Adviser to Trump met with Russian officials on 2016 trip
WASHINGTON — Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, met Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow, according to testimony he gave Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee.
Shortly after the trip, Page sent an email to at least one Trump campaign aide describing insights he had after conversations with government officials, legislators and business executives during his time in Moscow, according to one person familiar with the contents of the message.
The email was read aloud during the closed-door testimony.
The new details of the trip present a different picture than the account Page has given during numerous appearances in the news media in recent months and are yet another example of a Trump adviser meeting with Russians officials during the 2016 campaign.
In multiple interviews with the New York Times, he had either denied meeting with any Russian government officials during the July 2016 visit or sidestepped the question, saying he met with “mostly scholars.”
Page confirmed the meetings in an interview Friday evening, but he played down their significance.
“I had a very brief hello to a couple of people. That was it,” he said. He said one of the people he met was a “senior person,” but would not confirm the person’s identity.
He confirmed that an email he had written to the campaign after that trip to Moscow was presented to him during Thursday’s appearance before the House Intelligence Committee.
Page acknowledged his meeting with Russian government officials during sharp questioning by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, according to a congressional official familiar with the exchange.
During another part of the testimony, Page was questioned about a trip to Budapest, Hungary, although it was not immediately clear why. Page told the Times earlier this year that he had taken that trip around Labor Day weekend last year, but he said he had not met with any Russians.
“It was a short four-day trip over a long holiday weekend at the end of the summer,” Page said at the time. “I had a nice trip up the Danube, to the Visegrad castle, did a lot of sightseeing and went to a jazz club. Not much to report.”
Court records unsealed Monday revealed that another campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, met with Russian officials in 2016 and was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
The court records were released by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the presidential election last year and whether any of President Donald Trump’s associates helped in that effort.
Page was questioned by the FBI this year and has also appeared before the grand jury as part of the special counsel’s inquiry.
The House Intelligence Committee is one of three congressional investigations that are also examining these issues.
Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016 was never a secret, and during the trip, he gave a speech at a graduation ceremony at the New Economic School, a university there.
But the trip was one of the triggers of a counterintelligence investigation begun by the FBI later that month.
In his talk at the university, Page criticized U.S. policy toward Russia in terms that echoed the position of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. HONOLULU — On his most grueling and consequential trip abroad, President Donald Trump stands ready to exhort Asian allies and rivals on the need to counter the dangers posed by North Korea’s nuclear threat.
The 12-day, five-country trip, the longest Far East itinerary for a president in a generation, comes at a precarious moment for Trump. Just days ago, his former campaign chairman was indicted and another adviser pleaded guilty as part of an investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russian officials.
With Trump set to arrive today in Japan, the trip presents a crucial international test for a president looking to reassure Asian allies worried that his inward-looking “America First” agenda could cede power in the region to China. They also are rattled by his bellicose rhetoric about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North’s growing missile arsenal threatens the capitals Trump will visit.
“The trip comes, I would argue, at a very inopportune time for the president. He is under growing domestic vulnerabilities that we all know about, hour to hour,” said Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The conjunction of those issues leads to the palpable sense of unease about the potential crisis in Korea.”
Trump’s spontaneous, and at time reckless, style flies in the face of the generations-old traditions and protocol that govern diplomatic exchanges in Asia. The grand receptions expected for him in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and beyond are sure to be lavish attempts to impress the president, who raved about the extravagances shown him on earlier visits to Saudi Arabia and France.
The trip will also put Trump in face-to-face meetings with authoritarian leaders for whom he has expressed admiration. They include China’s Xi Jinping, whom Trump has likened to “a king,” and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, who has sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers.
Trump may also have the chance for a second private audience with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam. The White House is signaling that Trump will push American economic interests in the region, but the North Korean threat is expected to dominate the trip. One of Trump’s two major speeches will come before the National Assembly in Seoul. Fiery threats against the North could resonate differently than they do from the distance of Washington.
Trump will forgo a trip to the Demilitarized Zone, the stark border between North and South Korea. All U.S. presidents except one since Ronald Reagan have visited the DMZ in a sign of solidarity with Seoul. The White House contends that Trump’s commitment to South Korea is already crystal clear, as evidenced by his war of words with Kim and his threats to deliver “fire and fury” to North Korea if it does not stop threatening American allies.
The escalation of rhetoric, a departure from the conduct of past presidents, has undermined confidence in the U.S. as a stabilizing presence in Asia.
“There’s a danger if there is a lot of muscle flexing,” said Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. “Trump has been going right up to the edge and I wouldn’t rule out some sort of forceful North Korean reaction to Trump’s presence in the region,” he said.
The White House said Trump would be undeterred.
“The president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously. That’s been of great reassurance to our allies, partners and others in the region who are literally under the gun of this regime,” White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday. “I don’t think the president really modulates his language, have you noticed?”
At each stop, Trump will urge his hosts to squeeze North Korea by stopping trading with the North and sending home North Korean citizens working abroad. That includes China, which competes with the U.S. for influence in the region and provides much of North Korea’s economic lifeblood.
The White House is banking on the close relationships Trump has established with some Asian leaders to help make his demands more palatable.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump toss flower petals into the sea at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Friday. With Trump are Adm. Harry Harris and his wife, Bruni Bradley.