Donald Trump’s campaign aide Carter Page boasted he was a “Kremlin adviser” in 2013, years before a dossier about Trump’s Russian connections was prepared during the presidential campaign, Time magazine reported.
Page, a key figure in the Republican-authored memo released Friday that Trump allies claim shows FBI bias against the president, bragged about his Kremlin connections in an Aug. 13, 2013, letter to an academic publication about a manuscript he had submitted, according to Time.
“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their presidency of the G-20 Summit next month,” Page wrote in the letter.
The letter appears to undercut the controversial GOP memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) contending that Page was investigated by the FBI after the allegedly biased dossier was assembled in research paid for by Democrats. The information, collected by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, also was funded by Republicans opposed to Trump’s candidacy ― a fact not mentioned in the Nunes memo.
Page was on the FBI’s radar long before the 2016 Steele dossier, according to Time. The FBI was tracking Kremlin spies trying to recruit Page, then an energy investor traveling frequently to Russia for business.
In 2013, Page met with Russian diplomat Victor Podobny at an energy conference in New York, Time reported, citing court documents. The U.S. later charged Podobny with working as a Russian intelligence agent under diplomatic cover. Podobny, in a transcript of a phone conversation to another Russian agent filed in court in 2015, talks about using “empty promises” to recruit an “idiot.” The man Podobny is talking with is identified in the transcript as “Male 1,” which Page conceded to BuzzFeed was him:
[Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. . . . He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can, I don’t know. But it’s obvious he wants to earn lots of money ... I also promised him a lot ... I will feed him empty promises. This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go fuck himself.
Page ultimately met with, emailed, and provided “documents” to Podobny about the “energy business,” according to the case against Podobny. Page told BuzzFeed none of the information was sensitive.
Page later popped up in Trump’s presidential campaign. He said in a speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a better leader than then-President Barack Obama ― comments later parroted by Trump.
Podobny, protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity, has returned to Russia.
The Steele dossier claims that Page, during a trip to Moscow in July 2016, held secret meetings with a senior Kremlin official and a senior Putin ally that included conversations about helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign. Page has denied the assertions.