Feds investigating Trump advisor’s meeting with Russian officials seeking to influence U.S. election

Harry Reid wrote the FBI, demanding action.

Carter Page, an adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at the graduation ceremony for the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 8, 2016. Page is a former investment banker who previously worked in Russia. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PAVEL GOLOVKIN
Carter Page, an adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at the graduation ceremony for the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 8, 2016. Page is a former investment banker who previously worked in Russia. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PAVEL GOLOVKIN

U.S. law enforcement is looking into Donald Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s meetings with high-ranking Russian officials this summer, Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff reports.

Page, who Trump said was one of his five foreign policy advisors last March, is suspected of communicating with “senior Russian officials” about “the possible lifting of economic sanctions” if Trump becomes president, Yahoo reports, citing “multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.”

One of the officials Page allegedly met with, Igor Diveykin, is “believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” Russia is widely believed to be behind high-profile computer hacks that appear timed to influence the presidential election.

ThinkProgress obtained a letter from Sen. Harry Reid to the FBI, dated August 27, demanding an investigation into Page’s contacts with the Russians. Reid’s letter refers to Page as a “Trump advisor” with “investments in Russian energy conglomerate Gazprom.”

Page worked in Russia for Merrill Lynch for three years starting in 2004. Sergey Aleksashenko, who became head of the bank’s Moscow operation in 2006, told Reuters last month that he viewed Trump’s selection of Page as “a strange choice.”

Page traveled to Russia this summer and gave a speech criticizing U.S. foreign policy. From Yahoo:

Page showed up again in Moscow in early July, just two weeks before the Republican National Convention formally nominated Trump for president, and once again criticized U.S. policy. Speaking at a commencement address for the New Economic School, an institution funded in part by major Russian oligarchs close to Putin, Page asserted that “Washington and other West capitals” had impeded progress in Russia “through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”

Page isn’t the only Trump advisor whose connections to Russia have come under scrutiny. Last December, retied Gen. Michael Flynn, a prominent Trump military advisor, traveled to Russia and gave a speech during a tenth anniversary celebration for Russian state-owned media company RT. He’s refused to answer questions about who paid him for the appearance.

In March, Trump hired veteran Republican political operative Paul Manafort to lead his delegate-recruitment efforts. Manafort quickly rose to become Trump’s campaign manager, but left that position last month amid reports Ukrainian authorities were investigating him for allegedly receiving $12.7 million in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russia ruling party.

During a news conference a month before Manafort stepped down, Trump brazenly encouraged Russian hackers to obtain emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Those comments came in the wake of a massive hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails that sparked controversy about how the party treated Bernie Sanders days ahead of the Democratic National Convention. State election databases have also reportedly been hacked.

On Thursday, the top Democrats on the intelligence committee pinned those hacks on Russian intelligence. A joint statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff said, “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election.”

“At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election — we can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians,” the statement continues, going on to say “that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government.”

Trump, for his part, downplayed reports that Russia might be trying to meddle in American politics during an interview that aired earlier this month on the Russia-run RT network.

Trump has praised Putin, calling the man presiding over a country where opposition leaders have been killed under mysterious circumstances “highly respected within his own country and beyond.” During a presidential forum broadcast on NBC earlier this month, Trump said that if Putin “says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him” and commended Putin’s high approval ratings in Russia — a country known for stifling dissident journalists.

Around the same time as the forum, Trump surrogates, including campaign vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, defended Trump’s praise of Putin during TV interviews. Both echoed Trump’s statement that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama.

In the Yahoo report, Trump spokesman Jason Miller says Page “has no role” in Trump’s campaign, adding, “we are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.” But Miller couldn’t explain why Trump would’ve cited him as an advisor in the past. And as recently as last month, Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks described Carter as an “informal foreign advisor.”

The full text of Reid’s letter is below: