Page amazed how Democrats latch onto dossier ‘full of lies’

For­mer Trump ad­viser re­buts ac­cu­sa­tions of Rus­sia ties

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Carter Page, the Trump cam­paign’s one­time vol­un­teer ad­viser on Rus­sia, views with amaze­ment how much a Demo­cratic op­po­si­tion re­search dossier has been in­creas­ingly em­braced by the lib­eral power struc­ture in Wash­ing­ton.

He told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he is stunned be­cause the dossier is “com­pletely false” and “full of lies” about his sup­posed con­duct vis-a-vis Rus­sia last sum­mer. The FBI, which ob­tained a copy of the dossier, has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­duct since July.

“The mis­takes are so laugh­able and hu­mor­ous they’re be­yond words,” Mr. Page said of a dossier that has him meet­ing with Rus­sians whom he in­sists he has never met. “It’s just so wild that it’s amaz­ing.”

Not one of the sen­sa­tional al­le­ga­tions in the Demo­crat-fi­nanced memos from for­mer Bri­tish spy Christo­pher Steele has been ver­i­fied in­de­pen­dently, at least pub­licly. Yet Democrats are cit­ing the dossier as a rea­son to achieve their ma­jor po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tive — an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­tiga­tive com­mis­sion on Trump-Rus­sia.

Democrats say rou­tinely on ca­ble news chan­nels that some of Mr. Steele’s find­ings have been con­firmed, but they do not spec­ify which ones.

Mr. Steele’s gos­sipy, third­hand anec­dotes con­tain a cen­tral al­le­ga­tion: There was an elab­o­rate con­spir­acy be­tween Trump cam­paign aides and the high­est lev­els of the Krem­lin to hack the Hil­lary

Clin­ton cam­paign com­put­ers, re­lease stolen emails and spread dis­in­for­ma­tion.

Mr. Page was smack dab in the mid­dle, said chief ac­cuser Mr. Steele and his Or­bis Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence firm in Lon­don.

Mr. Page runs in­vest­ment firm Global En­ergy Cap­i­tal LLC in New York City. Be­fore that, he was an in­vest­ment banker for Mer­rill Lynch and spent three years in Moscow in the past decade mak­ing deals with Rus­sian busi­nesses. His knowl­edge of and com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Rus­sians is part of his liveli­hood.

He has been do­ing ex­actly what then-Secretary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton urged Amer­i­can en­trepreneurs to do in 2012 as she stood next to then-Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin.

“We are com­mit­ted to broad­en­ing and deep­en­ing ties be­tween our two economies,” she said in Moscow.

The Steele dossier, writ­ten as a se­ries of memos dur­ing the sum­mer and fall, hit the streets Jan. 10 via the news web­site Buz­zfeed, whose edi­tor pub­licly doubted its ve­rac­ity. The memos con­tained sen­sa­tional charges that Mr. Page col­luded with Putin oli­garchs. In The Times in­ter­view, Mr. Page specif­i­cally re­but­ted all of the ac­cu­sa­tions.

There are four main charges con­cern­ing Mr. Page:

● Mr. Steele wrote that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s sum­mer­time cam­paign man­ager, and Mr. Page formed an al­liance to work with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence to hack the Clin­ton cam­paign.

Mr. Page called this as­ser­tion “ridicu­lous.” Re­fer­ring to him­self as a “ju­nior paid vol­un­teer,” he said he has never met Mr. Manafort.

“Steele is say­ing I’m con­spir­ing with Manafort. It’s so fic­tional,” he said.

● Sec­ond, Mr. Steele wrote that dur­ing Mr. Page’s July trip to Moscow to give a speech at the New Economic School, he held a se­cret meet­ing with Igor Sechin, pres­i­dent of the sta­te­owned Ros­neft oil com­pany and a close ally of Pres­i­dent Putin.

Mr. Page said he de­liv­ered an un­paid speech at the univer­sity, a talk that was cov­ered by the news me­dia that day. Mr. Page said he has never met Mr. Sechin.

“No, I have never met him,” he said. “It’s to­tally false.”

● Mr. Steele also wrote that Mr. Sechin of­fered Mr. Page a bro­ker­age fee when Rus­sia sold a 19 per­cent stake in Ros­neft to out­side in­vestors. In ex­change, the Trump ad­viser was to urge the can­di­date to end economic sanc­tions against Rus­sia.

Mr. Page said no one ever made such an of­fer.

● In his fourth charge against Mr. Page, Mr. Steele wrote that, while in Moscow, Mr. Page also met with a man named Igor Divyekin, a Rus­sian of­fi­cial. He sup­pos­edly told Mr. Page that the Krem­lin had com­pro­mis­ing in­for­ma­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, as well as Mr. Trump.

Mr. Page said the first he ever heard of Mr. Divyekin was from the dossier.

He told The Times: “I had never heard of him. I asked a lot of peo­ple I knew in Moscow, all peo­ple from the univer­sity, some busi­ness friend peo­ple, ‘Have you ever heard of this guy?’

“I’m very care­ful that the things I say are ac­cu­rate. If I’m go­ing to say I did not meet him, I may have said hello to some­one, right? So I wanted to be dou­ble, triple, quadru­ple sure that what I’m say­ing is ac­cu­rate, right?

“Not only had I never heard of him, every­one I asked had never heard the guy’s name. He’s not a known per­son. He’s like some­one in the bu­reau­cracy who may have an im­por­tant po­si­tion but not some­one who is pub­licly known and not some­one I met with.”

“On the ques­tion of the Trump cam­paign con­spir­ing with the Rus­sians here, there is smoke but there is no fire, at all. There’s no lit­tle camp­fire, there’s no lit­tle can­dle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of peo­ple look­ing for it.”

— Michael J. Morell, for­mer deputy CIA di­rec­tor

In­tel com­mit­tee ‘facts’

The Steele pa­per, fi­nanced by Democrats via the op­po­si­tion re­search firm Fu­sion GPS, has been de­nounced as in­ac­cu­rate by some in the news me­dia, by for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and by the Trump team.

James R. Clap­per, for­mer di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, said his agency could not ver­ify any of Mr. Steele’s sources.

For­mer Deputy CIA Di­rec­tor Michael J. Morell, a Clin­ton ad­viser, said he learned that Mr. Steele did not talk to sources di­rectly but with paid in­ter­me­di­aries.

“On the ques­tion of the Trump cam­paign con­spir­ing with the Rus­sians here, there is smoke but there is no fire, at all,” Mr. Morell said at an event spon­sored by se­cu­rity anal­y­sis web­site The Cipher Brief. “There’s no lit­tle camp­fire, there’s no lit­tle can­dle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of peo­ple look­ing for it.”

In his most sen­sa­tional al­le­ga­tion, Mr. Steele wrote that Mr. Trump’s at­tor­ney, Michael Co­hen, met in Prague with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

Mr. Co­hen has pre­sented ev­i­dence that he was in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia at the time. He said he has never been to Prague and showed the cam­paign his pass­port to prove it.

In other words, a crit­i­cal meet­ing evinc­ing a Trump con­spir­acy could not have hap­pened, cast­ing doubt on Mr. Steele’s in­ves­tiga­tive meth­ods and other claims of se­cret get-to­geth­ers.

What’s more, Rus­sian tech CEO Alek­sej Gubard is su­ing Mr. Steele for charg­ing that his firm was in­volved in Rus­sian-spon­sored hack­ing into Democrats’ emails.

Yet Mr. Page watched with amaze­ment on March 20 as Democrats on the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence read por­tions of the Steele dossier into the record as cer­ti­fied facts.

They were led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat. At the com­mit­tee’s first pub­lic hear­ing in its probe into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the Nov. 8 elec­tion, Mr. Schiff read Mr. Steele’s ver­sion of Mr. Page’s visit to Moscow. He of­fered no in­de­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

Mr. Schiff gave Mr. Steele credit for know­ing the pre­cise share — 19 per­cent — that oil com­pany Ros­neft planned to sell, when in fact the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment had an­nounced that per­cent­age months be­fore Mr. Steele wrote the memo. It was pub­lic knowl­edge.

At the March 20 hear­ing, FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey an­nounced that he had been au­tho­rized by the Jus­tice Depart­ment to dis­close that the bureau was in­ves­ti­gat­ing any col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported this month that the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment ob­tained a For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act court war­rant to surveil Mr. Page as a for­eign agent, be­gin­ning in July.

This was about the same time the FBI ob­tained the Steele dossier.

Ques­tions for the FBI

The ques­tion some Repub­li­cans are ask­ing is: Did the Steele dossier prompt the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to open the investigation into can­di­date Trump? And did the ad­min­is­tra­tion cite in­for­ma­tion in the dossier as ev­i­dence to ob­tain the war­rant?

The in­trigue grows deeper. The Post re­ported Feb. 28 that the FBI reached a fi­nan­cial agree­ment with Mr. Steele to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Trump.

If true, the agree­ment cre­ated the odd mar­riage of a par­ti­san Democrat­paid in­ves­ti­ga­tor be­ing hired by the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate the fu­ture pres­i­dent a few weeks be­fore the elec­tion. The deal never went through be­cause the dossier and Mr. Steele’s name had be­come pub­lic, The Post re­ported.

The time­line (the dossier went pub­lic in Jan­uary) would mean that the FBI wanted Mr. Steele to in­ves­ti­gate Pres­i­dent-elect Trump and ul­ti­mately Pres­i­dent Trump.

The Wash­ing­ton Times asked the FBI to con­firm or deny that it had made such a deal. The pub­lic af­fairs of­fice de­clined.

The New York Times re­ported that Fu­sion GPS and Mr. Steele spread the dossier to jour­nal­ists and to the FBI.

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, has be­gun press­ing the FBI for an­swers on what role the dossier played as the bureau made de­ci­sions to in­ves­ti­gate and surveil Trump aides.

“The idea that the FBI and as­so­ciates of the Clin­ton cam­paign would pay Mr. Steele to in­ves­ti­gate the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent in the run-up to the elec­tion raises fur­ther ques­tions about the FBI’s in­de­pen­dence from pol­i­tics, as well as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s use of law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies for po­lit­i­cal ends,” Mr. Grass­ley said in a March 6 let­ter to Mr. Comey, the bureau’s di­rec­tor.

He de­manded a re­ply by March 20 and asked for doc­u­men­ta­tion of agents’ in­ter­views with Mr. Steele. A sub­se­quent Grass­ley let­ter said the FBI had missed the March 20 dead­line.

A key Grass­ley ques­tion: “Has the FBI re­lied on or other­wise ref­er­enced the memos or any in­for­ma­tion in the memos in seek­ing a FISA war­rant, other search war­rant or any other ju­di­cial process?”

He also asked: “Has the FBI ver­i­fied or cor­rob­o­rated any of the al­le­ga­tions made in the memos? Were any al­le­ga­tions or other in­for­ma­tion from the memo in­cluded in any doc­u­ments cre­ated by the FBI, or which the FBI helped to cre­ate, with­out hav­ing been in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied or cor­rob­o­rated by the FBI be­fore­hand? If so, why?”

Mr. Grass­ley on March 24 tar­geted Demo­cratic Party-linked Fu­sion GPS, run by for­mer Wall Street Jour­nal re­porter Glenn R. Simp­son.

“When po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion re­search be­comes the ba­sis for law en­force­ment or in­tel­li­gence ef­forts, it raises sub­stan­tial ques­tions about the in­de­pen­dence of law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence from pol­i­tics,” Mr. Grass­ley wrote to Mr. Simp­son.

On April 7, Fu­sion’s at­tor­neys of the Wash­ing­ton firm Cun­ning­ham, Levy, Muse LLP wrote to Mr. Grass­ley say­ing the com­pany would not an­swer the chair­man’s ques­tions.

‘Un­der sur­veil­lance’

“The March 24 let­ter calls for in­for­ma­tion and doc­u­ments pro­tected by the First Amend­ment rights, at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege, at­tor­ney work prod­uct, and con­trac­tual rights (e.g., con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments) of Fu­sion GPS and/or its clients,” the let­ter said. “Thus, so as to pre­serve those priv­i­leges and rights, we will not other­wise be re­spond­ing to the ques­tions enu­mer­ated within the March 24 let­ter.”

Mr. Page told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he, too, would like to know what role the un­proven dossier played in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion per­suad­ing a judge to ap­prove a wire­tap on him.

“When you lie to a court, the FISA court is a court, that is a crime,” he said.

The Steele dossier ap­pears to have made its way into in­tel­li­gence brief­ings to mem­bers of Congress and then into news sto­ries, though the Steele memos were not iden­ti­fied as the source.

In Septem­ber, months be­fore Buz­zfeed pub­lished the raw Steele memos, a story ap­peared in Ya­hoo News. It cited in­tel­li­gence sources as say­ing they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Mr. Page se­cretly met in Moscow with Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin — the two names found in the Steele dossier.

Again, Mr. Page told The Times that he had never met with those two Rus­sians.

Mr. Page said that story spelled the end to his vol­un­teer work for Mr. Trump. Cam­paign rep­re­sen­ta­tives said he was not part of the Trump team.

Be­fore the Ya­hoo story, then-Sen. Harry Reid wrote a let­ter to Mr. Comey in Au­gust. He did not name Mr. Page but re­ferred to a “Trump ad­viser” who was ac­cused of meet­ing with “high-rank­ing sanc­tioned in­di­vid­u­als while in Moscow.” The charge ap­pears to come right out of the Steele investigation which had been turned over to the FBI.

Mr. Page was an ideal sus­pect for lib­er­als to ac­cuse of Moscow col­lu­sion, given his pro-Moscow stances, his op­po­si­tion to economic sanc­tions and his in­vest­ments in Gazprom, the Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas firm.

Mr. Reid said it was a con­flict of in­ter­est for a Trump sur­ro­gate and in­vestor in Rus­sia to be pro­mot­ing an end to sanc­tions.

Mr. Page said the fo­cus of his in­vest­ments since found­ing Global En­ergy in 2008 has been the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia and North Amer­ica.

Mr. Page served as a Navy of­fi­cer from 1993 to 1998, achiev­ing the rank of lieu­tenant. He re­ceived the Joint Ser­vice Com­men­da­tion Medal as a U.N. mil­i­tary ob­server in the Western Sa­hara. He re­ceived the Navy Achieve­ment Medal for his work with the USS Amer­ica air­craft car­rier bat­tle group in the Adri­atic Sea dur­ing the Bos­nia con­flict.

Af­ter Mr. Schiff read por­tions of the Steele dossier at the March 20 in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee hear­ing, Mr. Page sent a let­ter to him and com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can.

“I would ea­gerly wel­come the chance to speak with the com­mit­tee to help fi­nally set the record straight fol­low­ing the false ev­i­dence, il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties as well as other lies dis­trib­uted by cer­tain po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated sus­pects in co­or­di­na­tion with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which de­famed me and other Amer­i­cans,” he wrote.

Di­rectly re­spond­ing to Mr. Schiff’s re­liance on the un­proven dossier, Mr. Page wrote: “Amongst many other com­plete lies, this ex­cerpt from the highly in­ac­cu­rate dossier con­cocted by the po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant Mr. Steele re­mained one of the pri­mary false al­le­ga­tions against me through­out much of last year.

“Ex­ten­sive re­cent re­port­ing by The New York Times and other news or­ga­ni­za­tions has been built on a foun­da­tion of many false­hoods with po­ten­tial sup­port from mem­bers of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he wrote.

In a sep­a­rate let­ter to the Se­nate Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence last month, Mr. Page de­scribed his busi­ness rou­tine: He works from an of­fice build­ing at­tached to the Trump Tower on Fifth Av­enue, dines at the Trump Grille, meets as­so­ciates in the Trump Tower Star­bucks and has at­tended cam­paign events there.

Thus, he charged, the FBI sur­veil­lance of him by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion amounted to surveilling the Trump cam­paign.

“So if prior me­dia re­ports may be be­lieved that sur­veil­lance was in­deed un­der­taken against me and other Trump sup­port­ers, it should be es­sen­tially deemed as a proven fact that the Amer­i­can peo­ple’s con­cerns that Trump Tower was un­der sur­veil­lance last year is en­tirely cor­rect,” he said, a ref­er­ence to Pres­i­dent Trump’s as­ser­tion that his of­fice was “wire­tapped” by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Asked about the sta­tus of the FBI investigation, Mr. Page told The Wash­ing­ton Times, “I’m quite op­ti­mistic in the di­rec­tion this is head­ing.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AC­CUSED: Carter Page is a cen­tral fig­ure in a Demo­cratic re­port about a re­ported elec­tion Trump con­spir­acy.

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