Even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller has gained the cooperation of former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, congressional investigators are taking a different tactic. They’ve zeroed in on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who has connections to Russia, and who has been uncooperative up to this point. As of today, it’s clear that they’re about to bust Page like a piñata in order to get to Trump.
Last week Carter Page announced his official refusal to voluntarily appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He stated that he planned to invoke the Fifth Amendment. Today, in a move that’s not particularly surprising, the committee has subpoenaed him to testify anyway, according to an NBC News report (link). To be clear, they can still legally do this. They can force Page to come in and sit in a public hearing on national television while they hurl questions at him. That’s where the damaging part comes in.
If Page sticks to his guns, he’ll end up answering every question by saying some variation of “I’m invoking my Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate myself.” From the committee’s standpoint, that’s the entire point. There’s no better way to convince the American public that the Trump-Russia scandal is the real deal, and that Trump clearly did something wrong, than to force one of his own campaign advisers to repeatedly plead the fifth on live national television.
Even as Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to work behind the scenes to build criminal cases against Donald Trump’s associates and thus get them to flip on Trump, these congressional committee investigations are largely about driving public opinion on the scandal. Carter Page is about to get busted like a piñata for all to see, thus demonstrating to the public that this scandal truly is Watergate on steroids. And since Page is now clearly worried about criminal prosecution, it sets the stage for Mueller to offer him a deal to flip on Trump.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report