Carter Page reveals new contacts with Trump campaign, Russians

Page raised idea of Trump going to Russia
Page raised idea of Trump going to Russia

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Story highlights

  • Page told the committee he was invited to speak in Russia after joining the campaign
  • Page says that he sought permission for his trip ahead of time

(CNN)Carter Page's six-plus hours of testimony before the House intelligence committee makes clear senior members of the Trump campaign were aware of the former Trump foreign policy adviser's July 2016 trip to Russia -- and Page may have had interactions with more Russian government officials beyond what he's previously acknowledged, according to a transcript of the interview released Monday night.

Page told the committee he was invited to speak in Russia after joining the campaign -- a similar pattern to foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was approached by a professor connected to the Russian government after the professor learned he was advising the campaign.
In the interview, Page says that he sought permission for his trip ahead of time and asked for advice about his remarks at a university, and afterward he offered to provide a readout to the campaign. Page also floated the idea that Trump travel to Russia in his place to give an Obama-like foreign speech.
    The testimony reveals new details about how Page kept people in the campaign informed about interactions he had with Russians, as well as more details about his Russian contacts beyond his encounter with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich during his July 2016 trip.
    Page has always maintained he went to Russia as a private citizen and unrelated to the campaign to meet with academics and deliver a lecture, in which he stated that he was not there to represent Trump.
    But an email Page sent to Trump campaign officials suggests he might have gone beyond simply giving the campaign a heads up, according to an excerpt read by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California.
    "Please let me know if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you'd prefer me to focus these remarks," Page wrote in an email to Trump campaign officials.
    Page claimed this was purely a courtesy and not to officially coordinate with the Trump team, and that he understood from the reply that the campaign wanted to remain uninvolved. Page also described his conversation with Dvorkovich as a "private conversation."
    Page informed senior campaign officials Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and JD Gordon about his trip ahead of time. Lewandowski, who was Trump's campaign manager, told Page he should go if he wanted to, given it was not affiliated with the campaign. "If you'd like to go on your own, not affiliated with the campaign, you know, that's fine," Page recalled during the interview.
    Page also told the committee that he had mentioned to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions -- now Trump's attorney general -- about his coming July 2016 trip to Russia, CNN first reported last week.
    After the trip, Page offered the campaign a readout, according to the transcript, and he spoke then to national co-chairman Sam Clovis, whom Page said separately asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
    "I'll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here," he wrote, according to an email quoted by California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel.
    Page insists that the reference in his post-trip email regarding "insights" was describing things he learned from speeches given at the event.
    The new window into Page's interactions with the Trump campaign came under an unusual arrangement that he requested. The interview was conducted in the committee's secure spaces, but the transcript was made available publicly Monday night. In another atypical move, Page did not bring an attorney to his interview. Lawmakers have described his testimony as meandering, at times confusing and contradictory.
    In his testimony, Page also suggested he met briefly other government officials in addition to Dvorkovich, when he gave a speech in Moscow in July 2016. Page said at the event there were also "a couple of legislators" and "there may be some senior government officials." Page described his encounters as "greetings and brief conversations."
    Page returned to Russia in December 2016, and he told the committee that Dvorkovich stopped by a dinner he was attending, which was the second time they met.
    In a statement, Schiff said that Page "was forced to acknowledge that he communicated with high-level Russian officials while in Moscow."

    Trump to Russia

    Page raised the idea of Trump traveling to Russia to make a foreign policy speech with Gordon, who was running the foreign policy adviser team, and another adviser, Walid Phares.
    "The idea there was bearing in mind Barack Obama's speech as a candidate in Germany 2008. That was what I was envisioning," Page told lawmakers.
    In his email to the two advisers, Page wrote about Trump: "If he'd like to take my place (on a trip to Russia) and raise the temperature a little bit, of course I'd be more than happy to yield this honor to him."
    Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, told CNN Monday night that he didn't recall all of Page's emails because of the thousands of messages he received as a national security adviser.
    But he added: "I discouraged Carter from taking the trip to Moscow because it was a bad idea. Since I refused to forward his speech request form for approval, he eventually went around me directly to campaign leadership."
    Page's suggestion bears some similarity to a proposal from Papadopoulos, who cooperated with federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lying to investigators last week. Papadopoulos separately pursued arranging a trip for Trump during the campaign. Page testified that he wasn't aware of Papadopoulos' intended plans.
    After Page said that he was invited to Moscow for his July 2016 university lecture after he joined the campaign, Schiff asked him if he would be surprised to learn that the Russians only expressed interest in Papadopoulos after he was announced as a campaign foreign policy adviser.
    The court papers detailing the charges against Papadopoulos for making a false statement to the FBI stated that Papadopoulos was only contacted by a professor with ties to Russia after the professor learned he was affiliated with the campaign.

    RNC platform on Ukraine

    In the testimony, Page acknowledged that he praised Gordon and others on the Trump policy team over language proposed in the Republican platform about Ukraine and lethal weapons.
    "As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work," Page said in an email to six Trump campaign advisers -- including Gordon -- after the platform committee made the changes ahead of the Republican National Convention. Page was not, himself, a member of the committee.
    He told the House intelligence committee he was just expressing his opinion, and that the advisers too were offering opinions as informal volunteers. Page said he never spoke with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort about the Ukraine amendment. Trump campaign officials stepped in to block delegates from changing the platform to include a call for the US to provide the Ukrainians with arms to fight Russia-aligned militias.

    Meeting with a Russian energy executive

    During his sworn testimony, Page denied a key claim from the infamous dossier but acknowledged talking to a high-ranking official from the Russian energy giant Rosneft.
    The dossier, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, claimed that Page secretly met with a senior Russian energy executive during his trip to Russia in July 2016. The dossier says that the meeting with Igor Sechin, president of state-run Rosneft, was meant to broker a deal to lift US sanctions on the multi-billion dollar company in return for the Kremlin helping Trump win.
    No public evidence has emerged to corroborate this specific claim in the dossier.
    Page repeated the same denial, now under oath, that he has made many times on TV: "Not only have I never met him, he is the -- he's one of the top energy industry officials in Russia," he said.
    But under further questioning, Page acknowledged having a conversation with a separate high-ranking official from Rosneft during his controversial trip to Russia in July 2016.
    Page said he spoke with Andrey Baranov, Rosneft's head of investor relations. But he says that he doesn't recall having any conversation with him about sanctions. He said he didn't remember whether Baranov gave him any documents, though he said Baranov might have given him "an investor relations presentation" but "nothing more substantive than that."
    They made plans to meet up, Page said, because they were friends when he lived in Russia in the mid-2000s. Page lived in Russia for a few years while working as an energy consultant.
    "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was never any negotiations, or any quid pro quo, or any offer, or any request even, in any way related to sanctions," Page said of his meeting with Baranov.
    The Russian government owns a majority stake in Rosneft and Russian President Vladimir Putin has considerable influence within the bank. Sechin is a longtime friend and loyalist to Putin. The Treasury Department sanctioned Rosneft and Sechin after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
    A month after the election last year, Page met with Baranov and another Russian man, an unnamed banker with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, for lunch at Goodman's Steakhouse in Moscow. He said he showed them slides on his laptop from the speech he was about to give in Moscow, and they discussed the election's results.

    Page was 'in contact' with Mueller, too

    Page also said he had "recently been in contact" with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and other senior Justice officials regarding the "multiple outstanding requests" he made to get more info about FISA warrants reportedly used against him by the Obama administration.
    In addition, Page said he was interviewed by the FBI four or five times in 2017. Previously, he had said those interviews happened in March.
    Page denied any collusion during the interview, saying he "played no role in any government active measures in the 2016 election other than being a target of the Obama administration's efforts to support (Hillary) Clinton's campaign."
    The only discussion he could recall where WikiLeaks came up, he said, was during a TV interview with RT in London on October 24. The host and staffed mentioned "in passing" that it "might be potentially interesting."
    Page was also interviewed last month by the Senate intelligence committee as part of its probe into Russian election meddling, but that transcript is not being made public.
    After Page's July 2016 trip, the FBI grew concerned that he had been compromised by Russian operatives, US officials previously told CNN.