- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The congressional testimony of Trump-Russia figure Carter Page shows that a Democratic-financed dossier can dominate how FBI agents question witnesses.

Mr. Page testified Nov. 2 before the House intelligence committee, which released a transcript Monday evening.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, was particularly interested in how the FBI is conducting its probe of supposed Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

“So what were the questions the FBI had for you?” Mr. Gowdy said.

“It was an extensive series of many meetings, but they, you know, the core foundation, I would say, in terms of the overall structure in March 2017, was related to those false allegations from the ‘dodgy’ dossier,” Mr. Page said, using his moniker for the anti-Trump document.

Mr. Page has been perhaps the most outspoken Trump figure caught up in the congressional and special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He has made numerous TV appearances and has released several letters and statements.

He said the dossier and associated investigations have ruined his energy firm. He has no business income, he said, and is living off investments as he worries about death threats and moves around a lot.

The dossier was funded by the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign. They paid the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele, to investigate and produce it. He wrote the dossier based on paid sources inside the Kremlin. The coordination prompted conservatives to charge that it was the Democrats who actually colluded with the Russians to influence the election.

Mr. Page, who lived and worked in Moscow in the 2000s as a Merrill Lynch banker, is one of Mr. Steele’s main targets in the dossier.

Mr. Steele accuses him of several felonies, such as meeting with sanctioned Kremlin figures while in Moscow in July 2016 to address the New Economic School. Mr. Steele said Mr. Carter promised to work to end U.S. sanctions against Russia in exchange for a brokerage commission. The dossier also said he and former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort orchestrated the Russian interference to include hacking Democratic Party computers.

Mr. Page, a Trump campaign volunteer on national security, says that all of those charges are fiction. He never met the two Kremlin operatives and has never met Mr. Manafort.

For months Republicans have tried to learn the extent to which then-FBI director James B. Comey relied on the dossier to open and conduct an investigation of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016. For example, did Mr. Steele’s unverified charges underpin the FBI’s request for eavesdropping warrants?

Mr. Comey refused to discuss the dossier in open testimony.

Last week, the FBI provided classified documents requested by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican. A spokesman said the information remains classified and is not releasable.

The FBI has had Mr. Page under surveillance to the point of following him around New York.

Asked at the Nov. 2 hearing how many times he sat down with the FBI, Mr. Page said, “Approximately four. They came up — you know, typically when the FBI has reached out to me previously, they give me a call. This time, in early March 2017, they just showed up. I was in the lobby near Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and they just walked up to me.”

When Mr. Gowdy asked if all the FBI questions pertained to the dossier, Mr. Page said, “Not all of [them], but I would say that that was a central foundation, and again, it would sort of branch out from there.”

Mr. Page has filed libel lawsuits against Yahoo News and HuffPost for repeating Mr. Steele’s charges in September 2016. Fusion brought Mr. Steele to Washington to brief selected reporters in an effort to ruin the Trump campaign.

BuzzFeed published the entire 35-page dossier in January.

“They are all untrue,” Mr. Page said. “Every word in that about me is completely false. The core allegations of that document were certainly all false.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the House intelligence committee’s top Democrat, has shown no qualms about citing opposition research from Kremlin sources. He has expressed admiration for Mr. Steele, and has quoted at length from the dossier, including the unproven charges against Mr. Page.

Mr. Schiff used the hearing to ask Mr. Page about every Russian he met during his July trip to Moscow. He also tried to link him to George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign volunteer who lived in London at the time.

Mr. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent about when he actually started working for the campaign as he reached out to Russia-connected people.

“Just to be very clear, every meeting I ever had in Russia was completely benign,” Mr. Page said. “It was nothing, you know, nothing I would be ashamed of having broadcast on national television because, again, I’ve never done anything wrong, not only in those two years but throughout my life.”

Mr. Schiff referred repeatedly to the dossier, especially the part that said Mr. Page met with Igor Sechin, the CEO of giant oil firm Rosneft. Mr. Steele said the two met to discuss removing U.S. sanctions.

Mr. Page said he has never met Mr. Sechin.

He said he had a social encounter with Andrey Baranov, whom he described as an “old friend” from his days in Moscow. Mr. Baranov is now in charge of investor relations at Rosneft.

Mr. Page said he met Mr. Baranov in a bar to watch a soccer match in an event organized by an American investment firm and which included scores of other investors.

Mr. Page has refused to turn over certain documents to the committee, citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

“Congressman Schiff, I want to help this committee [however] I can,” Mr. Page said. “I just want to do that in a way that does not put me at jeopardy, both judicial — in the judicial system — as we’ve seen with Mr. Papadopoulos, but also with the extrajudicial punishment that I have been submitted to. After your interaction with Mr. Comey on March 20, 2017 I did receive significant personal domestic terrorist threats to myself.”

He said the FBI already has acquired a large stash of documents from him in what he considers illegal searches.

“My documents will not be, by definition, they cannot be as comprehensive as the documents which are already collected,” he testified.

As to the effects of the dossier charges, Mr. Page said: “All of my business interests anywhere have been discontinued completely, given these falsehoods that were started from the dodgy dossier and news reports related to that. I have, yeah, nothing.”

He added, “There are no sources of income right now. I’m burning through savings right now. I’m burning through savings.”

Mr. Page elaborated that he is living off investments. “Any pain I’ve been through in this committee is minuscule compared to the dodgy dossier-inflicted destruction of my life. So I’m happy — this is an absolute pleasure, and I’m happy to help out.”

He said he made a return trip to Russia in December 2016 and met with friends at the New Economic School, Mr. Baranov and an American banker at Merrill Lynch, his old employer. He said he was looking for new business opportunities.

 

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