Carter Page is perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the Russiagate investigation, perhaps second only to those of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Flynn, a former national security adviser who lied to federal agents about his communications with the Russian government, has formalized a deal to plead guilty to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” lying to authorities in relation to Mueller’s probe, but the details of the role he played are still something of a mystery.
Manafort and Flynn, at least, are easy enough to relate to the probe and the litany of attacks, scandals, and controversies which have dogged it from the time it was announced. The accusations against them are quantifiable, appear to have been uncovered to the best of the special counsel’s ability, and the scope of their cases has ensured that the American public is well aware of the charges. Page, meanwhile, has continued to deny any involvement with Russian operatives.
Journalist Scott Stedman may have discovered clues to upcoming charges in an archived Russian website run by Mikhail Delyagin, a former adviser to former Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin. In a now-deleted post dated July 12, 2016, Delyagin wrote that Page “held secret talks in Moscow,” including a lecture at the New Economic School which, he wrote, “does nothing more than mask the negotiations on the relations between our countries after Trump’s probable victory.”
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) August 7, 2018
“As for the preferred course of events,” Delyagin continued, “it is not only for our country but for the whole world that Trump needs to be the president of the United States.”
Delyagin’s relationship to Page is not entirely clear, and Russian experts hold varying opinions about how well-connected he might be to the upper echelons of Russia’s government. These same experts have confirmed, however, that he is a “pro-Kremlin analyst.”
It was during his lecture at the New Economic School that Page criticized United States policy toward Russia in sentiments strikingly similar to those shared by Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying, “Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
Asked about the trip during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, Page said he had sought and received permission from the Trump campaign to make the trip, saying that he mentioned it “a few times” to foreign policy adviser J.D. Gordon — whom theWashington Post revealed had socialized with alleged Russian agent Marina Butina in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign — and “sent a note around” to a few foreign policy committee members.
Page added that he told a few others, including Corey Lewandowski, a former manager of the Trump campaign, and Hope Hicks, who was at that time its press secretary. Page told the committee that Lewandowski told him upon being informed of the trip, “If you’d like to go on your own, not affiliated with the campaign, you know, that’s fine.” Lewandowski, who had previously denied knowing or ever meeting Page, did an about-face, saying that the testimony had reminded him that he had known about Page’s trip to Moscow after all.
Page was also photographed speaking with Denis Klimentov, a spokesman for the New Economic School. Last year, it was Klimentov who said that Page’s role as a top Trump adviser, in addition to the work he did for Merrill Lynch in Moscow, influenced the decision to invite Page to speak.
There are persistent rumors that Page did more during his visit to Moscow than speak at the New Economic School, but Klimentov, speakingto The New York Times last year, was adamant that officials arranged no outside meetings for Page and we are not aware of whether he had any further meetings or contacts.
He added: “Our strong recollection is that there was simply not enough time for Mr. Page to have any meetings outside of the school.” (Stedman, looking into Klimentov further, discovered that he was renting a townhouse in Maryland until July 3, 2016, when he abruptly left. The landlord said Klimentov left the home “full of items” and that removal and cleanup bills came to $673.)
But Page also gave a second speech in Moscow at a private commencement ceremony, where he met Arkady Dvorkovich, who at that point was serving as deputy prime minister in Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet. Stedman notes that speakers at the event included Andrey Sharonov, Moscow’s former deputy mayor, and economist Vladimir Mau, who serves on the board of natural gas supplier Gazprom, which has close ties to Vladimir Putin.
Page has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Gazprom; he has since confirmed that while working as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch, he handled transactions for them and other Russian energy companies. He subsequently founded his own investment fund, Global Energy Capital, in a joint partnership with James Richard, a co-founder of consultancy Namir Capital Management, and former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko.
Here are a few shots of Page at the private event in Moscow: pic.twitter.com/lBepZRLpiW
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) August 7, 2018
This evidence appears to entirely contradict a letter Page wrote to former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, in which he claims that in 2016 he had not met with “any sanctioned official” in Russia, and that during August of that year he sold all of his Gazprom holdings at a loss.
“Although I have not been contacted by any member of your team in recent months,” Page wrote at the time, “I would eagerly await their call to discuss any final questions they might possibly have in the interest of helping them put these outrageous allegations to rest while allowing each of us to shift our attention to relevant matters.”
United States intelligence reports have shown that Page met and spoke with numerous sanctioned Russian officials, and that he has continued to coordinate with them after Donald Trump’s electoral victory. Whether Page violated the Logan Act, however, remains up in the air.
Stedman told Hill Reporter that he has spent about a year looking into Carter Page’s relationship to the Russia Investigation. “His trips to Moscow always seemed curious to me and I knew that I could find out more of what he did when he was there. I think it’s important to note that, at this point, Page is 100 percent innocent of any crimes. Suspicious trips to Russia aren’t a crime. Speaking at a public school isn’t a crime.”
However, he added, investigators had very good reasons for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant.
“His previous interactions with Russian intel officers, his business interests in Russia, as well as allegations of secret meetings in Moscow were all public information at the time of the first FISA warrant application. We are going to learn more about Page in the coming days and weeks, but like any citizen in our amazing country, he is innocent of all claims until proven guilty by a court.”
According to Stedman, RD Heritage Group, an investment company based in Las Vegas with oil and gas interests in the Middle East, claimed to have received a $350 million commitment from Page’s Global Energy Capital after his involvement with the Trump campaign. The organization claimed to have received a “350MM capital commitment by Global Energy Capital” in a post on their website:
$350MM capital commitment by Global Energy Capital … an investment management and advisory firm focused on the energy sector primarily in emerging markets. Global Energy Capital was founded by Carter Page, CFA. Carter has spent 7 years as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in London, Moscow and New York…Carter was also a foreign policy advisor to Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“It is unclear if Page ever actually followed through with his commitment,” says Stedman, who notes that the exact timing of the alleged partnership is not yet known, although it happened after Page’s involvement with the campaign.
For Page to allegedly commit that much money — or money of any kind — to RD Heritage is particularly noteworthy when examining his November 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. When questioned by Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Page stressed that he had no clients in 2016 and 2017 — and thus no income.
The full exchange, below, comes from Page’s testimony to Congress:
SWALWELL: What has your source of income been in 2017, if any?
PAGE: There are no sources of income right now. I’m living off savings. I’m burning through savings.
SWALWELL: What were your sources of income in 2016?
PAGE: Investments that I have, passive investments.
When Swalwell pushed for clarification, Page reiterated that he was living off investments alone:
SWALWELL: Well, I guess I want to understand, Mr. Page, if you haven’t had any clients in 2017 and 2016 and your only source of income were investments, it seems to me that you would be pretty aware of where your income was coming from in 2016. And you’re telling us you can’t recall.
PAGE: I’m saying there was no other income beyond investments, yeah.
If Page claimed to have had no clients, no income, and no public business transactions, how could Global Energy Capital commit $350 million to RD Heritage? Stedman tried to contact RD Heritage’s manager, its founder, and Carter Page himself, and received no response. Soon afterward, however, he noticed that RD Heritage removed all mentions of Page and Global Energy Capital from its official website.
Left: RD Heritage website on July 24.
Right: RD Heritage website on July 25.
I asked for comment from multiple employees on July 24. Why do they want to hide their involvement with Carter Page now? pic.twitter.com/9GDAIaMeag
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) August 11, 2018
The paragraph which had originally detailed Page’s investment can be seen in a cached version of RD Heritage’s website. The paragraph which now exists on the public website claims the $350 million capital commitment came from “an energy-focused fund.”
“The registered address of RD Heritage is a mailbox located within a UPS store in Las Vegas. The only other publicly announced business deal that RD Heritage has struck since its inception in 2013 was earlier this year with LeanLife Health, a Canadian pharmaceutical company,” says Stedman. “How and why Page was in a position to commit $350,000,000 to a relatively obscure investment company remains completely unknown.” (Neither RD Heritage nor its partners are accused of any wrongdoing.)
There are two key statutes governing perjury before Congress: U.S. Code sections 1621 and 1001 of Title 18. Section1621 covers general perjury. Section 1001 is a little more specific, stipulating that “whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the government of the United States, knowingly and wilfully” falsifies or conceals information, including to “any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate,” may be fined or imprisoned up to five years.
Page’s Russia ties have been well documented. In 1998, he joined the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, but left after only three months.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) April 13, 2017
According to Eurasia Group president and founder Ian Bremmer, Page’s pro-Russia leanings only became common knowledge after he had already been hired. “It was very clear he was ideologically very strongly pro-Kremlin, which wasn’t at all cleared when he interviewed,” Bremmer said last year. “As a result, he wasn’t a good fit at Eurasia Group.”
Page’s foreign policy views eventually would make him one of Vladimir Putin’s closest confidantes and, as one U.S. official later described him, “a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did.” Page himself would later claimin a 2013 letter that he had served as little more than as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for the Presidency” of that year’s G20 summit, then walked back that assertion, saying, in response to accusations against him detailed in a foreign surveillance warrant application released by the FBI, that “to call me an advisor would be way over the top.”
Although the exact date is unknown, Page joined Donald Trump’s campaign as an “Unofficial Volunteer” for an informal foreign policy committee that Trump had decided to form. In a March 2017 interview with The Washington Post, Trump specifically identified Page and George Papadopoulos as foreign policy advisers. Trump referred to Papadopoulos as “an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy.” Papadopoulos would, just six months later, plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government. Trump, counter to his previous description of Papadopoulos, claimed he was “a young, low-level volunteer.”
The Fake News is working overtime. As Paul Manaforts lawyer said, there was "no collusion" and events mentioned took place long before he…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
….came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
Page himself has enjoyed a seemingly more dignified defense from the president, who, quoting Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), suggested that the FBI may have tried to entrap him by using Page “as an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.
@LindseyGrahamSC “Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?” They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2018
The Trump administration was aware of FISA warrants against Page, however, as evidenced by more than 400 pages of documents released by the administration to The New York Times and other media outlets in compliance with lawsuits to obtain them. Among these documents: An October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page. Portions show the FBI telling the intelligence court that Page had been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government” in its efforts to subvert the 2016 presidential election.
These documents also provide a window into the early days of the FBI’s investigation into Page. It is highly unusual for the government to release documents related to FISA wiretap applications, and this marks the first time the government had made public copies of top-secret applications seeking wiretaps of an American under FISA.
Four federal judges separately approved the FBI’s surveillance requests — two of the four surveillance requests were approved by Trump appointees, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Each of these surveillance requests said the government had shown “probable cause” that Page was acting on behalf of the Kremlin, noting that Page “has relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers.”
The government based its surveillance requests in part on, as they wrote, “credible” work of Christopher Steele, a former British Intelligence agent who compiled a controversial dossier containing allegations of collusion with the Kremlin; Page’s name appears in the dossier multiple times. One page, for example, alleges that then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had not only “managed” the “conspiracy of “co-operation,” but used Page, in his capacity as a foreign policy adviser, as an intermediary. Another page goes even farther, alleging that Page had “conceived and promoted” of leaking emails stolen from the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
But it is the FBI’s belief that Page was the subject of targeted recruitment by Russian intelligence agencies which makes the FISA warrant application’s release a significant thorn in Page’s side. The application mentions that Page had met with a Russian intelligence operative in secret to discuss damaging information the Russian government held on “Candidate #2″— believed to be Hillary Clinton — and the possibility that the Russians would hand this information over to the Trump campaign.
Page has characterized the FISA warrant accusations as “ridiculous,” “misleading,” and “a complete joke.” He emphasized in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper” that he had “never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination.” In a tweet he wrote ahead of the interview, he accused the American government of “civil rights abuses.”
Even more shocking than the civil rights abuses inherent in today's initial FISA abuse documents and its testament to @Comey & Co's very poor "legal" judgment is the complete ignorance it shows regarding Russia. Will discuss with @jaketapper on @CNNSotu: https://t.co/Oy5WlcYyE8
— Carter Page, Ph.D. (@carterwpage) July 21, 2018
To understand the abuses Page has accused the government of committing, you need only look into Christopher Steele’s dossier further and note that the FBI considered Steele trustworthy enough to include his findings in their FISA warrant application.
“The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign,” the application says, continuing: “Notwithstanding Source #1’s reason for conducting the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia, based on Source #1’s previous reporting history with the FBI, whereby Source #1 provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes Source #1’s reporting herein to be credible.”
This is where matters get tricky: Republicans have claimed that the Department of Justice and the FBI deliberately deceived the FISA judge by concealing that “Source 1” was being paid by one of the two major political parties.
Some have also suggested that the controversial Nunes memo, a document named for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), which alleges the FBI abused its covert surveillance powers, vindicates the president— and, by virtue, Page — omitted a considerable amount of information detailing Steele’s opposition to Trump, including mentions of conversations he had already had with FBI and DOJ officials.
“In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts,” Nunes wrote in February. “However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.”
Investigators countered that claim. “With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” officials before the memo’s release. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
In April 2017, Nunes announced he would step aside from the House investigation on Russia after the House Committee on Ethics said it would investigate him because of reports that he “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” He has continued to criticize top law enforcement officials, and made headlines in recent days after media outlets obtained a recording of him suggesting that retaining a Republican-controlled Congress would provide the best defense for an increasingly imperiled president.
The Russia investigation — one of seemingly endless and boundless twists and turns — is advantageous for someone like Page, who has maintained a remarkably low profile since the Justice Department released the previously classified documents on the FBI’s surveillance.
The president’s disrespect of this wealth of information is calculated at best. It is that disrespect which threatens the integrity of the special counsel’s investigation, the resolve of the press, and the ability of the public to weigh in on perhaps the most influential national schism since Watergate without having to wade through a sea of misinformation and outright lies. It is that disrespect which ensures individuals like Carter Page enjoy relative anonymity amid the noise surrounding more prominent names like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, and it is that same disrespect that fatigues the nation.