Top blogger says he knows: Did Carter Page actually meet with the Igors? Did he meet with Igor Sechin, president of a Russian energy company and a close associate of Putin? Did he meet with Igor Divyekin, an even more menacing figure?
In his famous dossier, Christopher Steele alleged that Page met with each of the Igors during his trip to Moscow in July 2016. This claim was prominent in the FISA application which was released last week—the application which led to surveillance of Page starting in the fall of 2016.
Did Page meet with these two fellows? Page was denied the claim up and down, including in a letter last fall to the FBI itself. He even denied the claim last Sunday, to Jake Tapper, right on TV!
Did Page actually meet with the Igors? For ourselves, we have no way of knowing. A top blogger feels that he does.
In his review of the FISA application, this blogger quotes a part of the FISA application which makes this allegation. For reasons which he doesn't explain, he seems to regards that allegation as an established fact:
BLOGGER (7/24/18): This is key information. Page denied the meetings with Sechin and Divyekin, but Steele confirmed them. Quite possibly there’s other confirmation in the redacted portions of the FISA application. The fact that Page lied about this is central to the FBI’s desire to surveil him further.Is our chronology clear in this matter? As we understand it, Steele didn't confirm the allegations; he's the one who made them. Were those allegations correct? At this point, we don't know.
How does the blogger know that Page's denials have been a "lie?" The blogger doesn't say. Near the end of his review, he refers again to Page's "lie about his meetings with Sechin and Divyekin," once again without explaining how he knows the denial to the FBI was false.
We don't know if Page's denial was false. For what it's worth, the last time the New York Times had referred to the two Igors by name, Jason Zengerle had offered this assessment:
ZENGERLE (2/6/18): [M]aking Page into a conservative martyr will probably test Fox’s considerable powers of propaganda. For one thing, there are Page’s views on Russia and Vladimir Putin, which are more sympathetic and outside the American foreign-policy mainstream than even Trump’s. Page has absolved Putin of responsibility for the Ukraine conflict, blaming instead the United States’ “smack-down” approach toward Russia, and has echoed Putin in criticizing the United States and other Western countries for “their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”According to Zengerle, Page has "believably denied the allegations" concerning Sechin and Diveykin. How did Zengerle reach that conclusion?
There are also Page’s murky relationships with Russian business and political leaders. Although Page has repeatedly (and believably) denied the allegations made in the Steele dossier that during a July 2016 trip to Moscow he met with Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who is now chief executive of the Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft, and Igor Diveykin, a top Russian intelligence official, he has been squirrelly and inconsistent about his relationships and interactions with a range of other Russians—including the deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, and two Russian spies who tried to recruit Page in 2013. While the Nunes memo argues that the Steele dossier was used to improperly secure a warrant to wiretap Page, House Democrats maintain that there was far more evidence against Page in the warrant application.
We have no idea. Given the way our journalism works, attention is focused on the latest shiny object, like last night's thrilling inaudible audiotape. Little effort is made to sort out such basic matters as this.
Now for a confession. We don't have the slightest idea whether Page met with Sechin and/or Diveykin! One top blogger feels he does, but seems to feel no giant need to explain.
For ourselves, we prefer to stand with fundamental fairness and the suspension of judgment. We'll add this basic point:
There was a time when kneejerk liberals were strongly disinclined to believe claims by the FBI and the CIA. Today, in the current climate, we tend to be strongly inclined to affirm the claims they've made.
In some ways, this is odd. James Comey's grotesque behavior in 2016 ought to remind us that godlike officials of these agencies can exercise terrible judgment, just like everyone else. Andrew McCabe may not have showered himself with glory along the way either, though we're less clear on his case.
We don't know if Carter Page met with those two Russkies. We do know that intelligence agencies can get out over their skis.
Did Carter Page meet with one or both Igors? Oddly, we can't say!
Additional point: Here and elsewhere, Zengerle's claims about Page and Dvorkovich make amazingly little sense. We may go over this familiar, bewildering matter again before the week is through.