During an interview on Good Morning America on Tuesday, Carter Page admitted that he served as an adviser to the Kremlin before joining Donald Trump’s campaign for president. But he doesn’t think the FBI had good reason to view that as suspicious.
Host George Stephanopoulos read Page an excerpt of a letter he wrote in 2013 stating that “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.” Stephanopoulos also mentioned Page’s relationship with Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged with working as a Russian intelligence agent under diplomatic cover.
“So you were recruited at one point by a Russian agent, then you wrote yourself that you’re an informal adviser to the Kremlin, so that does lead people to believe — is this guy working with Russia?” Stephanopoulos said.
Page didn’t deny any of the facts, but tried to downplay his Russia connections.
“First of all, the G-20 summit was in Saint Petersburg that year, and they were bringing together people form around the world, and so a lot of people were from — literally from Australia, U.K., here, everywhere,” he said.
But as Stephanopoulos pointed out, that were “a lot of people” advising the Kremlin doesn’t change the fact that Page was one of them. So Page’s next argument was that he was merely part of “an informal group” that held its first meeting in “the center of capitalism.”
“There was a lot of people advising.” Page said. “We were part of an informal group — meeting in Geneva, Paris, we had a meeting in the New York Stock Exchange. The first meeting was in the New York Stock Exchange, the center of capitalism, right?”
Both on Good Morning America and during an interview on Monday night’s edition of Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, Page played up the significance of a recently released House Republican intelligence memo alleging the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign is rooted in anti-Trump bias among Obama-era officials.
But that theory doesn’t square with the facts. While both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign were under investigation, FBI officials only publicized the Clinton email investigation — and the FBI’s silence about the Trump investigation arguably cost Clinton the election. President Trump himself cited the FBI’s harsh treatment of Clinton as a reason to fire then-FBI Director James Comey. Republicans who have been pushing the narrative of anti-Trump bias have had a hard time explaining the disconnect between history and their conspiracy theory.
Page’s past also doesn’t square with the allegation of anti-Trump bias in the FBI. It seems reasonable the FBI would be curious about whether a Trump campaign official who previously advised the Kremlin, was recruited by an alleged Russian intelligence agent, and traveled to Moscow during the campaign might still be working on behalf of the Kremlin. In order to obtain a FISA warrant like the one the FBI had against Page, federal agents have to demonstrate probable cause to believe someone is working as a foreign agent.
In many respects, as Stephanopoulos noted, Page appears to be a prototypical candidate for surveillance under the FISA law.
“On the one hand, at one point you say you’re an adviser to the Kremlin, then you’re an adviser to Donald Trump,” he said.