The Times pushes the story along: Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent?
We have no way of knowing. By the time the Mueller probe is done, we may all get a clearer idea concerning questions like that.
In the meantime, certain people are going to push claims and insinuations along.
When it comes to insinuations and overstatements regarding Page, one major gigantic cable news star rarely misses a chance to "hang him high." In fairness, this was already part of her TV show's culture before Page shambled along.
Then too, we were struck by something we read in Thursday's New York Times. In a lengthy retrospective report, three Times reporters said this:
APUZZO, GOLDMAN AND FANDOS (5/17/18): Crossfire Hurricane began with a focus on four campaign officials. But by mid-fall 2016, Mr. Page’s inquiry had progressed the furthest. Agents had known Mr. Page for years. Russian spies tried to recruit him in 2013, and he was dismissive when agents warned him about it, a half-dozen current and former officials said.Back is 2013, was Page "dismissive" when he was warned about the Russkie approach?
We have no way of knowing. We're not even completely sure we know what the statement means.
That said, we decided to check the prior news report to which the three scribes linked in that passage. That report appeared in the Times in April 2017. Here's the way it began:
GOLDMAN (4/5/17): Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman.Interesting! Back then, we weren't told that Page had been "dismissive" when clued by the FBI. Instead, we were told this:
The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
The FBI decided that Page hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy!As you can see, the Times has come a long way baby from that initial report. On Thursday, the Times reporters cited that initial report as their source. But here's how the Times has now a-changed:
April 5, 2017: The FBI interviewed Page and decided he hadn't known that he'd been approached by a spy.Questions:
May 16, 2018: The FBI interviewed Page and judged that he was "dismissive."
Is it true? Did the FBI decide that Page didn't know that he'd been approached by a spy? If so, as a matter of fundamental fairness, should Times readers have been apprised of that fact in Thursday's retrospective?
If that's what the FBI decided, we'd say Times readers should have been told. We voice this judgment in the name of fundamental fairness (among other desirable traits).
At any rate, Thursday's report linked to the prior report as its source. We'd say it engineered a major change in tone—and a drift toward insinuation.
Was Carter Page some sort of Russkie agent? At present, we have no way of knowing. We hope some day to find out.
That said, regarding the age-old cult of insinuation and the unparalleled pleasures of hanging them high, we'd be inclined to say this:
A big cable star likes to play it that way. Should the Times follow suit?
Also this: This headline, in this morning's Times, is about as didactic as a headline on a front-page news report gets:
F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump ClaimsThe news report is shaky enough. (Example: Do you see Trump quoted anywhere using the key term "spy?")
The news report is shaky enough. The headline leaps beyond the report, and is a bit Pravdaesque.
Coming Monday: Big star's absurd toadyism