“So now I have to deal with the aftermath of having the most wrong thing I’ve ever done in my life become public,” Page told the Daily Beast in a rare interview published Sunday. “And that’s when I become the source of the president’s personal mockery and insults.”
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see the pattern Page pointed out about how her gender colored Trump’s relentless attacks on her. But Page stands out in the long list of women Trump has demeaned because she also fits into his narrative of a “deep state” out to get him.
“Peter, oh, I love you so much,” “I love you, Peter,” “I love you, too, Lisa.” “Lisa. Lisa. Oh, God, I love you, Lisa.”
That’s Trump at an October rally insulting Page and dramatically acting out an entirely made-up conversation between her and Strzok. In fact, often when he mentions Page, she is described as Strzok’s “lover.” Not infrequently, the president has called her “lovely,” presumably sarcastically. In fact, he referred to her as “lover” in a tweet Monday in response to her interview.
He once straight-up described her title as “FBI Lover,” despite the fact she has a law degree and years of experience as a high-level government lawyer.
Trump does not strike out at Strzok quite the same way. He has tagged Strzok as “lover,” but not nearly as frequently, according to a review of Trump’s speeches, interviews and tweets on Factba.se.
This behavior is consistent for Trump. He has a long and ugly history of attacking women and people of color he apparently feels threatened by with centuries-old stereotypes, trying to make them seem less credible. Remember when he claimed he once saw a famous MSNBC TV host, Mika Brzezinski, “bleeding badly from a face-lift” but left her male counterpart on the show, Joe Scarborough, alone?
“One way he exercises his 'masculine power' is to talk to and about women on the basis of their appearance, instead of more substance,” Kelly Dittmar, a gender-in-politics expert at Rutgers University, told me in 2017.
The list of women Trump has attacked with overt sexism is long, but Page is unique in one way: She is a woman criticizing him on the record and is at the center of his conspiracy theory that the FBI is trying to bring down his presidency. She is a particularly convenient target for him. And that has shaped his attacks on her to be relentless — and, in her mind, dangerous.
“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,” she told the Daily Beast.
Let’s pause to explain why Trump is even focused on a former government lawyer.
It goes back to the start of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into election interference by Russia and whether some members of the Trump campaign helped in that effort. After the election, Page and Strzok were under an ethics investigation by the Justice Department for texting their personal concerns about Trump to each other as they were working on investigations into the 2016 Russian interference effort and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Page and Strzok have maintained they were texting their private apprehensions about Trump and had no intention of acting on them in their official capacity.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report out next week about the FBI’s role in the 2016 election investigations is expected to say as much.
As with so many things Trump seizes on, there was at least the appearance of wrongdoing. An initial look at Strzok and Page’s campaign-year texts raised eyebrows, especially when Strzok says to Page about the prospect of Trump getting elected: “We’ll stop it.” The Washington Post Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler described that language as “disturbing.” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote that it showed “a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects” and that the texts “cast a cloud” over the investigation’s credibility, even if it didn’t change the investigative actions.
Coming out on Dec. 9 is another inspector general report reviewing how the FBI started looking into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections during the 2016 election, a review of sorts of a remarkably unusual investigation that involved wiretapping a former Trump campaign adviser.
Early leaks of this report don’t suggest that Page is a prominent figure in the upcoming inspector general report, nor is she implicated in any wrongdoing.
Strzok and Page were texting each other their feelings about Trump because they were having an affair. That’s the extent of Page’s personal life that is relevant to all this, and even then only marginally. Trump has played that as being central to his story of being wronged. And in doing so, he has used Page’s gender as a way to undermine her, which is consistent with how he handles women whom he deems threats.