Carter Page Testimony Could Raise New Questions for Investigators in Russia Probe

Carter Page
The Associated Press

Former Trump foreign policy campaign adviser Carter Page’s testimony to House lawmakers, delivered last week but published Monday evening, could open new doors of inquiry for investigators looking for Trump campaign ties to Russian officials.

Page revealed last week in testimony to the House intelligence committee that he had briefly met with the Russian deputy prime minister and other Russian legislators during a visit he took to Moscow in July 2016, several months after he joined the campaign.

Already, the testimony has been seized upon by Trump critics as evidence the campaign lied that it had no Russia contacts.

But the testimony also shows that Page was a relatively insignificant member of the campaign and that he was not given permission to act as a representative of the campaign during the trip. It also showed no clear evidence of collusion or any quid pro quo between Page and Russians he interacted with during his trip.

Page, a Russia scholar and former investment banker, told lawmakers he had reached out to New York Republican Party chair Ed Cox in late 2015 about joining the Trump campaign, and was introduced to Trump campaign members in early 2016. He said he officially joined as an unpaid foreign policy adviser in March 2016. At the time, then-candidate Trump was under growing media pressure to unveil a foreign policy team.

But Page said in his testimony that he has never met or communicated with then-candidate Trump, any of his children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his successor Steve Bannon, or Ret. Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. He met with then-national security campaign adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) once.

Page did, however, meet with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at least once, and had several meetings with Sam Clovis, the national co-chairman of Trump’s campaign. But beyond that, the campaign official he interacted most with was J.D. Gordon, a retired Navy commander who had helped set up a foreign policy shop in D.C. for the Trump campaign and left after the Republican National Convention in July.

Page testified that around April 2016, he was invited to give a commencement speech at a Russian university, by a friend of a friend’s father, who was rector of the school. Page said that as a Ph.D., he had been invited to speak at many universities in the past. Page let several members of the campaign know he was going to Moscow in July to give a speech, including Gordon, Lewandowski, and campaign press secretary Hope Hicks.

Page said Lewandowski told him, “If you’d like to go on your own, not affiliated with the campaign, you know, that’s fine.”

Page also said he told Sessions about the trip, but more as an “administrative” point. “I said: ‘I’m glad to have the opportunity to meet you. And I just — I’m going to be traveling, but I will — I’m going to give a — you know, totally unrelated to the campaign, I’m going to give a brief — or give a speech in Moscow.”

“He had no reaction whatsoever,” Page said. “It was sort of in one ear and out the other.”

Page insisted that he had also made it clear to his Russian hosts that he was not acting as a representative of the campaign during the trip.

However, things got a little bumpy for Page during the testimony, when lawmakers questioned him about the discrepancy between what he was telling lawmakers at the hearing about the trip, and what he had told the Trump campaign back then, which appeared to be inflated accounts.

Page told lawmakers that after his speech, he interacted briefly with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkadiy Dvorkovich, who was at the university also to give a speech.

“It was a very brief interaction. It was some nice pleasantries. I cannot recall the precise words I said, but it was sort of best wishes, and, you know, that’s about it,” he said. He also said he there were a couple of Russian legislators who said, “hello very briefly.”

However, lawmakers had a copy of a note Page had sent back to the campaign that said: “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.”

Asked about the discrepancy, Page said it was a “general sentiment of … hope for the future” that was “well less than ten seconds.”

Page had also told the campaign that he had “gained insights and outreach” from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration. Questioned about this, Page said the insights were from listening to speeches.

“No meetings. You know, it’s insights versus outreach. The insights were primarily based on the materials or the ideas that I read in the press,” he said.

Page said he never ended up sharing those insights with the campaign, since journalists began to call him about his contacts with Russians alleged in media reports. He said he had dinner with Clovis after the speech, where he discussed “general positive sentiment,” but that it was nothing beyond what one could find in a Russian newspaper.

Page also revealed that during his trip, he met with a longtime friend, who is now the head of all investor relations for Rosneft. The testimony also revealed that Page had suggested to Gordon and another foreign policy adviser, Walid Phares, in May that Trump give the speech in Moscow in his place. Page said he doesn’t recall a response from either.

Page’s revelations, including that he had met with Dvorkovich and other Russian legislators, could become new fodder in congressional and federal investigations that the Trump administration is looking forward to moving past.

Page’s testimony also seemingly conflicted with what Lewandowski had said before. Lewandowski told USA Today in March that he never gave Page an OK to travel to Moscow.

Page also caused some confusion over whether he had waived his ability to plead the fifth. Previously, he had refused to hand over requested documents, invoking his fifth amendment rights. At the hearing, he first implied he would not hand over those documents, because he did not want to be accused of not providing all of them in case he could not find all of them.

However, lawmakers said they had believed he had waived his ability to plead the fifth by agreeing to testify, and wanting his testimony to be made public afterwards. Carter suggested toward the end of the hearing that he would hand over the documents.

Overall, Carter expressed a willingness to be open and share everything he knew with lawmakers, in hopes of proving there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He testified to lawmakers without an attorney, and said he welcomed the opportunity to dispute the unfounded allegations contained in the Trump dossier.

Page said he has never met with Russian officials that the Trump dossier alleged that he did — Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, and Igor Diveykin, a high-ranking intelligence official.

Page also used the hearing to protest the FBI reportedly obtaining a surveillance warrant on him based on unfounded allegations in the dossier. He has asked the FBI to release the evidence used to obtain the warrant, but so far, to no avail.

While Page may have been well-intentioned, his testimony appears to have raised hopes for those searching for signs of collusion.