President Donald Trump suggested that the FBI may have tried to use Carter Page as “an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.
“’Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?’” Trump tweeted on Thursday, quoting comments made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News.
Trump then jumped in with his on commentary on the matter: “They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?”
@LindseyGrahamSC “Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?” They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”
The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”
“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”
Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.
“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”
Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents. As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of “Justice” and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!
In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”
.@PeteHegseth on @FoxNews “Source #1 was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign…” ILLEGAL!
The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”
Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.
“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.
The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.
The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.
Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.
The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.
David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”
“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.
Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”
Looking more and more like the President cannot separate fact from fiction. FBI had good reason to believe Page was an agent of a foreign power, and the FISA was lawfully approved by 4 different judges.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’
“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to tout his latest theory that the “FBI or DOJ was infiltrating” his campaign during the 2016 election in order to sabotage it and allow for a Hillary Clinton victory.
This latest theory is based on a New York Timesreport that revealed the FBI launched an incredibly secretive investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 and used an informant to glean info from four campaign affiliates: Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos.
That report was seized on by the Russia investigation’s chief critics in the media who argued it was evidence the FBI spied on the Trump campaign with the malicious intent of setting then-candidate Trump up and bringing him down (they clearly did not do a very good job of it, but that’s apparently beside the point). Trump himself has enjoyed this narrative, tweeting about it often, if always in the conditional.
Trump tweeted — erroneously, as no one reported that the informant was “implanted” into his campaign — on Friday:
“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”
Trump again wheeled out the “If” in his latest tweet Saturday evening:
“If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal,” he wrote. “Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!”
If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been engaged in a tense showdown with the Department of Justice over documents he has demanded that relate to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties.
The DOJ has refused to hand over the documents, arguing they could endanger an intelligence source, Politico reported.
Now, while the New York Times and the Washington Post have omitted the name of that intelligence source from their reporting, it has become abundantly clear who he is. Hell, the Daily Callerreported on him three months ago, so the cat’s pretty much out of the bag.
Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that “a team of lawyers” may soon review Donald Trump’s social-media missives as the White House tries to grapple with the Russia scandal.
If that was the plan, it doesn’t appear to be going well. This morning, for example, the president published some tweets about the controversy that didn’t do Trump World any favors:
“So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don’t want him to testify. He blows away their case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing ‘the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan…’ Witch Hunt!”
Trump was apparently watching a Fox News segment this morning, which led to this little outburst.
And that’s a shame, because the president’s tweets are problematic for a variety of reasons.
For example, Trump, apparently quoting a letter Page sent to lawmakers seemed to argue this morning that the former directors of the FBI and the CIA delivered “false or misleading testimony” while under oath. That’s a pretty dangerous thing for a president to allege publicly without any evidence.
What’s more, Trump’s tweet follows Page’s claim that his interview with the House Intelligence Committee has been delayed, but it’s unclear if that interview had ever been scheduled in the first place.
But perhaps the most salient detail is Trump’s insistence that Carter Page has information that “blows away” the Democrats’ “case against him” in the Russia scandal. This, of course, leads to an awkward question: how exactly would the president know that?
The more controversial Page became, the more eager Team Trump became to put distance between Page and the president. Sean Spicer told reporters during the transition period, for example, “Carter Page is an individual whom [Trump] does not know.” The Washington Postadded this morning people close to the president have insisted that Trump and Page “never met.”
And yet, there was the president this morning, not only defending Page, but making the case that Page has important, exculpatory information. I’ll look forward to the explanation as to how and why Trump has reached this conclusion.
The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is reporting.
The FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor the communications of Page, who has called himself a junior member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, as part of their investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, the newspaper says, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials.
The FBI and Justice Department obtained the warrant after convincing a FISA judge there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign government (Russia), the report says. The warrant presents the strongest information to date that the FBI had reason to believe a Trump adviser was in touch with Moscow and met with foreign operatives during Trump’s presidential campaign.
FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that an investigation was opened last year into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. But Comey stopped short of naming anyone working for the campaign who may have been involved.
CNN is working to confirm The Washington Post’s story.
Page, however, called the FISA warrant “unjustified” in a statement to CNN’s Manu Raju.
“There have been various reports [about FISA documents and FBI surveillance of him],” Page said. “But I was so happy to hear that further confirmation is now being revealed. It shows how low the Clinton/Obama regime went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA requests are more fully disclosed over time, including potentially the Dodgy Dossier — a document that clearly is false evidence, which could represent yet another potential crime.”
Page was referring to a leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official for Trump’s political opponents. Then-President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier before Trump’s inauguration, CNN reported.
When asked in March of last year to list members of his foreign policy team in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump included “Carter Page, PhD.”
Page has said he sent policy memos to the campaign and participated in conference calls as well as gatherings that included Trump, but also said he never personally briefed Trump or was in “small meetings” with him during the election. But Trump said at a White House news conference in February that he doesn’t think he ever met Page.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him.”
Page told CNN he had never shaken Trump’s hand and that by saying he had met with Trump, he had meant meetings in the “Russian sense,” which he said meant he had attended rallies Trump spoke at.
In recent interviews, Page described himself as a “junior member” of Trump’s foreign policy team, and has denied working on any Russia-related policies for the campaign. He also said in February that he is still in contact with some people in the Trump orbit.
A lot of right-wing news media and Carter Page himself have declared this revelation to be some sort of vindication, that finally there is some proof that Obama wiretapped Donald Trump at Trump Tower during the election.
But first, this is none of those things.
And most importantly, Page should not be excited over this news because you don’t get slapped with a FISA warrant unless the court thinks you could be the agent of a foreign power. U.S. officials convinced a FISA court judge during the presidential campaign that there is probable cause that Page was “knowingly” working as an agent of a foreign government while advising Trump.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.
A few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it, Gordon, a retired naval officer, told POLITICO.
Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign, the former campaign adviser said. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to discuss internal campaign matters.
The trip is now a focus of congressional and FBI investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Lewandowski told POLITICO he did not recall the email exchange with Page, but he did not deny that it occurred.
“Is it possible that he emailed me asking if he could go to Russia as a private citizen?” Lewandowski said Tuesday. “I don’t remember that, but I probably got 1,000 emails a day at that time, and I can’t remember every single one that I was sent. And I wouldn’t necessarily remember if I had a one-word response to him saying he could do something as a private citizen.”
Hicks declined to comment. But a former campaign official said campaign officials did not discuss Page’s planned trip before he left for Moscow.
“No one discussed the trip within the campaign and certainly not with candidate Trump directly,” said the former campaign official.
The official pointed to a July statement from Hicks that declared that Page was in Moscow in a private capacity and was not representing the campaign. That statement came in response to media reports from Moscow about Page’s presence there.
Both Lewandowski and the White House official cast Page as a minor character on the periphery of the campaign, who was a foreign policy adviser in name only.
“I’ve never met or spoken to Carter Page in my life,” Lewandowski said.
Gordon and Page had no comment on whether the Trump campaign officially sanctioned the trip, which has drawn the attention of investigators from the FBI and congressional committees investigating possible Trump campaign ties with Russian officials before the election.
And while Page has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with his Moscow visit, it is now drawing increased scrutiny as a result of new disclosures about his contact two weeks later with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Just days after Kislyak talked to Page, Gordon and a third campaign official, WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers — a hack that U.S. intelligence later attributed to the Russian government.
No connection between any of those three events has been alleged publicly or confirmed. But on Tuesday, Page confirmed that he is one of about a dozen individuals and organizations contacted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and asked to preserve relevant materials for its investigation into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
“I will do everything in my power to reasonably ensure that all information concerning my activities related to Russia last year is preserved,” Page said in a letter to committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.).
In his letter, Page again denied any wrongdoing and repeated his claims that former officials of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democrats have been spreading false information about the trip and Page’s other connections to Russia.
Page’s trip to Moscow has been the subject of intense speculation for months, but many of the details remain cloudy.
A longtime oil and energy industry consultant, Page had already spent considerable time in Russia before making the trip, most recently as founder and managing partner of the Global Energy Capital investment and consulting firm, which specializes in Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business.
The firm’s website says Page has been involved in more than $25 billion of transactions in the energy and power sector and that he spent three years in Moscow, where he was an adviser on key transactions for Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom and other energy-related companies.
Page has insisted that he was in Moscow to give a commencement address at the New Economic School there based on his scholarly research, and that his visit was “outside of my informal, unpaid role” on the Trump campaign. He also said he had divested any stake in Gazprom and that he had “not met this year  with any sanctioned official in Russia despite the fact that there are no restrictions on U.S. persons speaking with such individuals.”
But last September, top congressional lawmakers were briefed on suspected efforts by Russia to meddle in the election. Soon after, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked FBI Director James Comey to investigate meetings between a Trump official, later identified as Page, and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow that he believed were evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Trump campaign officials took steps to distance themselves from Page, who had been publicly identified as an adviser as recently as Aug. 24. He announced Sept. 26 that he was taking a leave of absence from the campaign, saying the accusations were untrue but causing too much of a “distraction.”
But even after Russia was linked to the hacking effort against Democrats, the Trump campaign did not seek to question Page about his trip, the campaign adviser said.
Asked what Page did while in Moscow, the adviser said, “I have no idea. I didn’t want to know.”
The adviser also said he was not aware of anyone else on the campaign who discussed the trip with Page, either to glean any foreign policy insight from him or to determine whether any damage control was needed based on his contacts.
“Nobody talked about it. It was such an ugly topic. Even when I saw him at the convention, I didn’t talk to him about it,” the adviser said, adding that some in the campaign had expressed concern that any public appearances in Moscow by Page would send a bad message.
The campaign fired Lewandowski on June 20, before Page took the trip. Paul Manafort, who replaced Lewandowski as manager and later became chairman, said he had no knowledge of any aspect of Page’s trip, including whether Lewandowski or anyone else approved it.
In recent days, Page’s contact with Russians resurfaced with news reports that he, Gordon and senior Trump campaign adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions all engaged in discussions with Kislyak at an event on the sidelines of the GOP convention.
Page has declined to comment on what they discussed, saying it was private, while Gordon characterized the conversations as harmless efforts to improve U.S.-Russia ties.
The former campaign adviser on Tuesday said Page and the ambassador had a lengthy discussion and that they were at times joined by Gordon and two other ambassadors from the region. The adviser did not know whether Page or Kislyak initiated the conversation.
A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia contained allegations that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump ally Carter Page and his associates the brokerage of a 19% stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia.
The dossier says the offer was made in July, when Page was in Moscow giving a speech at the Higher Economic School. The claim was sourced to “a trusted compatriot and close associate” of Sechin, according to the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele.
“Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft president was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft,” the dossier said. “In return, Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.”
Four months before the intelligence community briefed Trump, then-President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and the nation’s top lawmakers on the dossier’s claims — most of which have not been independently verified but are being investigated by US intelligence agencies — a US intelligence source told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff that Sechin met with Page during Page’s three-day trip to Moscow. Sechin, the source told Yahoo, raised the issue of the US lifting sanctions on Russia under Trump.
Page, for his part, was “noncommittal” in his response to Sechin’s requests that the US lift the sanctions, the dossier said. But he signaled that doing so would be Trump’s intention if he won the election, and he expressed interest in Sechin’s offer, according to the document.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump suggested the sanctions could be lifted if Moscow proved to be a useful ally. “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us,” Trump asked, “why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”
Page has criticized the US sanctions on Russia as “sanctimonious expressions of moral superiority.” He praised Sechin in a May 2014 blog post for his “accomplishments” in advancing US-Russia relations. A US official serving in Russia while Page worked at Merrill Lynch in Moscow told Isikoff that Page “was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did.”
Page is also believed to have met with senior Kremlin internal affairs official Igor Diveykin while he was in Moscow last July, according to Isikoff’s intelligence sources. The dossier separately claimed that Diveykin — whom US officials believe was responsible for the intelligence collected by Russia about the US election — met with Page and hinted that the Kremlin possessed compromising information about Trump.
It is unclear whether Isikoff’s reporting is related to the dossier, which has been circulating among top intelligence officials, lawmakers, and journalists since mid-2016.
A scramble for a foreign investor
After mid-October, the dossier said, Sechin predicted that it would no longer be possible for Trump to win the presidency, so he “put feelers out to other business and political contacts” to purchase a stake in Rosneft.
Rosneft then scrambled to find a foreign investor, holding talks with more than 30 potential buyers from Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East. The company signed a deal on December 7 to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is Glencore’s largest shareholder.
The “11th hour deal” was “so last minute,” Reuters reported, “that it appeared it would not close in time to meet the government’s deadline for booking money in the budget from the sale.”
The purchase amounted to the biggest foreign investment in Russia since US sanctions took effect in 2014. It showed that “there are some forces in the world that are ready to help Russia to circumvent the [West’s] sanction regime,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an associate fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.
“In Russia we have a marriage between power and business, and that is why all important economic deals need approval and the endorsement of the authorities,” Shevtsova said. “This was a very serious commercial deal that hardly could have succeeded without the direct involvement of the Kremlin.”
The privatization deal was funded by Gazprombank, whose parent company is the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Page holds investments in Gazprom, though he claimed in a letter to FBI Director James Comey in September that he sold his stake in the company “at a loss.” His website says he served as an adviser “on key transactions” for the state-owned energy giant before setting up his energy investment fund, Global Energy Capital, in 2008 with former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko.
There is no evidence that Carter played any role in the Rosneft deal. But he was back in Moscow on December 8 — one day after the deal was signed — to “meet with some of the top managers” of Rosneft, he told reporters at the time. Page denied meeting with Sechin, Rosneft’s CEO, during that trip but said it would have been “a great honor” if he had.
The Rosneft deal, Page added, was “a good example of how American private companies are unfortunately limited to a great degree due to the influence of sanctions.” He said the US and Russia had entered “a new era” of relations but that it was still “too early” to discuss whether Trump would be easing or lifting sanctions on Moscow.
Page’s extensive business ties to state-owned Russian companies were investigated by a counterintelligence task force set up last year by the CIA. The investigation, which is reportedly ongoing, has examined whether Russia was funneling money into Trump’s presidential campaign — and, if it was, who was serving as the liaison between the Trump team and the Kremlin.
The dossier claims that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort asked Page to be the liaison. That claim has not been verified. Manafort served as a top adviser to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine from 2004 to 2012 and emerged as a central figure in both the dossier and the intelligence community’s early inquiries into Trump’s ties to Russia.
(Washington Post) – In early June, a little-known adviser to Donald Trump stunned a gathering of high-powered Washington foreign policy experts meeting with the visiting prime minister of India, going off topic with effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.
The adviser, Carter Page, hailed Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama, according to three people who were present at the closed-door meeting at Blair House — and then touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations.
A month later, Page dumbfounded foreign policy experts again by giving another speech harshly critical of U.S. policy — this time in Moscow.
The United States and other Western nations have “criticized these regions for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period,” Page said in a lecture at the New Economic School commencement. “Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
Page has an ambiguous role in Trump’s campaign. But since being named to the Republican nominee’s team in March, his stature within the foreign policy world has grown considerably, drawing alarm from more-established foreign policy experts who view him as having little real understanding about U.S.-Russia relations. Many also say that Page’s views may be compromised by his investment in Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Other foreign policy experts from both parties say they are distressed with Page for his criticism of sanctions, praise for Putin and his advisers, and his tepid response to what most U.S. policymakers see as Russian aggression.
“It scares me,” said David Kramer, who was responsible for Russia and Ukraine at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. He called Page’s speech in Moscow and recent comments by Trump on the possibility of lifting sanctions against Moscow “deeply unsettling.”
Asked to comment on Page’s public statements and campaign role, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Page was an “informal foreign policy adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Trump first named Page as one of a handful of his foreign policy advisers during a meeting at The Washington Post.
The open embrace of a controversial foreign leader is unusual for an adviser to a presidential candidate — and a break from a decades-old Republican tradition of tough stances toward Moscow.
Page, who worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch a decade ago and who has said he is invested in Gazprom, joins other Trump advisers who have done business in Russia while advocating closer relations. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, for example, has wooed investments from oligarchs linked to Putin and advised the now-toppled pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Trump has also expressed admiration for Putin, questioned U.S. obligations to defend NATO allies and most recently — after hacked emails were released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention — asked for Russian help to find the deleted emails of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time he spoke, the FBI was investigating a break-in at the Democratic National Committee by alleged Russian hackers. Later, Trump said the request was made sarcastically.
While his comments have drawn derision from some quarters, friends of the 45-year-old Page say that he is knowledgeable about Russian affairs, and they profess astonishment that he has chosen to advise Trump.
Relationship with Gazprom
A graduate of the Naval Academy later posted as a Marine intelligence officer in Western Sahara, Page won a fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations, where he wrote about Turkey’s role as a hub for oil and natural gas being taken by pipeline from the Caspian Sea region to Europe. After earning a degree from New York University’s business school, Page moved in 2004 to Moscow, where he worked for Merrill Lynch until 2007.
Page, who declined to comment for this article, has said in other media interviews that he also struck up a relationship with Gazprom. His Web biography says he was an adviser “on key transactions for Gazprom,” the Russian electric utility and other energy companies. In a two-hour interview with Bloomberg News in late March, he said he advised Gazprom on its largest deals, including buying a stake in an oil and natural gas field near Russia’s Sakhalin Island and the merging of two classes of Gazprom stock, one of which was restricted to foreigners and the other to Russians.
Page has offered that experience as one of his main areas of expertise, but his boss at Merrill Lynch at the time says that Page’s claims are exaggerated.
Sergey Aleksashenko, former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank and former chairman of Merrill Lynch Russia, says that Page did not play a key role at that time. “He was a vice president, and the job of vice president is not to organize deals but to execute,” Aleksashenko said.
He also said that no one at Merrill Lynch advised Gazprom on its purchase of Sakhalin oil and gas assets from a group led by Royal Dutch Shell, because the deal was driven by the Russian government, which strong-armed Shell by holding back environmental permits, complaining about the extent of local content and slowing Shell’s work to a crawl.
“Gazprom did not need any advice,” Aleksashenko said. “It was not a commercially driven transaction.”
Merrill Lynch was one of three firms that issued a fairness opinion on the price Gazprom eventually paid the Shell group.
Aleksashenko said when he heard that Trump named Page as an adviser, “I was laughing because he was never ready to discuss foreign policy.”
After he left Moscow, Page worked as chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch’s energy and power department in New York. Later, he set up Global Energy Capital, which is around the corner from Trump Tower. But he told Bloomberg News that he failed to raise money for a private-equity fund to buy assets in Turkmenistan. Instead, he says on his website that he advised others on investing in Russia and emerging markets.
Page’s position as a Trump adviser has catapulted him into the most prestigious policy events, such as a closed-door session co-chaired by former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright and Republican consultant Vin Weber at Cambridge University in July. After his speech at the New Economic School in Moscow, Page spoke briefly with another speaker, Arkady Dvorkovich, who is a graduate of the school, deputy to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and now chairman of the Russian Railways board.
Page also went to the Republican National Convention, where he attended a session held by the International Republican Institute and a separate, sponsored foreign policy event.
Page has left a trail of blog posts on the Global Policy Journal that has traditional foreign policy experts scratching their heads. For example, on Feb. 10, 2015, he compared the 2015 National Security Strategy rationale for imposing sanctions on Russia to an 1850 publication offering slaveholders guidance on how to produce “the ideal slave.”
After the Obama administration added Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin to its sanctions list in 2014, limiting Sechin’s ability to travel to the United States or do business with U.S. firms, Page praised the former deputy prime minister, considered one of Putin’s closest allies over the past 25 years. “Sechin has done more to advance U.S.-Russian relations than any individual in or out of government from either side of the Atlantic over the past decade,” Page wrote.
Since being named as a member of the Trump team in March, Page’s background in Russia has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.
During his interview with Bloomberg News, he said that he owns shares of Gazprom and that his stock portfolio had suffered since 2014, when the United States and Europe imposed economic sanctions on Russia after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
In his Moscow speech in July, Page suggested that investment was the key to better relations. He said the United States should provide Russia with “emerging technologies and potential capital market access contingent upon the U.S.’s refocus toward resolution of domestic challenges.” Russia would, in turn, approve “collaborative partnerships in the energy industry and other diversified sectors.”
“So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page told Bloomberg News. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.” While acknowledging his own investments in Russia, Page told Bloomberg News his work on the campaign was unlikely to help his portfolio.
All holdings in Russia by members of the Trump team should be fully disclosed, said Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama who is now teaching at Stanford University.
‘Refreshing to Russian ears’
Trump is not the first national political figure to suggest improved relations with Russia; Obama and Clinton advocated a “reset” a few years ago, which they have since abandoned. Trump is also not alone in seeking more military spending from U.S. allies in Europe. But he is the first to cast doubt on NATO’s mutual defense commitment or to request help from Russia in undermining his opponent.
“I think what we are offering is a very clear, mature, adult, realistic view of the world,” said Sam Clovis, an Iowa talk-show host and former Senate candidate who backs Trump and makes the case for rethinking U.S. commitments around the globe.
The Republican platform committee at the party’s convention last month was one place Trump campaign aides have promoted that view, according to national security experts who were there. They said Trump campaign staffers weakened language that would have called for military support of Ukraine.
“It was troubling to me that they would want to water down language that supports a country that has been invaded by an aggressive neighbor,” said Rachel Hoff, a member of the platform committee.“I think the U.S. should properly come to Ukraine’s aid in that struggle. In the past, that would not be considered a controversial Republican position.”
Manafort denied on “Meet the Press” this week that the campaign had sought to alter platform language related to Russia. However, those present said they negotiated directly with people who worked for the campaign.
Democrats, however, have suggested something more sinister lies behind Trump’s unusual views on Russia. McFaul, who reviewed Page’s early July speech in Moscow, said he disagreed with the content and added that he knew of no precedent for a presidential campaign adviser publicly criticizing U.S. policy in a foreign capital. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), has said that the Russian ties of Trump’s advisers show that the “Kremlin has tentacles into the Trump campaign.”
Meanwhile, in Moscow, all this is being watched closely.
“I think Donald Trump is a very interesting internal American phenomenon,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs and chairman of the presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. He said that in July, Page had not established contacts with the Kremlin and had only met with some university professors for informal coffees.
“I don’t think he has any direct support here,” Lukyanov said of Trump. “What he’s saying sounds very much refreshing to Russian ears. If he by chance were elected president, I think many people in Russia would love it.”