During a seven-hour hearing with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page denied, then quickly admitted to encounters with top Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip to Moscow—and to suggesting that candidate Donald Trump travel to Russia himself.
According to the 243-page transcript of the hearing last week released on Monday night, Page also admitted to soliciting suggestions from the Trump campaign on the contents of his speech to the New Economic School in Moscow and to informing now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior campaign adviser Sam Clovis of his trip in advance.
Under oath, however, Page denied any “direct relationship” with the Russian government. Page also derided the hearing itself as “desperately all-encompassing and increasingly tangential,” based on what he characterized as the libelous contents of the infamous Steele dossier. That document asserted that during the trip Page met with an official from Kremlin Internal Affairs to discuss the release of compromising material on Hillary Clinton. Page called the document “the dodgy dossier” 39 times over the course of last week’s hearing.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars and extraordinary amounts of time have subsequently been wasted by [House Intelligence] and other congressional committees in the unwitting response to lies from plutocrat-funded opposition political research consultants, in parallel with one of the worst intelligence failures in American history,” Page said in his opening statement, according to the transcript, which Page asked to be released “in the interest of time and to avoid further shocking drama.”
In contentious, occasionally comical exchanges with Democratic and Republican members of the committee, Page continuously contradicted his own sworn testimony, occasionally in the same sentence, to the particular annoyance of Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Under questioning, Page denied three times that he had ever had a private meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. But moments later, when Schiff pointed to a memo in which Page described “a private conversation” with Dvorkovich in which the official “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump,” Page’s recollection changed.
“I listen closely,” Page said, attempting to explain how a meeting that he said lasted for just 10 seconds would count as a “private conversation” while simultaneously being “a brief hello.”
Schiff, who time and again attempted to corral Page into focusing on the line of questioning, hammered him on his inconsistencies.
“You’ve testified under oath that you met with no senior officials except for a hello to the person who turns out to be the deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation,” Schiff said.
“And yet on July 8 of last year, you wrote in an email to the campaign that you had incredible insights and outreach that you received from Russian legislators and senior members, plural, of the presidential administration. Were you being honest in your communication with the campaign? Are you being honest in your testimony? Because it doesn't seem possible for both to be true.”
In another exchange with Schiff, Page denied attempting to obtain funding for a business venture while in Moscow, before quickly pivoting to say he could not recall “specifics,” then acknowledging that “there were people... I had broad discussions with.”
Gowdy—who noted that Page’s descriptions of his service to the Trump campaign as “volunteer, unpaid, informal, unofficial,” left him “still trying to figure out what the hell your role was”— also attempted to crack Page’s particular lexicon, attempting and failing to delineate the definition of a “meeting” versus a “greeting.”
“I didn’t think I’d ever be going through this with anyone, but we’ve got to, I guess,” Gowdy said. “You seem to draw a distinction between a meeting, a greeting, a conversation, and you hearing a speech. So to the extent you may have said that you have met with senior members of Russian government or legislators in Russia, were those meetings, greetings, conversations, or were you sitting in the audience listening?”
Page characterized most of the meetings as greetings, although he later stated that being in a meeting with someone—in one case, President Trump himself—was not the same thing as meeting someone.
“I have never met him in my life,” Page said of Trump. “I’ve been in a lot of meetings with him, and I’ve learned a lot from him, but never actually met him face-to-face.”