2018-07-23 12:46:261 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Carter Page (Image source: Screenshot)
Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is proving to have many branches to it, as well as many thorns. Along with Paul Manafort finally headed to court this week, things are really heating up with Carter Page with newly released files showing he collaborated with Russia, Trump fighting back on this claim, and Page denying being a Russian agent but acknowledging working as an informal adviser to Russia.
In case you lost your primer on who all these individuals are with respect to Donald Trump's campaign and administration, Page was a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign. He's also a petroleum industry expert specializing in the oil and gas business in Russia and Central Asia.
He stepped down from the campaign after questions were raised about his ties to the Kremlin. The FBI issued a warrant in October 2016 after showing probable cause that he was a foreign agent for Russia. His name is also known to appear in the Steele dossier.
Documents from the 2016 investigation have now been released, though heavily redacted. They show that the FBI believed Page had been "collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government" to meddle in the 2016 election. This information is from an application the FBI filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court in a request to wiretap Page.
This application, along with three renewal applications, was made public after a lawsuit from media organizations acting under the Freedom of Information Act. It's believed to be the first surveillance application released in the 40-year history of FISA court.
"The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government," reads the initial application. After a redacted line, it says, "undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president."
What's missing, because the document has been so heavily redacted, are details of why the FBI believed Page was helping Russia meddle in the election.
What is shown in the documents is that the FBI believed Page had "established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers" and that "the Russian government's efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with" the campaign.
Also described is a trip Page took to Russia in 2016 to give a speech at the New Economic School. Het met with two Russian officials in secret: Igor Sechin, President of Rosneft and known to be close to Vladimir Putin, and Igor Nikolayevich Divyekin. Discussed were lifting sanctions and dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Trump's response to these redacted documents was a tweet that read, "Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents. As usual, they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of 'Justice' and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!"
Not surprisingly, the Democrats believe this backs up the Russian interference in the election. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the documents "affirm that our nation faced a profound counterintelligence threat prior to the 2016 election" and that "appropriate steps" were taken.
"FBI and DOJ would have been negligent had they not used all the tools at their disposal, including Court-authorized FISA surveillance, to protect the country," he added.
Page's first public response was to say that the allegations he was working on behalf of Russia are "ridiculous" and a "complete joke." On CNN's "State of the Union," he said, "I've never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination."
However, he did acknowledge to host Jake Tapper that "there may have been a loose conversation" with Russian officials with regards to sanctions and "a few people might have brought it up in passing." He claimed again "there was nothing in terms of any nefarious behavior" and that he'd never heard any Hillary Clinton dirt from his Russian contacts.
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