Carter Page is the man who first piqued the FBI’s interest in links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a New York Times report. The FBI reportedly learned in 2013 that Russian intelligence was trying to recruit Page as an asset. They later turned their attention to Trump’s campaign after Page came aboard as a foreign policy adviser and traveled to Moscow on a speaking engagement in July.
Ever since the alleged ties between Trump associates and Russian intelligence became a matter of public scrutiny, Page has been a key figure in the scandal. Last month, he confirmed that he was one of several Trump allies who privately met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign. And last week, it came out that a federal judge had granted the FBI a warrant to monitor his communications, having found probable cause that he was acting as an “agent of a foreign power.”
Most recently, earlier this week, CNN reported that the FBI had used the contents of the Christopher Steele dossier — a mostly unverified document, drafted by a former British intelligence officer, regarding Russian involvement with the Trump campaign — as part of its rationale for tracking Page.
On the same day the Times put its new information on the FBI investigation into print, Reuters reported that a Russian think tank comprised of former Russian intelligence officers had drafted, at the Kremlin’s request, a plan for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly minimized Page’s role in the campaign and denied knowing him personally.
“Carter is a red herring, not a Rasputin,” Jason Miller, then a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, told Politico in September 2016. “He’s never met Trump, never briefed him. He has zero influence, none.”
But Trump has used the “He’s just some guy, you know?” defense to put distance between himself and close associates many times before. He’s repeatedly boasted of his collegial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, only to later claim that he doesn’t know Putin at all when that camaraderie became a liability.
And last week, the president bizarrely insisted that Steve Bannon — his top White House strategist and the former chairman of his campaign — “was not involved in my campaign until very late.”