Trump adviser sent email describing ‘private conversation’ with Russian official

Washington • Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing "a private conversation" with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators.

Page also wrote that he had been provided "incredible insights and outreach" by Russian lawmakers and "senior members" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration during the trip.

The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university.

In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had "expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems."

Page's email was read aloud by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., when Page met behind closed doors last week with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 president election. The committee released the transcript of the seven-hour session late Monday.

Confronted with his email, Page told the committee that he had not meant that he met with any officials but rather that he had learned of their views about the U.S. election from local media and scholars. He maintained that his interaction with Dvorkovich consisted of a brief greeting, and that he had learned his views on the campaign while listening to Dvorkovich's public address. Page told the committee that he had not worked with the Russians to hack emails or otherwise influence the election.

In a statement Monday, Schiff said that Page had failed to produce the email to the committee before his interview, despite receiving a subpoena for documents.

Page is one of a number of Trump associates whose contacts with Russians before the election are emerging as important factors in investigations by Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Another adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal agents about Russian contacts during the campaign.

The transcript shows Page, a Navy veteran who worked for a time in Moscow as an energy consultant, was at times combative and evasive in response to committee questions.

Asked about his email indicating he had discussed Trump's campaign in a private conversation with a Russian official, Page responded to The Washington Post via text message: "That is complete misinformation and/or misinterpretation."

"I'm working on my lawsuit tonight that will get to the bottom of the real interference in the 2016 election, by the [United States government]. I've played this nonsensical game long enough and am not interested in this latest round tonight," he said.

Page requested that the committee make the transcript of his remarks public.

Page's testimony shows that a number of Trump campaign officials were aware of his plans to travel to Moscow before he left — and that he updated others on his return.

He told the committee that he informed then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., then a key Trump supporter and now attorney general, and said he "probably" had told national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis before leaving and definitely did so on his return.

A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment; Clovis' attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

In one email to fellow campaign aides, Page suggested that Trump perhaps take his place and travel to Moscow "to raise the temperature a little bit" and, in another, he asked how campaign officials would "prefer me to focus" his remarks.

He said he was unaware at the time that Papadopoulos was making similar proposals for Trump to travel to Russia, though he acknowledged he had received some of Papadopoulos' emails about Russia.

Page sent the email describing his interaction with Dvorkovich in Moscow to campaign aide J.D. Gordon, as well as a different campaign aide.

Gordon said he does not recall the email but that he had discouraged Page from going to Moscow. "It's important to remember that Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were peripheral members of a relatively peripheral advisory committee," he said.

Trump has said he does not recall ever speaking to Page.

Page's July 2016 trip to Moscow drew attention during the campaign, particularly after WikiLeaks released emails that had been hacked from the Democratic National Committee a few weeks later and Russia became a controversial campaign topic.

With his Russia ties under scrutiny, Page said in September 2016 that he was taking a leave from the campaign.

Later, it emerged that the FBI had obtained a secret court order to monitor Page's communications during the summer of 2016.

In numerous public interviews, Page has always denied he met with other Russian officials, notably with Igor Sechin, a Putin associate.

A former British intelligent agent, working on behalf of Democrats, alleged in a dossier compiled before the election and published in January that Page had met with both men.

Questioned by the committee, Page again denied meeting Sechin - but acknowledged he had met with other officials who work for Rosneft, the company Sechin leads, including the head of investor relations.

Page's Russian contacts did not end on his return from Moscow. At the Republican National Convention, Page told the committee that he spoke with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the subject of U.S. sanctions on Russia "may have briefly come up in some context." He said he did not recall any discussion of hacked emails there.

And Page told the committee about another foreign trip he took during the campaign, a long weekend he spent in Budapest where he said he met with Hungary's ambassador to the United States and other Hungarian officials. He said he discussed "foreign policy things" with the ambassador and that he had some "general" discussions of U.S.-Russia relations with she and other Hungarian officials — though he could recall few specifics.

He also told the committee about a second trip to Moscow he took in December 2016 and said that he met with Russian and Kazakh nationals in London that same month.

The Washington Post's Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.