Congressional leaders and intelligence officials are investigating whether one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy “advisers” has opened up private communications with high-level members of the Russian government, some of whom are under sanction. According to multiple sources the talks have discussed the possibility that a Trump administration would lift the economic sanctions that were imposed on Russia after its unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014, an international crime that Trump has refused to even acknowledge.
The Trump adviser, Carter Page, is a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow who now runs a New York-based consulting firm, Global Energy Capital, that specializes in oil and gas deals with Russia and is located around the block from Trump’s office in New York. Page was first identified by Mr. Trump in March as a member of his “foreign policy team,” which is a motley crew of neoconservative oil men, Lebanese fascists, and imperial proconsuls from Iraq. He has since become one of Trump’s most prominent foreign policy spokesmen, although the campaign maintains that he is not officially on the bankroll.
Page has extensive financial interests in Russia, notably in Gazprom, the state-run oil and gas giant, and Rosneft, the nation’s leading private oil company. He has frequently visited Moscow for meetings with high-level officials at the Kremlin and in Rosneft, and has been “a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did” according to a U.S. diplomat in Russia. Under particular scrutiny is Page’s trip to Moscow this July, when he met with Igor Sechin, a long-time Putin adviser and former deputy Prime Minister who is now the head of Rosneft and is currently under sanction by the United States government.
According to numerous US officials in Moscow, Page discussed with Sechin ways to lift the American sanctions, a cause that is close to Page’s heart – and his wallet. Last March he told Bloomberg News that “so many people I work with have been adversely affected by the sanctions policy” and said that there was “a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.” On that summer trip Page reportedly also met with Igor Devykin, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of internal policy who is believed by U.S. officials to be the official responsible for Russia’s campaign of meddling in the American election.
Indeed the original impetus for investigating Page came from the Congressional investigation into Russia’s cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and on voter databases in Arizona and Illinois. While the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees have “concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election” that “could only come from senior levels of the Russian government,” Trump’s usual chauvinistic bravado has been totally absent in the face of this unprecedented meddling in American democracy by a foreign power. Indeed he has denied that Russia was even responsible.
Trump’s evasiveness on the issue is part of a long pattern of scandalous pandering to the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, from calling him a “better leader” than President Obama to promising to hand over the Baltic States to the Kremlin and going on Russian state TV to criticize American foreign policy.
Trump’s traitorous appeasement of Putin, and the shocking monetary ties between his campaign and the inner circle of Russian oligarchs have already received some scrutiny – albeit far less than they should – in the American press. In Carter Page’s Moscow meetings, however, we may finally have the smoking gun implicating Trump’s campaign – or at least those close to him – in a traitorous plot with the despotic Russian government. The bombshell revelations that show Trump has received “hundreds of millions” of dollars from Russian oligarchs makes it clear why both sides would be interested in repealing the sanctions.
Could Russia be plotting with Trump’s associates to influence the election in favor of the Donald, placing a Kremlin lackey in the White House who will lift sanctions in exchange for an economic windfall for his neoconservative cronies? Why else would his top foreign policy adviser promise a blacklisted Kremlin official to do what he can to end the sanctions and meet with the Russian intelligence official specifically tasked with influencing the American election?
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.