A former foreign policy adviser to President Trump's campaign blamed the allegations generated by a Democrat-funded opposition research project for the scrutiny he faces from multiple investigations of the campaign's ties to Russia.
Carter Page, who has stressed the "unpaid" and "informal" nature of his role on Trump's team, told members of the House Intelligence Committee last week during a seven-hour hearing that he believed "every word" about himself in the dossier that emerged from the opposition research project would turn out to be false. The House Intelligence Committee, which is also looking into how that dossier was used by the previous administration, published the transcript of Page's closed-door hearing on Monday evening.
"[W]hen the dodgy dossier libeled me ... I started having, you know, serious reputational damage, but also these threats against my life and against, you know, people I'm close with," Page told lawmakers on the intelligence committee.
Page said he had been interviewed by FBI agents "four or five" times in 2017. But he told members he could not recall whether agents had questioned him during the election year, which drew skepticism from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
"I try to be cautious too, Dr. Page, but it is not difficult for me to remember the number of times that the FBI has interviewed me in 2016 because the answer would be zero," Gowdy said when Page cited caution as the reason for his refusal to provide a clear answer about whether he had met with the FBI last year.
Page said special counsel Robert Mueller's team, which is investigating allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to sway public opinion during the 2016 race, has not informed him to expect an indictment. Another former campaign aide, Paul Manafort, reportedly received a warning from Mueller's team months before he was indicted last week on conspiracy charges that he should expect to face criminal charges.
"[Y]ou know, typically, when the FBI has reached out to me previously, they give me a call," Page said of the four or more meetings he has had with agents looking into Russian ties this year. "This time, in early March 2017, they just showed up. I was in a lobby near Lincoln Center near the upper west side of Manhattan, and they just walked up to me."
Page repeatedly returned his testimony to the creation of a dossier last year by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm, to dig up dirt on Trump and his associates. Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee shared the cost of producing what ultimately became the Steele dossier, which contained a litany of allegations related to the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials.
Many of the allegations have not yet been substantiated, and some have proven false.
The dossier alleges that Page met with a pair of high-ranking Russian officials during a trip to Moscow he made at the height of the presidential race. But Page argued before lawmakers last week that the dossier incorrectly identified the people he met with in Russia, who he described as "scholars."
Page said FBI agents used the dossier's allegations against him as the "central foundation" of their questions each time he spoke with them about the Russia investigation.
Page, who did not bring a lawyer with him to the hearing last week, told lawmakers "there's no question in my mind" that the claims Steele made against him in the dossier affected the outcome of 2016 more than Russia's overall efforts to influence public opinion during the 2016 election. Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have asserted that Russia did use social media to inflame political divides and did back the hackers who stole Democratic emails and distributed them through Wikileaks last year.
The former Trump campaign adviser noted he had filed several defamation lawsuits in connection with the Steele dossier's allegations against him and news reports that parroted them.
Page insisted that the trip he made in July 2016 to Moscow was simply to deliver a speech to a university and not to facilitate any relationships on behalf of the Trump campaign.
Although a former campaign adviser at the same level as was Page, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty last month to making false statements to FBI agents about his own contacts with Russians, Page said he had not had time to read the plea agreement Papadopoulos entered into with Mueller's team. Page did, however, tell the House Intelligence Committee it was "impossible" for him to have been one of the unnamed campaign advisers mentioned as having discussed Russian ties with Papadopoulos during the campaign.