An adviser to President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign met with an undercover Russian spy several years before he signed up to work for the future president.
Carter Page told BuzzFeed that he had met with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy in New York City in 2013. The FBI has known about the interaction since it took place, according to documents stemming from when the U.S. government charged Podobnyy and two others as being unregistered agents of a foreign government seeking information about U.S. sanctions against Russia in January 2015.
According to transcripts from court documents in the 2015 case against Podobnyy, he and another suspected Russian spy attempt to recruit Page, an energy consultant, who confirmed to BuzzFeed that he is "Male-1" in those transcripts.
"[Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back," Podobnyy said. "I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am ... He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. I also promised him a lot ... This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go f*** himself."
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Court documents indicate the suspected Russian spies never successfully recruited Page for any nefarious purpose, ABC News reports.
However, BuzzFeed claims this interaction three years before Page signed up to work for the Trump campaign "is the most clearly documented contact to date between Russian intelligence and someone in Trump’s orbit."
In a previous conversation with BuzzFeed, Page didn't deny that he may have had interactions with undercover Russian spies.
"I’M VERY CAREFUL WHEN I SAY ‘NEVER’ BUT EVEN IF I HAD INADVERTENTLY HAD ‘CONTACT’ SUCH AS BRIEFLY SAYING HELLO TO SOMEONE WHO MIGHT FALL UNDER THAT LABEL IN PASSING NOTHING I EVER SAID TO THEM OR ANYONE ELSE WOULD’VE EVER BROKEN ANY LAW," he wrote to the news site via a messaging app.
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Page worked as a foreign policy adviser for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
As an energy consultant by trade, he has made numerous trips to Russia and, after serving for five years in the U.S. Navy, worked as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch in Moscow, where he forged Russian ties, according to The Washington Post.
He has since advocated for warmer ties between the U.S. and Russia.