March 30, 2017
Former Trump adviser Carter Page, in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News, decried what he described as “propaganda” driven by a “false narrative” regarding his 2016 contacts with Russian officials, denying that he ever worked with them to help the campaign.
Page is one of several Trump associates being scrutinized amid multiple probes looking at Russia’s interference in last year’s campaign. As he prepares for interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Page gave a categorical denial when asked by Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge whether he worked with the Russians to help the Trump campaign.
“Absolutely not,” he said, laughing. “I did nothing that could even possibly be viewed as helping them in any way.”
Asked whether he had worked with the Russians to hurt the Clinton campaign, he replied, “Absolutely not. In no way, shape or form.”
Still, Page acknowledged for the first time what he insists was a brief meeting with the Russian ambassador at the Republican National Convention – an admission sure to fuel foes of the Trump administration looking for evidence of Trump-Russia coordination.
Page, who described himself as an oil industry consultant and U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, was a relative unknown when the Trump campaign announced his hiring as a foreign policy adviser in March 2016. He would stay with the Trump team until September 2016, but says he left because “these stories kept coming out based on the dodgy dossier.”
Page appeared in the infamous “Trump Dossier” created by former British Intelligence operative Christopher Steele, working for a U.S. political research group called Fusion GPS on behalf of both Republicans and Democrats. “And so out of respect and out of doing what’s best for the campaign, I thought it’s best if I step aside and take a leave of absence at that at that point,” Page said.
In his opening statement before testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers last week, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., put Page at the center of an alleged web of collusion to help Russia interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Schiff went through a blow-by-blow of Page’s alleged pro-Russian activities, which Page answered in his exclusive interview.
“In early July,” Schiff said at the hearing, “Carter Page travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.”
While Trump campaign “people were okay with [the trip],” Page said, “the word ‘approved’ … can be misleading that I was actually authorized to go and represent the campaign. It had nothing to do with the campaign. I was going as a private citizen.”
The oft-quoted line from the speech that was characterized as anti-American was, “Washington and other western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
But Page told Fox News the line was taken out of context to make him look bad. “It was really about that concept of mutual respect and the way various countries including Russia, China and the United States, can work together for having a more constructive relationship primarily with the states of central Asia, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan,” he said.
Schiff, at the hearing, pointed to another allegation from the dossier, that “Page also had a secret meeting with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Russian President Putin.”
“I have never met Igor Sechin in my life,” Page countered. “Completely false. I’ve never met him in my entire life. I may have seen him at a conference once at a distance, but I’ve never shaken his hand.”
After his Moscow speech, Page attended the Republican National Convention last July in Cleveland. Steele and Schiff described how Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak met with Page – acting as a go-between on behalf of then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Then, according to Schiff, “Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests.”
But Page told Herridge in the exclusive interview, “I was always very cautious. The only time, and you’re the first person in the media that I’m saying this very directly to — I said, ‘Hello,’ to him in passing, handed him my business card and never got a business card from him, as I did for many ambassadors in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention.”
Page said the reason he never mentioned the passing encounter before was “out of respect for privacy for Ambassador Kislyak. And there were very direct rules that that was an off-the-record session.”
Still, Page asserted that, “Nothing happened between me and Ambassador Kislyak. That I can assure you. I had no direct one-on-one material discussions with him in any way, shape or form.”
Page even denied the dossier allegation that Manafort appointed him as a coordinator with the Russians: “Totally false. Just like everything else about those allegations.”
For his part, Page argued that the attacks on the Trump administration by its political foes have harmed the U.S. political system more severely than the allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.
“Liars and leakers in Washington and more broadly the political class in the United States actually had a much more negative impact,” Page said. “All of the discussions about the influence that the Russian government had on the U.S. election would actually pale in comparison to the much heavier influence that the U.S. government actually had in trying to hurt then-candidate Trump. That negative impact based on these complete lies has continued to put a dark shadow over the United States in general.”