Tags: Russia Probe | Carter Page | Trump | Campaign | Russian | Contacts

Page Tells Russia Probe He's 'Biggest Embarrassment' to Trump

Page Tells Russia Probe He's 'Biggest Embarrassment' to Trump
Carter Page (Getty Images)

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 01:03 PM

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, refused last week to give a congressional committee documents related to the Russia investigation because he said they might not all "match up" with information from earlier wiretaps that caught his conversations.

The House Intelligence Committee on Monday night released a 243-page transcript of his lengthy appearance behind closed doors with its Russia probe. Page, who said he never met or spoke with Trump, said that he did have contact with Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip in Moscow.

But he insisted he wasn't doing so as a representative of the Trump camp. 

"Unfortunately, I am the biggest embarrassment surrounding the campaign," he told the panel.

J.D. Gordon, then a national security adviser to the campaign, said in an exchange of text messages Tuesday that he discouraged Page from going to Moscow and refused to pass along his request for approval. 

Page's appearance generated extra attention on Capitol Hill after the disclosure of a guilty plea by another Trump campaign foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos. The two were announced as Trump advisers on the same day in March 2016.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to investigators as part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

The transcript of the six-hour interview confirms that Page invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against turning over to the panel certain documents -- including those involving his July 2016 trip to Russia -- for two reasons.

'Not Comprehensive'

"Number one, there could be risks that the information is not comprehensive," said Page, under questioning from the panel's top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California. 

He added that the information already had been "illegally hacked from my computer systems" and "based on some of these proceedings of the past year will not match up."

He said his documents wouldn't be as comprehensive "as the documents which are already collected. The National Security Agency, CIA and FBI have infinitely greater data processing capabilities than do I."

He offered no proof to support his allegations, but said that "nothing would directly incriminate me."

Page also acknowledged that in June 2016 he mentioned "in passing" to then-Senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump foreign policy adviser, that he might be taking a trip to Moscow -- but that it wasn't connected to his unpaid role in the campaign.

Page also told the committee that he asked for permission to take the trip from campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who he said approved the trip.

Gordon said that after he refused to pass along Page's speech request for approval by the campaign, Page went around him. No one with the campaign approved an outline of what Page was going to say, Gordon said. He called Page and Papadopoulos, who was on the same group of foreign policy advisers as Page, "peripheral members of a relatively peripheral advisory committee."

"They had no campaign email address, no assigned work space, no responsibilities and little access to campaign leadership," said Gordon.

Deputy Prime Minister

After first asserting that he didn't meet with senior Russian officials during the trip, Page later acknowledged that he spoke with deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich. Schiff read from a document Page sent back to the Trump campaign after the trip.

"In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems," Page wrote, according to Schiff.

Page called the encounter "just a brief greeting."

Further, Page told The Washington Post late Monday that it wasn't a private conversation.

"That is complete misinformation and/or misinterpretation," Page told the Post. "I’m working on my lawsuit tonight that will get to the bottom of the real interference in the 2016 election, by the [United States government]. I’ve played this nonsensical game long enough and am not interested in this latest round tonight."

 But Schiff told the Associated Press on Tuesday that "more and more pictures of the puzzle" were coming together after Page's testimony and last week's guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, another foreign policy adviser to Trump's Republican campaign.

"You have these two efforts in parallel going on with two of these advisers," Schiff said. "You have them both reporting back to the campaign. ... I hardly think that these are coincidental."

Following the trip, Page emailed Gordon and Tera Dahl, another campaign adviser, about "incredible insights and outreach I've received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here," he wrote. 

Page told investigators he was referring to insights he got from speeches and following the news while he was there, not meetings with any officials. Gordon said he doesn't remember all of Page's emails.

When Page returned from the trip, Gordon said he "didn't care what Carter had to say" and had no further discussion with him about the trip.

Page also said he told Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman and policy adviser to Trump's campaign, about his trip. Clovis last week withdrew from consideration for a senior job at the Department of Agriculture.

Page's testimony about Sessions could increase scrutiny of the attorney general, who is already facing questions over how much he knew about Russian efforts to interfere with the U.S. election.

The testimony was part of the House committee's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether it is linked to Trump's campaign. Page's trip raised questions just as the FBI began its counterintelligence investigation into the Russian meddling, and he has offered contradictory accounts about whom he met there — at one point telling the AP that he hadn't met with Dvorkovich.

But his testimony on Thursday was under oath.

Schiff pressured Page on what the congressman suggested were inconsistencies in his testimony and past statements, noting that Page told the committee that he had met only one Russian government official during his July 2016 trip to Russia, and yet had told campaign officials in an email that he had received valuable insights from legislators and senior members of the Russian presidential administration.

"Are you being honest in your testimony?" Schiff asked. "Because it doesn't seem possible for both to be true."

Page said the insights he was referring to were based on materials he had read in the press, "similar to my listening to President Trump in the various speeches that I heard of his."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, refused last week to give a congressional committee documents related to the Russia investigation because he said they might not all "match up" with information from earlier wiretaps that...
Carter Page, Trump, Campaign, Russian, Contacts
Tuesday, 07 November 2017 01:03 PM
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