Several Donald Trump aides and associates were in regular contact with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times reported this week.
In addition, the F.B.I. has reportedly been examining three individuals close to Trump: Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and Carter Page. All three men do not currently serve in the Trump administration in any capacity.
Here’s what you need to know about Carter Page, his association with Russia, and his relationship with Donald Trump.
1. Trump Announced Him as an Adviser in an Interview, Only for the Campaign to Say He Has No Official Role With Them
During an interview with The Washington Post in March 2016, then candidate Trump was asked if he could share the names of any members of his foreign policy team. At this point in the campaign, it was known that Trump would soon be revealing his foreign policy advisers, but he had not yet done so.
In response to that question, Trump listed off a few names, with one being Carter Page.
“Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names,” Trump said. “Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more.”
Nobody really knew much about Carter Page when this interview took place. Later, when reporters began to ask the Trump campaign about Page and what his role was, they denied that he was a part of the national security team at all.
When a Politico reporter reached out to the Trump team during the campaign and asked about Page, communications director Hope Hicks stated, “He has no formal role in the campaign.” Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said he had never even heard of Page.
“There were whispers all over Washington that, despite Hicks’s denial, Page was not only still part of the Trump campaign, but its conduit for Russian influence,” Politico reported.
Trump campaign sources told The Washington Post that Page was never really a part of Trump’s inner circle and that Trump had never even met Page one-on-one.
2. He Is an Oil Industry Consultant Who Worked at Merrill Lynch’s Moscow Office
Carter Page worked at Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office starting in 2004. He later become the vice president and COO of that office.
Page has also worked on a number of transactions involving Russian oil companies. He has invested personally in Gazprom, a state-run oil company in Russia which operatives in conjunction with Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with Bloomberg in March 2016, Page said that when he was named one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers, many of his Russian contacts reached out to him because they were excited about the possibility of eliminating U.S. sanctions on Russia.
“So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page told Bloomberg. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.”
Page later started his own firm, Global Energy Capital LLC.
3. He Has Repeatedly Praised Vladimir Putin
Like Donald Trump himself, Carter Page has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin while criticizing the United States.
According to The Washington Post, in a meeting of foreign policy experts in June, Page went off topic to say Vladimir Putin is a much stronger leader than Barack Obama, also saying that having Trump as president would be great for Russia. The following month, Page again gave a speech critical of U.S. foreign policy but very positive on Putin.
In addition, Page also written a number of pro-Russia online articles.
“With the continued escalation and threat of further sanctions on Russia, the West has focused on the so-called annexation of Crimea,” he wrote in one article for Global Policy Journal. “But just as injustice for minorities might be largely forgotten until documented on video, the annexation of the entirety of Ukraine by a few officials in Washington which started that region’s current disorder in the first place has received far less attention. While the loss of Michael Brown and Eric Garner has received intense media coverage and perfunctory federal government investigations, the economic injustice unleashed upon the millions of people residing in Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union by misguided Western policies has met limited recognition.”
In another article, he compared the National Security Strategy’s outline of sanctions against Russia to a 1850 publication instructing slave owners on how to produce the “ideal slave.”
4. He Is Being Investigated For Potentially Meeting with Russian Officials in July 2016
In September 2016, Yahoo News reported that U.S. intelligence officials were investigating whether Carter Page secretly met with “high ranking sanctioned individuals” during a trip to Moscow in July. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to FBI Director James Comey in August asking him to investigate Page’s alleged meeting with Russian officials, Yahoo reported.
Specifically, Page was accused of meeting with Igor Sechin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, to discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions on Russia if Trump became president. Michael Flynn recently resigned as national security adviser when it was reported that he had discussed lifting sanctions against Moscow with a Russian ambassador.
Page responded to these allegations in an interview with The Washington Post by saying, “It’s completely false and inconceivable that someone would even accuse me of that.”
This would have taken place while Page was in Moscow giving a graduation speech at the New Economic School, a speech in which he positively quoted Vladimir Putin. Page did concede, however, that he briefly met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich while in Moscow, as Dvorkovich was also speaking at that graduation.
A congressional leadership staffer told Politico in September 2016 that “the meetings did happen and that’s been established as a fact. I think the investigation is more what happened in them.”
“It’s not just did he met with them or not, but now looking into the bigger question of what the hell is going on?” the staffer told Politico. “Is he acting as a conduit in ways that are against America’s national security interests?…Is he doing this with nefarious intent or is this just about guys who are thrilled to be living in a John le Carré novel? Or are they being played by much smarter people in the Kremlin?”
5. CNN Is Reporting That Some Trump Aides Were in ‘Constant’ Contact With Russians
In addition to the New York Times report this week, there’s also a report from CNN, which says that some Trump aides were in “constant” contact with Russian intelligence officials throughout the 2016 election.
CNN reports that there were “extensive communications” between Trump staffers and Russia, and that the frequency of the communications raised red flags with U.S. intelligence officials. Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn are named in that report, but Carter Page is not.
But Carter Page’s name repeatedly came up in the dossier leaked last month full of unsubstantiated claims that Russia was attempting to blackmail Donald Trump. According to The New York Times, the FBI is currently accessing the credibility of this information.