Last week, it wasn’t clear whether former FBI attorney Lisa Page would even testify, let alone whether her words would back up the spectacularly reality-denying “I’ve-NEVER-let-bias-affect-my-actions” testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok, described by most news accounts as her ex-lover. But she finally appeared as a witness behind closed doors on Friday and again on Monday. Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki and the media’s inexcusably hellish reaction completely dominated the news cycle Monday and Tuesday, but now that things have calmed down a bit, we can reflect on what Page brings to our understanding of the FBI’s role in investigating 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
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On Friday, Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted that the committees had just learned the DOJ had not notified Lisa Page, former legal advisor to former deputy FBI Director Andrew “Andy’s office” McCabe, of the interview requests that Congress had been making FOR SEVEN MONTHS. “The DOJ/FBI appear to be continuing their efforts to keep material facts, and perhaps even witnesses, from Congress.”
It’s hard to know what to make of this, as there have also been accounts of Page actively avoiding contact and dodging subpoenas. If the DOJ/FBI actually failed to notify her of the interview requests, that certainly wouldn’t surprise me, but, wow, it takes stonewalling to an even stonier place.
Of course, we’d all wondered if Page, like Strzok, was going to have FBI lawyers sitting behind her to tell her when to talk and when to clam up. Strzok appears to remain, technically, on the payroll of the FBI –- your tax dollars at work –- while Page is not. Page herself is a lawyer. But sure enough, she reportedly did have at least one FBI attorney seated nearby, though she seemed to be handling things, even to the point of signaling with her hand when she wanted an objection put into the record.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida challenged the presence of FBI legal counsel in the room with Page. “Lisa is not an FBI employee, but the FBI was here providing counsel and giving her direction as to which qustions to answer or not answer and there is a question as to the propriety of that before the House.”
Though all of her testimony was behind closed doors, Republican members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees say that she was forthcoming and well prepared, a much better witness than Strzok had been. And while I had imagined her sitting through Strzok’s televised hearing taking notes to make sure her testimony was consistent with his, they describe her characterization of the anti-Trump text messages they exchanged as quite different.
Rep. John Ratcliff said she provided information that Strzok “either wouldn’t or couldn’t” about the investigations and “the people involved in running them.” According to ABC News, he said she gave “plausible answers” and “plausible explanations.” And here’s a welcome surprise: “In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to Agent Strzok, who thinks we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative.” Rep. Steve King of Iowa agreed, adding that she had “filled in some blanks along the way,” but he described the task before them as putting together “a huge jigsaw puzzle.”
That takes time, and Americans –- the vast majority who are NOT living in an impeachment fantasy –- are aching for all of this to be over. At the same time, we want to see accountability. Author Mark Penn, asked by Maria Bartoromo on FOX Business News if we ever would, expressed frustration about that, and about how little we’re hearing about the work being done by U.S. Attorney John Huber out in Utah. “This investigation is not doing the country any good,” he said, citing the unavoidable stress on the President, with foreign affairs being one critical area affected. “Our foreign policy shouldn’t be made by prosecutors,” he added, saying this issue is standing in the way of peace. Anyone who hasn’t been on the planet Neptune for the past couple of days would have to agree with that.
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On the bright side, he thinks we may actually see an end to it soon. “There’s nothing much else here,” he said. In the meantime, the President has got to go calmly about his business and let his legal team handle the investigation.