Lisa Page Speaks: ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’

It’s not often that you interview a subject who has no interest in being famous. But recently, I did just that when I sat down with Lisa Page the week before Thanksgiving in my hotel room in Washington, D.C. Page, of course, is the former FBI lawyer whose text-message exchanges with agent Peter Strzok that belittled Donald Trump and expressed fear at his possible victory became international news. They were hijacked by Trump to fuel his “deep state” conspiracy.For the nearly two years since her name first made the papers, she’s been publicly silent (she did have a closed-door interview with House members in July 2018). I asked her why she was willing to talk now. “Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. The president called out her name as he acted out an orgasm in front of thousands of people at a Minneapolis rally on Oct. 11, 2019. That was the moment Page decided she had to speak up. “I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” she says. “It had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.” She is also about to be back in the news cycle in a big way. On Dec. 9, the Justice Department inspector general report into Trump’s charges that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign will come out. Leaked press accounts indicate that the report will exonerate Page of the allegation that she acted unprofessionally or showed bias against Trump.How does it feel after all this time to finally have the IG apparently affirm what she’s been saying all along? She said she wouldn’t discuss the findings until they were officially public, but she did note: “While it would be nice to have the IG confirm publicly that my personal opinions had absolutely no bearing on the course of the Russia investigations, I don’t kid myself that the fact will matter very much for a lot of people. The president has a very loud megaphone.”Page, 39, is thin and athletic. She speaks in an exceedingly confident, clear, and lawyerly way. But having been through the MAGA meat grinder has clearly worn her down, not unlike the other women I’ve met who’ve been subjected to the president’s abuse.  She is just slightly crumbly around the edges the way the president’s other victims are.  “My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again.”“It’s almost impossible to describe” what it’s like, she told me. “It’s like being punched in the gut. My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening.” “But it’s also very intimidating because he’s still the president of the United States. And when the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there’s no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he’s still somebody in a position to actually do something about that. To try to further destroy my life. It never goes away or stops, even when he’s not publicly attacking me.”Does it affect you in your normal day-to-day life?“I wish it didn’t,” she said. “I’m someone who’s always in my head anyway – so now otherwise normal interactions take on a different meaning. Like, when somebody makes eye contact with me on the Metro, I kind of wince, wondering if it’s because they recognize me, or are they just scanning the train like people do? It’s immediately a question of friend or foe? Or if I’m walking down the street or shopping and there’s somebody wearing Trump gear or a MAGA hat, I’ll walk the other way or try to put some distance between us because I’m not looking for conflict. Really, what I wanted most in this world is my life back.”Rising Through the RanksLisa Page did not aspire to fame or fortune. She was, she says, “one of those nerdy kids who from very early on knew I wanted work for the government and make the world a better place.” Born in the San Fernando Valley, she and her family moved to Ohio in her teens. She went to American University in Washington, D.C., and then moved back home to central Ohio to attend law school, living with her parents so she could save money. After graduating from law school, she was one of an elite group selected for admission in the Department of Justice Honors Program in 2006—and the only woman in her class of five entering the Criminal Division. She worked as a federal prosecutor for six years before moving across the street to the FBI’s office of general counsel. Soon after her arrival, the deputy general counsel over national security law hired her for a new special counsel-type position in 2013.Once there, her path begins to be set.“I start [in the role] in early 2013, and there are two big events that kind of set the trajectory for the rest of my career at the FBI: the Boston bombing in April 2013, and Edward Snowden’s leaks in June of the same year,” she told me. “And those are both significant in their own ways, because the Boston bombing introduces me to Andy McCabe, who at the time was the head of the counterterrorism division at the FBI. Two months later, the Snowden leaks hit, which became a transformative moment for the intelligence community, setting off a series of reforms by the Obama administration with respect to the legal authorities that we rely on to collect intelligence.” Eventually, she was asked to lead that effort, “which gives me a lot of exposure to senior FBI executives, as well as leaders through the IC, DOJ, and White House.”Page continued to rise through the ranks of the FBI and was assigned to more significant and substantive work. She became close with McCabe. Eventually she became McCabe’s special counsel.Hillary’s Emails and Russia—All At onceBy February 2016, she was working on one of the most important investigations at the FBI–the Hillary Clinton email case. “We knew that the case was going to get picked apart,” she says. “And we know there’s not a person on the FBI team or the DOJ team who thinks this is not the right result. There is no case to be brought here. But it’s very busy. It’s very intense. Director [James] Comey was very clear he wanted this completed as soon as humanly possible and outside of the political environment. So there was a real focus to get it done before the conventions that were happening that summer. And so that’s what we did.” “But her emails” would soon give way to an actual threat to national security, one that existed not in the fever dreams of Fox and the Breitbart comments section, but in the real, dangerous world the FBI exists to protect us from, where things like foreign meddling in our elections takes place: strong evidence of Russian interference in the election on behalf of Trump.“There are two things that happen in the late summer of 2016,” Page says. “The first, of course, is that the FBI gets the predication [courtesy of loose-lipped George Papadopoulos], which starts the Russian investigation. We learn about the possibility that there’s someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign.” “Predication” sounds mild for what it really means; in the summer of 2016, the FBI and the intelligence community were seeing increasing signs from a variety of intelligence sources and programs (that Page cannot and will not discuss due to classification reasons) that members of the Trump campaign were tied to a variety of Russian intelligence services, and that the Russian Federation was in the midst of trying to manipulate the 2016 United States election with a sweeping information warfare and propaganda effort. As The New York Times reported on Nov. 22, “U.S. intel services concluded, and have told Senate Republicans, t
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