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Adviser Told Trump Campaign of Moscow Trip

7 Nov 2017 5:14 am
By Byron Tau 

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's campaign team was briefed before and after foreign-policy adviser Carter Page's trip to Moscow last year, with Mr. Page saying upon his return that he had gotten "incredible insights and outreach" from senior members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration, newly released testimony reveals.

Mr. Page, an unpaid adviser to the Trump campaign, acknowledged under questioning last Thursday in front of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee that he had met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich last July at an event in Moscow.

In a brief conversation, Mr. Dvorkovich had "expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together towards devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems," according to a memo that Mr. Page sent to campaign officials following his trip, parts of which were read aloud by lawmakers during the proceedings.

He separately wrote to two other campaign advisers after his trip: "On a related front, I'll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I've received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration."

The House committee released a 243-page transcript of Mr. Page's testimony Monday evening, shedding new light on the July 2016 trip that has long been of interest to investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Beyond House and Senate probes, Russia's actions and those of Trump campaign officials are the subject of a criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who last week indicted two of Mr. Trump's top campaign officials for alleged money laundering, conspiracy and lobbying violations unrelated to the election. They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, according to court records unsealed last week. Mr. Papadopoulos's plea agreement indicates that he claimed Russian officials could provide the Trump campaign with "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."

Mr. Page told congressional investigation that he spoke to FBI agents four or five times this year. He declined to tell the panel whether he was cooperating with Mr. Mueller's investigation.

The White House has denied any wrongdoing, and Moscow has said it didn't interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign or collude with Trump campaign officials.

Mr. Page has long described his July 2016 trip to Moscow as unrelated to his campaign duties, saying that he traveled in his personal capacity.

He has denied in previous interviews with multiple media outlets that he had any meetings with Russian government officials during the 2016 campaign. Last week, he told MSNBC that he had "no meetings, no serious discussions with anyone high up or at any official capacity" during that trip.

Under oath, he told the House committee that his interactions with Mr. Dvorkovich were brief and that they amounted to a social greeting after a speech he gave at the New Economic School. He denied any collusion, conspiracy or coordination with the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign. "I don't do things that I should not be doing, both legally and ethically," he told the panel.

In a subsequent statement to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Page said he was the victim of illegal surveillance by President Barack Obama's administration and that a recently filed libel lawsuit would help "further expose the real facts surrounding the illegitimate FISA hack and the impact of U.S. government propaganda in 2016." FISA refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the federal law authorizing certain kinds of wiretaps and surveillance.

Multiple media outlets revealed earlier this year that the Justice Department obtained a wiretap against Mr. Page in 2016, acting on suspicion that he may be a Russia agent, which he denies.

During the 6 1/2 hours of testimony Mr. Page gave behind closed doors to the House committee, he said he cleared the Moscow trip with campaign officials and briefed them afterward about his encounters.

Mr. Page testified that he sought permission for the trip from Corey Lewandowski, who was then the campaign manager, and Hope Hicks, who was then a top communications official and now serves in that capacity in the White House. Mr. Lewandowski granted permission, so long as it was clear that Mr. Page wasn't representing the campaign.

Other emails show that Mr. Page asked the campaign about the remarks he was prepared to deliver to Moscow, and even suggested at one point that Mr. Trump could travel in his place and deliver the speech. "I got another idea. If (Trump would) like to take my place and raise the temperature a little bit, of course I'd be more than happy to yield this honor to him."

After the event, in addition to the memos and emails he sent to campaign officials, he also told then-Sen. Jeff Sessions about the trip, according to the released testimony. Mr. Sessions has recently come under fire for his testimony to Congress that he wasn't aware of any contact between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign. Mr. Sessions served as an adviser on national security issues on Mr. Trump's campaign and is now the attorney general. He has recused himself from the Russia probe.

Mr. Page is one of an increasing number of Trump campaign officials being probed for their connections or communications with Moscow during the campaign in the wake of a January intelligence community assessment that the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in directing the electoral interference to boost Mr. Trump at the expense of Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Trump has called the investigations into election interference a "witch hunt."

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 07, 2017 00:14 ET (05:14 GMT)

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