Nunes Memo Subject Carter Page Has a Long History of Ties to Russia

Carter Page started out as an unknown foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Now, he’s at the center of a national scandal about Russia, a secret court order and surveillance of U.S. citizens.

That’s because a controversial Republican memo, created by GOP Representative Devin Nunes, alleges that the FBI and the Department of Justice used misleading evidence for a surveillance warrant against Page in the fall of 2016.

Though he was not well known in Russian policy circles, Page had spent years working in the region before signing up with the Trump campaign. An ex-Moscow-based investment banker, he attracted the attention of the FBI in 2013 when a Russian spy tried to recruit him. Page is one of the Trump administration’s many friendly links to the government of President Vladimir Putin—ties that have fueled speculation and questions about the Trump campaign and Russia's efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Page did not immediately respond to Newsweek's requests for comment.

Page’s work in Russia began in the late 1990s, when he briefly worked for the Eurasia Group, a consulting company that advises banks and multinational corporations. He left abruptly after three months.  

GettyImages-869515864 Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser who was the target of FBI surveillance, talks to reporters after testifying to Congress on November 2, 2017. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“It was very clear he was ideologically very strongly pro-Kremlin, which wasn’t at all clear when he interviewed. As a result, he wasn’t a good fit at Eurasia Group,” Ian Bremmer, the company’s president, told The Guardian in 2017.

Bremmer even called Page “the most wackadoodle” Eurasia Group alumnus on Twitter.

Page would go on to get an MBA from New York University and work at Merrill Lynch, including at its Moscow office between 2004 and 2007. While there, he claimed to have worked on billions of dollars’ worth of transactions with Gazprom, a state-owned oil and gas company. Individuals involved in the trades have downplayed his role.

But investment banking wasn’t Page’s only contact with Russia: A Russian spy tried to recruit him as an asset in 2013. Page said he thought the spy was a businessman and provided him with publicly available energy-related documents.

The man and two other operatives later decided that while “enthusiastic,” Page was an “idiot” and not worth their time. That spring, Page had his first brush with FBI counterintelligence agents, who interviewed him about his contacts. The Russians were charged in a criminal case in 2015, though Page was not identified as their object of interest until April 2017.

When questioned by The Wall Street Journal about his 2013 meeting with investigators, Page said he discussed his research on international politics “at length” and criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of Russia.

Page began advising the Trump campaign in 2016. Then, the newly minted foreign policy adviser flew to Moscow that July to deliver a speech at Moscow’s New Economic School. This, too, caught the eye of the FBI. Page delivered a blistering critique of U.S. foreign policy.

"Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change,” he said.

Page served on the Trump campaign until September 2016. During a press briefing in March 2017, press secretary Sean Spicer described Carter and others under investigation as "hangers-oner on the campaign."

"Those people, the greatest amount of interaction that they had with the campaign was the campaign apparently sending them a series of cease and desists," he said.

After the election, Trump lawyer Don McGahn told Page to “immediately cease” calling himself a Trump adviser.

In the fall of 2016, the Department of Justice and the FBI applied for a secret court order that would let them monitor Page’s connections to Russia. That warrant, from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was obtained with dubious information gathered by a former British spy, House Republicans now claim.

Yet Page remains vocal about his admiration for Russia.

“U.S.-Russia relations has been dominated by misunderstandings throughout much of the past 70 years since the original McCarthy era,” he told Politico in January. “I harbor no ill will towards anyone for past xenophobic biases and only hope that justice is eventually served.”