Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, said in a statement Monday night that a court case involving a Russian spy who tried to recruit him in 2013 had been framed in a way to help “amplify the reputational damage against me.”
BuzzFeed News obtained the court filing for the case, which included a transcript of a conversation between Victor Podobnyy, the person accused of spying, and Igor Sporyshev, another Russian operative, about trying to recruit someone identified as “Male-1.”
Page confirmed to BuzzFeed that he was “Male-1.” But he said in a statement later that his personal identity was made “easily identifiable” in the court documents because the US government wanted to punish him for his “public positions of dissent.”
“Throughout 2014, I wrote multiple academic articles on the foreign policy failures of the Obama administration as exhibited most vividly in the botched ‘Reset’ with Russia,” Page said. “When this case was announced in January 2015 by Attorney General [Eric] Holder during the final months of his term, the political vendetta tactics seen here also represented a clear retribution for my public positions of dissent.”
This is not the first time Page has said he’s being targeted for opposing the US’s Russia policy.
The energy consultant turned foreign-policy adviser was named in an unverified dossier about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia as a liaison between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. His trips to Moscow and contact with at least one Russian official last year are now reportedly under FBI investigation.
Page has called accusations that he served as a liaison an “illegal” form of “retribution” for a speech he gave in July at the New Economic School in Moscow in which he slammed the US for its “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change.”
- AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Page took a “leave of absence” from the Trump campaign in September after news broke of his July trip to Moscow, and the campaign later denied that he ever worked with it. The White House says Trump has no relationship with Page.
In a letter to the Department of Justice in February, Page said he “decided to step back” from the campaign so he could “more effectively fight these allegations independently and not create a further distraction for my colleagues.”
The letter also included a bullet-point argument suggesting his trip to Russia should be characterized as a “hate crime” committed by the Clinton campaign, which he said discriminated against him because he is a Roman Catholic, a veteran, and a man.
Now, a couple of months after requesting the DOJ’s help in combatting what he said were the campaign’s “hate crimes,” however, Page says the department has been out to get him.
“My personal identity and earlier assistance of federal authorities in the 2015 case of U.S.A. v. Buryakov, Sporyshev, and Podobnyy was framed in an easily identifiable way that amplified the reputational damage against me,” Page said.
“As I explained to federal authorities prior to the January 2015 filing of this case, I shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents with Podobnyy who then served as a junior attaché at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations,” he added.
According to court documents from the DOJ, Podobnyy was posing as a diplomat in New York City while acting as an agent of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, known as the SVR. From January to June 2013, Page met with, emailed with, and “provided documents to [Podobnyy] about the energy business,” according to the criminal complaint.
It is unlikely Page knew Podobnyy was a spy, however. Podobnyy appeared to acknowledge that he was using Page as a “useful idiot” for intelligence-gathering purposes.
Page “wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back,” Podobnyy told Sporyshev, according to the transcripts obtained by BuzzFeed.
“I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. … He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up,” Podobnyy said of the Russian energy company, according to the transcripts. “I also promised him a lot. … This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go f— himself.”