- Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
- Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, touted his Russia contacts in a 2013 letter that TIME magazine obtained.
- He sent the letter two months after the FBI informed him the Russians may have been trying to recruit him as an unwitting agent.
- Page is a central figure in the controversial memo spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, which purports to show the FBI and Department of Justice abusing their surveillance authority to monitor Page leading up to the the 2016 election.
- The 2013 letter undermines Nunes’ argument that the FBI improperly surveiled Page solely based on a controversial dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Carter Page, the former adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign who is at the center of the memo controversy, boasted about his Russia contacts in a 2013 letter to an academic journal, TIME reported on Saturday.
“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” Page said in the letter, dated August 25, 2013.
Page became a central figure in the news amid the memo saga last week. Among other things, the document, which House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes spearheaded, claims that the FBI and the Department of Justice bypassed protocol to improperly surveil Page leading up to the 2016 election.
In particular, it alleges that the DOJ relied primarily on what it characterized as insufficient and unreliable information in the so-called Steele dossier to support their application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting Page. The Steele dossier, compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, is an explosive collection of memos that outlines improper ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
While many parts of the dossier remain uncorroborated, key portions of it have been verified through sworn testimony and media accounts, and both the FBI and Senate Intelligence Committee are using the document as a “roadmap” as they investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election.
Page praised the memo’s release on Friday.
“The brave and assiduous oversight by congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America’s democracy,” Page said in a statement to Business Insider
Contrary to Trump’s and Republicans’ claims that Page became a subject of scrutiny only because of the dossier and his work on the Trump campaign, The Wall Street Journal reported last week the Page had been on counterintelligence officials’ radar since 2013 – more than three years before he joined the campaign, and the same year he sent the letter touting his Russia connections.
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier told CNN on Sunday that the FISA warrant targeting Page was 50 pages long, while the Steele dossier is 35 pages. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, also told The Atlantic that “only very select components of what Steele reported about Page were included in the application.” The revelations indicate that the Page warrant included additional evidence aside from information contained in the dossier.
In January 2013, according to Page’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year, he met Russian businessman Victor Podobnyy, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, at an event in New York. He met with Podobnyy a second time two months later, in March 2013.
That June, Page was interviewed by two FBI counterintelligence agents who were investigating whether Podobnyy and two others were Russian spies, according to court documents. According to TIME, Page told agents their time would be better spent investigating the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred in April 2013. The FBI obtained its first FISA warrant to monitor Page that same year.
Page told TIME that he “sat in on and contributed to a few roundtable discussion [sic] with people from around the world” in the first nine months of 2013. He described the meetings as “really plain-vanilla stuff.”
Politico reported on Saturday that even though the Russians reportedly believed Page to be an “idiot” who wanted to make “loads of money,” they noted that he was a promising lead for them, and that he made trips to Moscow more frequently than even they did.
Extensive Russia contacts
Page joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as a foreign policy adviser.
While the campaign has sought to distance itself from Page, the former adviser testified to the House Intelligence Committee last year that he had several contacts with Russia-linked individuals, at times with the campaign’s knowledge.
His testimony also appeared to corroborate key sections of the Steele dossier.
For example, the dossier says Page met with top Russian officials when he traveled to Moscow to give a speech in July 2016. He testified to the committee that he met with members of Russia’s presidential administration and Igor Sechin, one of the heads of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft during the trip.
In September 2016, Yahoo News reported that during that meeting, Sechin raised the possibility of lifting US sanctions on Russia if Trump became president. The dossier said Sechin offered Page a 19% stake in Rosneft in exchange for lifting sanctions. Page left the Trump campaign after the Yahoo report surfaced.
When Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff asked Page during his testimony whether Andrey Baranov, who is the head of investor relations at Rosneft, brought up “a potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft” during the July trip, Page replied, “He may have briefly mentioned it.”
Page added that he did “not directly” express support for the idea of lifting sanctions in exchange for a stake in Rosneft.
The dossier also said that former Russian security official Igor Diveykin informed Page that the Kremlin had a dossier of dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that it wanted to give the Trump campaign.
Page wrote in a July 8, 2016 email to Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon that he had received “incredible insights and outreach … from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here.”
When he testified before the committee last year, Page denied meeting with Diveykin, adding that the encounter in question was “a brief, less-than-10-second chat with Arkadiy Dvorkovich,” Russia’s deputy prime minister.
Page told the House Intelligence Committee that Sam Clovis, a senior member of the Trump campaign, knew of his Moscow trip both before he went and after he returned to the US.