I’m not going to deny that I talked to him. Although I will say I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland.
PAGE: I’m respectful to feel the organizers, I’m respectful to confidentiality. Whether it’s in government or outside.
HAYES: But you’re not going to deny you talked with him in Cleveland.
PAGE: I do not deny that.