Considering that Congress is on recess until after Easter, which has let the Trump/Russia connection controversy recede into the background, there have been two blockbuster developments that have come out involving Paul Manafort and Carter Page.
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, worked for the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine for a period of years. According to the “Steele dossier”, Putin was concerned, during the election, that there would be a paper trail showing the millions of dollars he was allegedly paid for working for Yukanovich that would tie him back to the Russian influence campaign.
Manafort denied the allegations, and has insisted that he never even was paid (because it’s perfectly reasonable to perform years of pro bono work for a foreign power). Those denials were made publicly in the media. Yesterday, however, it came to light that there is now evidence showing at least $1 million in covert payments made to Manafort’s firm. This directly contradicts his prior statements. And today, because he’s under the gun, he’s doing what the law required him to do back then, when he was hiding his dirty money – he is registering as a foreign agent in relation to that work. A. Foreign. Agent. Let that sink in. The denials and attempts to cover it up certainly don’t look good for him.
We have also learned that Carter Page, a former “foreign policy adviser” to the Trump campaign, is the subject of a FISA warrant. It is known and was widely reported that the campaign allowed him to take a trip to Russia in July 2016 where he gave a speech critical of US policy. According to the Steele dossier, this is also the time when Page met with the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, who offered Page the brokerage fees on an anticipated sale of a 19.5% stake in Rosneft – a deal worth billions – in exchange for his “influence” in having the Trump campaign de-emphasize the GOP’s focus on Russia and the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its seizure of Crimea in 2014. Page initially denied meeting with any Russian operatives, then later changed his story and admitted to meeting Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the Republican National Convention – where Trump, Manafort and Page all apparently got the GOP to soften its platform position on the Ukraine-related sanctions. In any event, that same 19.5% share changed hands to unknown investors after the election, in December. Details of that are extremely vague.
Now, it has been disclosed that Page is the subject of a FISA warrant. That means that the government had to go to a secret FISA court and present evidence showing probable cause that Page was acting as a hostile foreign agent. That, in addition to the false denials are fairly damning.
There has never been such a spectacular train wreck at the highest level of our government. This thing threatens to make Watergate trivial. There is only so much room for plausible deniability left for Trump. At least four of his surrogates have had contacts with Russian intelligence officials which they tried to lie about. Flynn, Sessions, Page, Manafort. It strains credulity to suggest that this was all done without at least some level of knowledge and tacit approval from the very top. It goes beyond the pale to suggest that these high level surrogates and campaign officials were all going off the reservation and getting into bed with Putin’s people on their own.
What is coming will be off the Richter scale.