Follow the money: Coincidence or conspiracy? The Carter Page connection

Back in January, “Baghdad Sean” Spicer claimed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Cater Page “is an individual whom the President-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”

Per usual, this was false. “In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board in March, Trump named “Carter Page, Ph.D.,” as one of the people he was considering for his foreign policy team.” Trump news conference: CNN’s Reality Check team vets the claims:

Carter Page founded an investment company, Global Energy Capital, and has worked as an investment banker in London and Moscow.

Page has denied the allegations that he met with sanctioned Russian officials, telling The Washington Post, “All of these accusations are just complete garbage.”

That was, until last week in an interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes. Carter Page: ‘I don’t deny’ meeting with Russian ambassador.

And now this complete reversal from “Baghdad Sean” Spicer’s false denial in January: Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow:

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.

A few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it, Gordon, a retired naval officer, told POLITICO.

Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign, the former campaign adviser said. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to discuss internal campaign matters.

The trip is now a focus of congressional and FBI investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

Lewandowski told POLITICO he did not recall the email exchange with Page, but he did not deny that it occurred.

* * *

[A] former campaign official said campaign officials did not discuss Page’s planned trip before he left for Moscow.

“No one discussed the trip within the campaign and certainly not with candidate Trump directly,” said the former campaign official.

The official pointed to a July statement from Hicks that declared that Page was in Moscow in a private capacity and was not representing the campaign. That statement came in response to media reports from Moscow about Page’s presence there.

Both Lewandowski and the White House official cast Page as a minor character on the periphery of the campaign, who was a foreign policy adviser in name only.

“I’ve never met or spoken to Carter Page in my life,” Lewandowski said.

Gordon and Page had no comment on whether the Trump campaign officially sanctioned the trip, which has drawn the attention of investigators from the FBI and congressional committees investigating possible Trump campaign ties with Russian officials before the election.

And while Page has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with his Moscow visit, it is now drawing increased scrutiny as a result of new disclosures about his contact two weeks later with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Just days after Kislyak talked to Page, Gordon and a third campaign official, WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers — a hack that U.S. intelligence later attributed to the Russian government.

No connection between any of those three events has been alleged publicly or confirmed.

* * *

Page’s trip to Moscow has been the subject of intense speculation for months, but many of the details remain cloudy.

A longtime oil and energy industry consultant, Page had already spent considerable time in Russia before making the trip, most recently as founder and managing partner of the Global Energy Capital investment and consulting firm, which specializes in Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business.

The firm’s website says Page has been involved in more than $25 billion of transactions in the energy and power sector and that he spent three years in Moscow, where he was an adviser on key transactions for Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom and other energy-related companies.

Page has insisted that he was in Moscow to give a commencement address at the New Economic School there based on his scholarly research, and that his visit was “outside of my informal, unpaid role” on the Trump campaign. He also said he had divested any stake in Gazprom and that he had “not met this year [2016] with any sanctioned official in Russia despite the fact that there are no restrictions on U.S. persons speaking with such individuals.”

But last September, top congressional lawmakers were briefed on suspected efforts by Russia to meddle in the election. Soon after, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked FBI Director James Comey to investigate meetings between a Trump official, later identified as Page, and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow that he believed were evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Trump campaign officials took steps to distance themselves from Page, who had been publicly identified as an adviser as recently as Aug. 24. He announced Sept. 26 that he was taking a leave of absence from the campaign, saying the accusations were untrue but causing too much of a “distraction.”

But even after Russia was linked to the hacking effort against Democrats, the Trump campaign did not seek to question Page about his trip, the campaign adviser said.

Asked what Page did while in Moscow, the adviser said, “I have no idea. I didn’t want to know.”

* * *

In recent days, Page’s contact with Russians resurfaced with news reports that he, Gordon and senior Trump campaign adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions all engaged in discussions with Kislyak at an event on the sidelines of the GOP convention.

Page has declined to comment on what they discussed, saying it was private, while Gordon characterized the conversations as harmless efforts to improve U.S.-Russia ties.

Could it be a quid pro quo deal to lift sanctions on Russia reported by Business Insider back in January? Memos: CEO of Russia’s state oil company offered Trump adviser, allies a cut of huge deal if sanctions were lifted:

A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia contained allegations that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump ally Carter Page and his associates the brokerage of a 19% stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia.

The dossier says the offer was made in July, when Page was in Moscow giving a speech at the Higher Economic School. The claim was sourced to “a trusted compatriot and close associate” of Sechin, according to the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele.

“Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft president was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft,” the dossier said. “In return, Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.”

Four months before the intelligence community briefed Trump, then-President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and the nation’s top lawmakers on the dossier’s claims — most of which have not been independently verified but are being investigated by US intelligence agencies — a US intelligence source told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff that Sechin met with Page during Page’s three-day trip to Moscow. Sechin, the source told Yahoo, raised the issue of the US lifting sanctions on Russia under Trump.

Page was an early foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He took a “leave of absence” in September after news broke of his July trip to Moscow, and the campaign later denied that he had ever worked with it.

Page, for his part, was “noncommittal” in his response to Sechin’s requests that the US lift the sanctions, the dossier said. But he signaled that doing so would be Trump’s intention if he won the election, and he expressed interest in Sechin’s offer, according to the document.

* * *

Page is also believed to have met with senior Kremlin internal affairs official Igor Diveykin while he was in Moscow last July, according to Isikoff’s intelligence sources. The dossier separately claimed that Diveykin — whom US officials believe was responsible for the intelligence collected by Russia about the US election — met with Page and hinted that the Kremlin possessed compromising information about Trump.

It is unclear whether Isikoff’s reporting is related to the dossier, which has been circulating among top intelligence officials, lawmakers, and journalists since mid-2016.

After mid-October, the dossier said, Sechin predicted that it would no longer be possible for Trump to win the presidency, so he “put feelers out to other business and political contacts” to purchase a stake in Rosneft.

Rosneft then scrambled to find a foreign investor, holding talks with more than 30 potential buyers from Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East. The company signed a deal on December 7 to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is Glencore’s largest shareholder.

The “11th hour deal” was “so last minute,” Reuters reported, “that it appeared it would not close in time to meet the government’s deadline for booking money in the budget from the sale.”

As an aside, the New York Times reported that Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and then incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, met with the Russian ambassador in December. Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says. “[T]he disclosure of the meeting at Trump Tower adds to the emerging picture of how the relationship between Mr. Trump’s incoming team and Moscow was evolving to include some of the president-elect’s most trusted advisers.” “The meeting in December came at a crucial time, just as the Obama White House was preparing to sanction Russia and publicly make its case that Moscow had interfered with the 2016 election.” Was the Rosneft deal discussed?

The purchase amounted to the biggest foreign investment in Russia since US sanctions took effect in 2014. It showed that “there are some forces in the world that are ready to help Russia to circumvent the [West’s] sanction regime,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an associate fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.

“In Russia we have a marriage between power and business, and that is why all important economic deals need approval and the endorsement of the authorities,” Shevtsova said. “This was a very serious commercial deal that hardly could have succeeded without the direct involvement of the Kremlin.”

The privatization deal was funded by Gazprombank, whose parent company is the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Page holds investments in Gazprom, though he claimed in a letter to FBI Director James Comey in September that he sold his stake in the company “at a loss.” His website says he served as an adviser “on key transactions” for the state-owned energy giant before setting up his energy investment fund, Global Energy Capital, in 2008 with former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko.

There is no evidence (yet) that Carter played any role in the Rosneft deal. But he was back in Moscow on December 8one day after the deal was signed — to “meet with some of the top managers” of Rosneft, he told [TASS] reporters at the time. Page denied meeting with Sechin, Rosneft’s CEO, during that trip but said it would have been “a great honor” if he had.

The Rosneft deal, Page added, was “a good example of how American private companies are unfortunately limited to a great degree due to the influence of sanctions.” He said the US and Russia had entered “a new era” of relations but that it was still “too early” to discuss whether Trump would be easing or lifting sanctions on Moscow.

Page’s extensive business ties to state-owned Russian companies were investigated by a counterintelligence task force set up last year by the CIA. The investigation, which is reportedly ongoing, has examined whether Russia was funneling money into Trump’s presidential campaign — and, if it was, who was serving as the liaison between the Trump team and the Kremlin.

The dossier claims that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort asked Page to be the liaison. That claim has not been verified. Manafort served as a top adviser to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine from 2004 to 2012 and emerged as a central figure in both the dossier and the intelligence community’s early inquiries into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Martin Longman at the Political Animal blog provided more details, Mnuchin Needs to Explain the 19.5% Sale of Rosneft:

The [Rosneft] deal, if not its details, was in the works for quite some time and possibly public enough for a very well informed and clever intelligence officer to “fit the facts” to make it look retroactively damaging. The actual deal is extraordinarily convoluted and has caused head scratching in Russia.

It involves ostensible investment by Swiss giant Glencore and something called the Qatar QIA fund, with financing by Russian banks and an Italian bank. There was a bond sale of Rosneft to raise money which was then reinvested as loans issued by Russian banks to the foreign investors. A series of shell companies were created and somehow the actual ownership seems to have shifted to a company in Singapore (use Google Translate for Russian).

Running down what actually happened here is a job for investigators at the Treasury Department or perhaps the Central Intelligence Agency, but it was done at least in part to raise funds that could be transferred into the Russian treasury to cover operating expenses, as Putin explained in his annual year-end press conference:

The ink’s still drying on the $11 billion sale of 19.5 percent of state-controlled Rosneft PJSC to Glencore Plc and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund…

…The first such agreement in 15 years will bring at least 1 trillion rubles ($16 billion) to Russia’s treasury, according to VTB Capital and Morgan Stanley estimates. Putin played a key role in the process, talking to global leaders and Russia’s oil executives, according to Energy Minister Alexander Novak and the Kremlin.

At a minimum, the deal concerned the U.S. because it appeared to violate the sanctions imposed on Russia. Immediately after the deal was announced, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said:

“The thing I can confirm for you is that the experts at the Treasury that are responsible for constructing and enforcing the sanctions regime will carefully look at a transaction like this,” Earnest told reporters. “They’ll look at the terms of the deal and evaluate what impact sanctions would have on it.”

What’s most intriguing is that the former British intelligence officer who wrote the intelligence reports that have now been leaked had reported a 19% stake as the offer made to Trump through his emissary Carter Page. Either that number was floated somewhere in the press or that’s a remarkable coincidence or the intelligence was good and the promise was kept.

Obviously, the Treasury Department is looking at this deal very carefully, but the power at Treasury is about to come under Trump’s control. Trump’s Treasury nominee, the secretive hedge fund manager and former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin, will need to be grilled on these topics during his confirmation hearings. They need to ask Rex Tillerson about this, too.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Questions about Trump emissary Carter Page, the Rosneft deal, the 19% commission, who actually owns a stake in Rosneft, and was it a quid pro quo for the lifting of sanctions on Russia if Trump is elected by Russian interference in the U.S. election are open questions that need to be explored and answered.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 British agent who prepared the explosive dossier on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, emerged from hiding on Tuesday to say he is returning to work. Video: Ex-Spy Who Wrote Trump Dossier Speaks. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says he is willing to go to London to take the testimony of Steele if necessary, if the House Intelligence Committee cannot get Steele to testify before the committee in Washington.

13 Responses to Follow the money: Coincidence or conspiracy? The Carter Page connection

  1. “I can be against all three evils at the same time. What is the actual point of your question?”

    Of course you can be against more than one thing. I was just curious which one you thought posed the greatest danger. That’s all…

  2. “Could it be a quid pro quo deal to lift sanctions on Russia reported by Business Insider back in January?” / “A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia…”

    You ask that question as if you are really interested in a true answer, but then you start right out building a straw man to “prove” a deal was made by citing a dossier with unverified information from a questionable source. I suspect you already have your answer and are only making motions at seeking the truth, whatever that may be.

    “It is unclear whether Isikoff’s reporting is related to the dossier, which has been circulating among top intelligence officials, lawmakers, and journalists since mid-2016.”

    That dossier, which appears to be the fuel in the fire on this Russian brouhaha, has been pretty much accepted as fact by most of the people you mentioned, “Not Tom” and you. All of you acknowledge that it is filled with unverified information, but you hate Trump enough that you willingly accept it as true and are looking for examples of behavior and/or activities that lend credence to your already made up minds. And, of course, you ignore those things that don’t further your personal predjudices. You usually present a more balanced view, AzBM, but this Russian thing seems to really bugs you. I would prefer some more evidence than a dossier of unverified accusations from an unreliable source before making up my mind.

    “There is no evidence (yet) that Carter played any role in the Rosneft deal.”

    But by sneaking that “yet” in there, you are stating that it is only a matter of time until evidence emerges. Well, what if evidence doesn’t emerge? You will have played your part in smearing a man and in spreading false rumors. I guess we really don’t need no stinkin’ evidence, huh? Innuendo and negative opinions are equally valid, I guess.

    “Questions about Trump emissary Carter Page, the Rosneft deal, the 19% commission, who actually owns a stake in Rosneft, and was it a quid pro quo for the lifting of sanctions on Russia if Trump is elected by Russian interference in the U.S. election are open questions that need to be explored and answered.”

    I agree. An investigation into the details as to what actually happened would be nice. Certainly it would be better than the Kangaroo Court of opinion and innuendo that you are giveing vent to.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Trump releasing his tax returns, as he PROMISED multiple times, would go a long way to shutting down the Russia talk.

      Funny, everyone was expecting a Clinton win, but progressives were also preparing to march and protest and try to keep Clinton from governing like the Republican she actually is.

      Conservatives, on the other hand, just dump ALL their “values” at the drop of a MAGA hat and have jumped right on the Trump bandwagon, in spite of you all knowing full well the guy is as dirty as the day is long.

      Character doesn’t actually matter, I guess.

      As far as unverified accusations, you are defending the freakin’ Birther King, for chis’ sake. Irony, or idiocy?

      How do conservatives look themselves in the mirror without laughing?

      • “…but progressives were also preparing to march and protest and try to keep Clinton from governing like the Republican she actually is.”

        I have neither read nor seen anything that indicated that was in the works, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. It was a rather heated election. If there had been marches and protests, I wouldn’t have joined in. I think marches and protests are usually rather silly and they rarely accomplish anything. Especially here in the United States.

        Now when Lech Wałęsa and his Solidarity Movement marched in Poland to protest the Soviet Union, THAT was a worthwhile protest march. Those people were putting their lives and health on the block to do what they were doing. It took raw courage to do that. Here in the U.S. all it takes is a few signs, a bullhorn and some freetime. It is more of an outing than a protest.

        I can tell you the anarchists would not have been out marching with them. They only come out for leftists.

        “As far as unverified accusations, you are defending the freakin’ Birther King, for chis’ sake. Irony, or idiocy?

        No, I am not defending Trump. I have often said the connection might be there. What I am defending is American Justice system which requires solid evidence, not rumor, innuendo or public opinion. The solid evidence isn’t there, Tom. It may be hidden right now and it may emerge later. But for you to assume Trump is guilty because he was “the Birther King” is ridiculous. There is no connection between the two at all. Just because you don’t like Trump and think he is a crook doesn’t mean that he is “guilty” of anything you decide sounds good.

        “How do conservatives look themselves in the mirror without laughing?”

        I guess because we spend so much time laughing at lefists running around in circles stirring each other up into frenzies over the dumbest things. It really is amusing seeing how incensed leftists become over the silliest of things and seeing the echo chamber they create to convince themselves “everyone feels that way”.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          There are anarchists on the left, and you have 3%’res and Oathkeepers and a few hundred militias.

          Freakin’ miliitias. Grown ups playing army man.

          And since the right is generally pro 2A, you have all the guns.

          I’ve been to protests. I’d rather be around someone in a Martin Luther King t-shirt than one of the rabid Trumpsters with a Gadsden flag flaunting his open carry rights.

          • “There are anarchists on the left, and you have 3%’res and Oathkeepers and a few hundred militias.”

            (sigh) True. So True. And so sad.

            “Freakin’ miliitias. Grow ups playing army man.”

            Also true. And very embarassing.

            “And since the right is generally pro 2A, you have all the guns.”

            And also true. But good!

            “I’d rather be around someone in a Martin Luther King t-shirt than one of the rabid Trumpsters with a Gadsden flag flaunting his open carry rights.”

            If I am honest, I think I would prefer that, also.

  3. after reading through this long screed the only possible crime is russian funneling money to trump campaign but you have no evidence or culprits. as for lifting sanctions you give no evidence of crime by page. and none of this involves trump. I have notice the longer the article the less you have. SSDD. this porno for liberal democrats distracts from our serious problems attracting white working class.

  4. For Sure Not Tom

    There’s a story out for the last day or two about the Dakota Access Pipeline. The one that Trump approved so quickly once in office.

    Turns out it will not be made with American steel, as Trump has been saying, his “American Steel” pledge only applies to future pipelines.

    And it turns out that much of the steel for the Dakota Access Pipeline appears to have been manufactured in Canada by Evraz North America, a subsidiary of the Russian steel giant Evraz.

    Evraz is owned in part by Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire and husband to Dasha Zhukova.

    Dasha Zhukova is good friends with Ivanka Trump, FDOTUS.

    Roman Abramovich was the first person to originally recommend to Boris Yeltsin that Vladimir Putin be his successor as the Russian president. When Putin formed his first cabinet as Prime Minister in 1999, Abramovich interviewed each of the candidates for cabinet positions before they were approved. Subsequently, Abramovich would remain one of Putin’s closest confidants.

    It’s been less than two months and we’re seeing corruption on an epic scale and so much of it goes back to Russia.

    Trump’s presidency is doing one good thing, it’s forcing reporters to dig and do some work and report instead of just taking the press release from Mr. Spicy Facts and heading to the next cocktail party.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      I believe you are referring to a report at Counterpunch, How a Russian Steel Oligarch and Putin Ally Is Profiting from Keystone XL http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/15/how-a-russian-steel-oligarch-and-putin-ally-is-profiting-from-keystone-xl/

      And here is the reporting that Counterpunch references from Desmog,How a Russian Steel Oligarch and Putin Ally Is Profiting from the Keystone XL Pipeline https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/02/13/abramovitch-putin-keystone-xl-steel

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Yessir, that’s the stuff.

        It always comes back to Russia with these Trumps. Or China. Or, as it turns out, Iran.

        There’s some interesting stuff on foreignpolicy.com about The Trump Tower Baku in, of all places, Azerbaijan.

        “Conflicts of interest have been a permanent fixture of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. But a new report from the New Yorker shines a damning spotlight on one of Trump’s most ethically hazy deals, and one that may leave the Trump Organization open to federal prosecution: The Trump Organization’s work to build and manage a hotel in Azerbaijan in partnership with corrupt oligarchs, themselves apparently linked to individuals tight with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

        Here’s the article they reference:
        http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

        Trump has stated in the past he despises the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA).

        I wonder why?

        Let’s see what he tweets next to distract us from how dirty he is.

        I hope Trump gets a cell next to Joe Arpaio’s.

        And before Captain Anonymous criticizes us for these posts, I agree with you, Captain, we need to keep jobs as the top topic.

        But we can still look in awe in the corruption that is the Trump family while we do that.

    • “And it turns out that much of the steel for the Dakota Access Pipeline appears to have been manufactured in Canada by Evraz North America, a subsidiary of the Russian steel giant Evraz.”

      Who awarded the original contracts, Tom? It certainly wasn’t while Trump had any influence. It goes back a couple of years into the Obama Administration; or did the timeline for government contracting escape you? If you want to make a connection bewteen Evraz North America and an Administration, you have to attach it to the Obama Adminsitration. Trumps only connection was giving the project another go ahead based on Obama-era contracts. Not much of a connection…

      “It’s been less than two months and we’re seeing corruption on an epic scale and so much of it goes back to Russia.”

      Based on what you wrote, that “corruption” goes back a few years…long before Trump was a factor. The truth is that you are reaching for any connection to Russia in order to paint Trump in a bad light. You are so willing to accept the flimsiest of connections as “proof” that Trump is a Russian pawn that it almost approaches paranoia.

      There may be something to all the Russian stuff, but so far all that has emerged is innuendo, questionable sources, vague (or nonexistant) connections, and the weakest of all “evidence” to support these extreme theories about Trump and Russia. Couple that with an almost insane need to destroy Trump and irrationality reigns supreme.

      Speaking of irrationality, which is worse in your mind? Bannon or Russia? You seem to feel, at different times, that each one is going to destroy this country, so which one poses the greater threat? It seems to me that they are somewhat mutually exclusive, but what do I know?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        “Speaking of irrationality, which is worse in your mind? Bannon or Russia?”

        Really?

        Let’s see, former KGB agent and murderous thug Putin wants to discredit Western democracy and assert Russia power in the world.

        Bannon wants to burn the Constitution and create a White Nationalist America.

        And you want to know which I think is worse?

        I also hate the LA Dodgers. I really, really hate the Dodgers. All right thinking American’s should hate the Dodgers.

        I can be against all three evils at the same time. What is the actual point of your question?

        Now, where’s my bubble gum?