Carter Page meets with the alleged Russian intelligence operative Victor Podobnyy and provides Podobnyy with documents. Page later says that their interactions did not include anything substantive. According to court documents, Podobnyy considers Page “an idiot,” but concludes that “For now, his enthusiasm works for me.” Their conversations become public record when the U.S government arrests Podobnyy in 2015.
Carter Page was one of the five members of then-candidate Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisory team that he named to The Washington Post editorial board on March 21, 2016. The announcement initially drew attention because Page, who owns (and is the sole employee of) the energy consulting firm Global Energy Capital, was a relative unknown; his position has since attracted additional scrutiny because of his ties to Russia, multiple trips to Moscow, and appearance in the Steele Dossier.
Page’s run-ins with Russian intelligence officials far predate his affiliation with Trump. According to BuzzFeed, Carter Page acknowledged that he was the subject of a 2015 FBI court filing alleging that, in 2013, a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy attempted to recruit Page. Page claimed that the revelation of his identity—the FBI filing only identifies him as “Male 1,” but, according to BuzzFeed, “Page suggested that the complaint was written so that it was obvious he was the Gazprom-connected man Podobnyy talked about recruiting”—was part of an attempt by the Obama administration to damage his reputation. The FBI also obtained a FISA warrant to monitor Page’s communications in the summer of 2016 due to his prior contacts with Russian intelligence, which Page has described as “unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance.”
After he joined the Trump campaign, Page took at least three trips that furthered speculation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election. On July 7, 2016, Page traveled to Moscow to give a speech at the New Economic School, where Page says he met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. Page has characterized that meeting as not more than a “hello.” The New York Times reported that 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” while in Moscow. According to The New York Times, the trip was “a catalyst for the FBI investigation into connections between Russia and Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.” This trip features in the Steele Dossier, which alleges that Page met with officials from both the Russian government and the state-owned gas company Rosneft, who offered him a brokerage fee for the subsequent privatization of a 19.5 percent stake in the company. Page also traveled to Budapest, which ABC has described as a “hub of Russian intelligence activity,” in September 2016, where he met with high-ranking Hungarian government officials. He also travelled again to Moscow on December 12, 2016, where he reportedly met with “business leaders and thought leaders” and an executive from Rosneft.
Page has repeatedly dismissed the allegations in the dossier as part of a politically motivated witch hunt, and claims that his interactions with Dvorkovich and other officials were too brief to merit additional scrutiny. Despite having previously announced that he intended to plead the Fifth, Page testified before for several hours without a lawyer on November 2, 2017. In his statements, Page said that he emailed Trump campaign officials informing them about his July 2016 trip to Moscow and that, after the trip, he told campaign officials that Dvorkovich had “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump.” Page also indicated that Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, J.D. Gordon, Jeff Sessions, and Sam Clovis were all aware of his trip to Moscow. This communication with numerous high-ranking campaign officials seems to contradict the Trump administration’s characterization that he was only tangentially related to the campaign as an informal volunteer.
On July 20, 2018, the Department of Justice complied with a Freedom of Information Act request for the FISA application submitted by the FBI in relation to Page’s Russian connections. DOJ released the initial application, as well as three applications submitted to renew the FBI’s access to Page’s communications under FISA, which extended into 2017. The applications demonstrate that, beginning in October of 2016, the FBI had enough evidence connecting Page to Russia to meet the ‘probable cause’ standard necessary for a FISA warrant, and the FBI’s surveillance netted sufficient intelligence to justify three renewals.