Based on his numerous cable news interviews, it’s long been difficult to figure out whether Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is in way over his head, or he’s some kind of secret genius who’s been fooling everyone involved by playing dumb. Now we may finally and definitively have that answer. Page testified before Congress today about the Trump-Russia scandal, and he appears to have blown it badly in a manner which could blow the whole scandal wide open.
Carter Page showed up to testify today before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session today, in accordance with a subpoena. Multiple news outlets are reporting that he testified for several hours, which wouldn’t have been the case if he were simply invoking the Fifth Amendment in response to every question, as he had previously suggested he would. However it’s also being reported that Page did invoke the Fifth when it came to Trump-Russia documents in his possession (link). Why does this matter? Because by all accounts, Page still doesn’t have a lawyer.
Pleading the Fifth is legally tricky, because it’s not absolute when it comes to documents and physical evidence. Legal experts have told Palmer Report that standard procedure in a situation like this is for Page to be held in contempt of Congress, and for a judge to then determine whether the documents must be turned over. Page’s lack of an attorney means that he’s probably botched this process already, and that he will end up having to turn over the documents in question.
Invoking the Fifth if not legally considered an indicator of guilt, and Carter Page publicly maintains his innocence. However, his overwhelming hesitance to surrender the documents strongly suggests that they’re either incriminating against himself, or incriminating against a Donald Trump campaign official. If it’s the former, the documents could be used to force Page to cut a deal and finger his campaign supervisors. If it’s the latter, the mere surrender of the documents will take someone down. Page’s failure to hire an attorney may have already assured that those documents will have to be surrendered.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report