By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump, testified to U.S. lawmakers that he met with a Russian deputy prime minister on two trips to Moscow in 2016 and consulted with senior Trump campaign staff about one visit.
In testimony made public on Monday, Page initially said he did not meet with any senior Russian officials during a trip in July 2016 but later said he “briefly” greeted Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, and saw him again at a dinner in December 2016.
When asked if he had a private meeting with Dvorkovich on that second trip, Page replied: “We did – he stopped by a dinner I went to in December with people from the university.”
Page also said he let senior members of Trump’s campaign staff know of his trip in July 2016, including then-Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who is now U.S. attorney general, as well as senior Trump aides Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski.
Page said he reported back to other campaign officials about the July 2016 trip, saying in one email that he had received “incredible insights and outreach”.
He has for months said the trip was made as a private citizen, not as part of his role with the Trump campaign.
Page was interviewed for seven hours last Thursday by members of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence committee, which is probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion by Trump campaign officials.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is leading a criminal investigation into the same issues and last week charged two former Trump campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, with money laundering and other crimes.
Page, a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow, has attracted the scrutiny of investigators for his numerous contacts with Russia.
His trip to Moscow in July 2016 came after he joined the Trump campaign and he used it to deliver a pro-Russia speech at a university.
But Page, who declined to have an attorney present during the testimony to the House committee, said his trips to Russia were “benign” and blasted the congressional investigations as a waste of time and money.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House’s Intelligence committee, said Page’s testimony showed that his denials of formal meetings with senior Russian officials were inaccurate.
“Perhaps most important, Page — after being presented with an email he sent to his campaign supervisors, and which he did not disclose to the Committee prior to the interview and despite a subpoena from the Committee — detailed his meetings with Russian government officials and others, and said that they provided him with insights and outreach that he was interested in sharing with the campaign,” Schiff said.
In his testimony, Page said he has been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Russia and the election four or five times this year. When asked if he had been contacted by Mueller, he said he would rather not discuss it.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Kieran Murray and Michael Perry)