WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, who has come under scrutiny in the investigation of Russian election interference, told a House committee that he sought permission for a July 2016 trip to Moscow from senior Trump campaign officials, and reported to other Trump officials about the trip when he returned.
It’s long been known that Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, but he has said it was in his private capacity, unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.
Page, whose sworn testimony was released Monday night, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that he sought permission to make the trip from campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and also notified Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director.
Lewandowski told Page he was clear to go on the trip as long as the travel was not associated with his work on the campaign, Page told the committee.
Page also acknowledged that he had been aware that another volunteer campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had been meeting with a professor with links to the Kremlin, according to the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Both men served on a campaign foreign policy advisory committee under the supervision of Jeff Sessions, who was then a senator and is now the attorney general. Page testified he told Sessions about the July 2016 Moscow trip, it has been previously reported.
Sessions "advised nothing" when Page told him about his plans to travel to Russia, Page said in the transcript.
"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 a statement.
In terse and sometimes heated exchanges with members of the committee, Page admitted that he had met with Russian officials and discussed the U.S. presidential election “in general terms.” He also met with the head of investor relations at Rosneft, a top Russian oil company. Page said the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia may have come up in their discussion but “not directly.”
The transcript of Page’s testimony also revealed that he applauded a proposal to change the Republican party’s stance on Ukraine ahead of the 2016 Republican nominating convention. The amendment ensured that Ukraine would not be given weapons to fight Russian forces seeking to claim territory.
“As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work,” Page said in an email to Trump campaign official J.D. Gordon.
Page defended the email, saying “it’s just expressing what I feel. Right?”
Page told the committee he wrote to Mueller on Oct. 5, explaining that he intends to plead the Fifth Amendment and keep documents related to his work in Russia to himself.
As has been previously reported, Page acknowledged that he may have met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich during the July 2016 trip.
In an email on July 8, Page told Gordon that he received “some incredible insights” from his meetings with Russian legislators and a few members of the presidential administration, according to the testimony.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gordon said: “I don’t recall all of Carter Page’s emails. I was getting thousands of emails on the campaign and didn’t read all of them.”
Gordon said he discouraged Page from taking the trip to Moscow, so Page went around him to campaign leadership.
“During many public appearances prior to his November 2, 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in open session, Carter Page characterized his July 2016 trip to Russia as a private one in which his interactions with Russian individuals were largely confined to the 'man on the street,’” Schiff said. "In his testimony, however, he was forced to acknowledge that he communicated with high level Russian officials while in Moscow, including one of Russia’s Deputy Prime Ministers. He also admitted notifying the fact of his meetings to his campaign supervisors.
Page told NBC News Monday night that some lawmakers are focusing on "irrelevant distractions." Last month he told NBC News, "I'm cooperating with everyone in D.C. who might want my assistance." He called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt that was sparked by the dodgy dossier in the months prior to November 2016."
Page has been open about some of his contacts with Russian officials during and before the 2016 presidential campaign, including with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
"I'm not going to deny that I talked with him," Page said in March on MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes."
In his testimony, Page acknowledged meeting with numerous senior individuals from Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom in Moscow in July and December, according to an NBC News review of the transcript.