Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Senate investigators that he had “brief interactions” several years ago with a Russian official he said was a “junior attaché,” even though US officials had suspected the official of spying on behalf of the Kremlin.
Page pointedly declined to provide details of more meetings with Russians, saying doing so would result in “hundreds of hours” of work and that the Obama administration already had records of his Russian contacts because of its surveillance of his activities.
In an angry nine-page letter, Page attacked the Senate intelligence committee’s “bitter” investigation, suggesting it was a “show trial” into potential collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russians during the elections. Page said the committee’s request for detailed information about his recent contacts with Russians is “preposterous” and “illogical,” and is ” based on “lies from corrupt politicians.”
But he does acknowledge meeting in 2013 with Victor Podobnyy, whom he called a “junior attaché” to Russia at the United Nations, even though US officials believe he is a spy. He said he only had “brief interactions” with Podobnyy and did not expand on what they discussed.
But Page acknowledged in 2013 he met with federal agents about his discussions with Podobnyy, saying he brought up some of his research with the federal investigators that he said prompted retaliation from the government. His identity, he said, was “unlawfully” unmasked by federal authorities.
“Without question, the harsh retribution subsequently taken against me marks a direct retaliation against my dissenting position,” Page said.
Page’s letter comes hours before former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is expected to deliver long-awaited testimony before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The encounters were previously disclosed earlier this year when it was revealed Page was the unnamed person in court filings related to a 2015 case. While the government has never revealed his identity, Page has acknowledged to CNN that he is the individual the documents refer to as a target of recruitment by three Russian intelligence agents, news first reported by BuzzFeed on April 3.
The FBI did, however, obtain a warrant to monitor Page last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post reported. Page called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant “unjustified” in a statement to CNN.
Page, who also claims the committee has not been responding to his repeated messages, said the Obama administration should already know about his contacts because of the surveillance conducted on him following his meeting with Podobnyy.
In response to the committee’s questions, Page claims he had no financial or real estate holdings related to Russia from 2015-2016, other than selling off shares of Gazprom, a large Russian energy company, that he said resulted in a net loss of more than $5,000.
The leaders of the panel, Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, are unlikely to be satisfied with Page’s response. After Carter refused to detail his meetings in a letter last week, the two men suggested that they may issue subpoenas for the records.
“Should Mr. Page choose not to provide the material requested … the Committee will consider its next steps at that time,” the two men said in a joint statement Friday.
On Monday night, Burr told CNN that Page could be hit with subpoenas, warning that the investigation is not “100 percent voluntary.” And he said that the panel planned to interview Yates as well.
But Page so far seems unfazed, saying the committee should move beyond “gangster tactics” and “restore its dignity” by conducting a proper inquiry.