Carter Page vs. CNN's Jake Tapper: "Of Course" I Wasn't A Foreign Agent For Russia

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CNN: During an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, former Donald Trump adviser Carter Page denies he spoke to any Russian officials about the 2016 US election while working for the Trump campaign

Transcript, via CNN:

JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Let's shift to the "POLITICS LEAD" now, and news on the FBI investigation into possible but yet unproven collusion between advisers to the Trump campaign last year and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 Presidential Election. The Washington Post is reporting that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor the communications of then-Trump adviser, Carter Page, during the campaign, a FISA warrant, FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is granted by a very closely-guarded court that handles some of the nation's most secretive government decisions. It is granted a FISA warrant if judges decide there is probable cause that the American in question is working as the agent of a foreign country.

Now, before the Trump campaign, Page was in the Navy, he served as an investment banker, he worked in New York, London, and Moscow for three years. He was once an adviser to the Russian energy giant Gazprom, and he has repeatedly denied any impropriety in any meetings with any Russians during the Trump campaign and he joins me now, former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, Carter Page. Carter, thanks so much for joining us.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: So, The Washington Post, as you know, has reported last year the FBI went to a FISA judge and argued successfully that there was probable cause to believe that you were acting as an agent for a foreign government. So, my question is, were you?

PAGE: Of course, I wasn't, Jake. This is -- it's just such a joke that it's beyond words, and what's interesting about it is March 20th, Director Comey, he made the point that people can lie to the press, people can lie to the American public all they want in politics. What's interesting about last night's report is if it's true, well, there is a different standard when it comes to evidence in court.

So, all of this false evidence that you've been hearing about myself with the dodgy dossier and other false reports going back through most of the last summer, well, that will -- that will have very definite implications, so this is a real game changer if it turns out to be true.

TAPPER: What do you mean it's a game changer? How is it a game changer? I mean, at least two times that we know of, the FBI has investigated your links with Russians. In 2016, last year, when they went to the FISA court and got a court order and received permission to monitor your communications, and earlier, as you know, in 2013, the FBI interviewed you, you were dealing with a man named Victor Podobnyy who was charged later with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government, so, that was 2013. At the time, did you have any idea that Podobnyy was a Russian spy.

PAGE: I talk to diplomats all the time, and based in New York, a good portion of the time, the United Nations is based here. You're always meeting with foreign diplomats, and the reality is whenever you talk to a foreign government representative, the assumption is that on some level, it's going to go back to the government in question. So, again, I never gave him any information which is material or classified or in any way improper, and the assumption is that it would go back, so it's quite an irrelevant question in my view in terms of my involvement.

TAPPER: Well, it's not irrelevant. It's not irrelevant. I mean, there is -- you know, if you meet the German Ambassador or the French Ambassador, maybe they'll pass on the information, but we're talking about clandestine services, and he was charged in the U.S. with being an unregistered foreign agent, so I guess my question more specifically is, "OK, you knew that he was Russian, but did you know he was a spy?"

PAGE: I did not know that he was a spy when I -- when I first met him, although eventually it came out. I mean -

TAPPER: Did you think - did you think he was trying to recruit you or get intelligence that would have been inappropriate for you to have shared?

PAGE: He never made any indication that he was trying to recruit me. It was all just a casual conversation, exactly what I told my students at New York University. So -- and no offer was made and I - there was no negotiation whatsoever. I met him at a conference at Asia Society and at some point later, within a month or so, I believe, it was several years ago, we had coffee once, had had a slight conversation. I gave him a couple of my information from my lectures, some public research reports, and that was the end of it. So ...

TAPPER: So, let's talk about the 2016 case. The FBI Director has said that convincing a FISA judge to approve surveillance on a U.S. citizen requires so much evidence that the court filings are often thicker than his wrist. Do you have any idea what might have been in the filing last year that convinced a judge to approve surveillance on you by the FBI?

PAGE: Well, it's just like President Trump just said when he was discussing the allegations about, you know, who knew what with the chemical weapons. We're -- let's not jump to any conclusions, and until there is full evidence and a full investigation has been done, we just don't know. I have the same attitude about this. However, if you look back at all the information that has dribbled out and false information going back to, really, the first major one was the letter from Senator Harry Reid to Director Comey in late August of last year, and it was citing - it was - it was giving some indications of this false evidence, which eventually kept dribbling out, and we saw it in its full glory in early January with the BuzzFeed report. So ...

TAPPER: Have you talked to the FBI about the Russian investigation? Have you been interviewed by them or questioned by them in any way?

PAGE: You know, I tried asking Lisa Monaco at a - at a breakfast meeting in early January about the ongoing allegations about FISA warrants, which had been coming out about me going back to October, and she avoided the question completely, and she also made the point that we don't talk about any ongoing investigations. And I -- you know, again, I've always respected confidentiality. I have nothing to say about any ongoing investigations that may or may not be going on.

TAPPER: You're not going to comment, is that what you're saying?

PAGE: I have no comment, no.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, just -- I prepared for this interview when I read, you know, a year's worth of stuff about you, and until February, you would say repeatedly the FBI had not contacted you. You stopped saying that in March. Is it fair to assume from that that you have now talked to the FBI and you are just declining to comment because now the facts have changed?

PAGE: Well, I have been very forthcoming that I want to get as much information out there as possible, and that has stood from the very beginning, and in several documents which I've sent to both the House and Senate Committees, and I really look forward to having those discussions and really supporting this on-going process as it -- as it continues.

TAPPER: So, there are a few questions -- you talk about wanting to be as honest and open as possible -- there are a few questions that in the past you have declined to answer. So, let's give you another opportunity. I think you owe it to the American people and frankly, you owe it to yourself, to clear your name if you're innocent as you say you are. So, the first one, who brought you into the Trump campaign?

PAGE: You know, Jake, even if you look on -- many shows on CNN, they always have these line diagrams with various faces of people who have supported the Trump campaign over time and various wire diagrams back to President Putin, and very often it's, you know, based on these false reports. I don't want to mention any names because that's just going to add one other senseless dot on that diagram.

TAPPER: But Carter, I mean, you want to clear things up. There's nothing wrong about bringing a Russia expert on to a campaign. I'm just asking you who brought you into the campaign. Was it Paul Manafort?

PAGE: It was not Paul Manafort. I've never met Paul Manafort, I've never spoken with him. And again, I'm just -- out of respect to their privacy, if I told you a name, Jake there, would be dozens of phone calls on that individual's phone within the next ten minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Was it Sam Clovis? Was it Sam Clovis?

PAGE: I have no comment. I have no comment.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, I know you want to get out all this information, but then you refuse to answer questions.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: There's nothing wrong with somebody bring you into the campaign. I'm just trying to find out who it was.

PAGE: It's an irrelevant point. He was not the first person that brought me in. I can assure you of that.

TAPPER: Well, at least we know it was a man. So, you told Anderson Cooper that when you talked to Russian Ambassador, Kislyak, around the time of the republican convention, in that group, where there's a bunch of ambassadors and a bunch of people filled with the Trump campaign, you said you talked to him for fewer than ten seconds. OK. I get that. When you went to Russia last summer, did you ever talk to any Russian about the Trump campaign or about the Clinton campaign or about the 2016 election in general?

PAGE: No Russian official. I was speaking at a university, and I spoke with many scholars and students and parents that were at the graduation celebrating their kids' achievements. Other than that, nothing.

TAPPER: I didn't ask Russian official, I just asked any Russian because obviously, Russians, as you know in Russia, people are affiliated with private industry but they also do work with the government, et cetera.

PAGE: Sure.

TAPPER: So -- but you did not talk to any Russian at all other than students and parents and scholars about the presidential election?

PAGE: I met a few business people, but no negotiations about anything in terms of anything related to the campaign whatsoever.

TAPPER: Well, I'm not talking about negotiations, but as long as you bring it up, I mean, have you ever conveyed to anyone in Russia that you think President Trump might have been more willing to get rid of the sanctions that were imposed against Russia after they invaded and seized Crimea, which I know our sanctions that you oppose and you think are in effective. Did you ever talk with anyone there about maybe President Trump, if he were elected - then-candidate Trump, would be willing to get rid of the sanctions?

PAGE: Never any direct conversations such as that. I mean, look, it's -

TAPPER: What do you mean direct conversations? I don't know what that mean, direct conversations.

PAGE: Well, I'm just saying no -- that was never - I've never said, no.

TAPPER: You never said that to anybody that you think that if Donald Trump won, he might be willing to get rid of the Russian sanctions - the sanctions against Russia.

PAGE: No.

TAPPER: One of the matters the FBI is investigating is, you know, is whether any adviser to the Trump campaign, at any point, discussed the released of the hacked and phished and stolen documents from the DNC and from Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta. Did you ever discuss any of those documents, or the release of them, or the timing of them, when you were in Russia, or with a Russian?

PAGE: Absolutely not, absolutely not.

TAPPER: Did you ever --

PAGE: No advance - no advance warning. I mean, people may have mentioned it after it came out, but -- or you're alluded to some of the findings, but no direct discussions. Absolutely not.

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