Donald Trump’s former adviser Carter Page tells House committee about 2016 Russia trip

Click to play video: 'Trump dogged by Russia questions on Asia tour' Trump dogged by Russia questions on Asia tour
WATCH: Trump dogged by Russia questions on Asia tour – Nov 4, 2017

WASHINGTON – A former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign has acknowledged in testimony to Congress that he had contact with a high-level Russian official while on a trip to Russia last year, according to a transcript released Monday.

Carter Page, an unpaid adviser who left the campaign before Trump was elected, told the House intelligence committee last week that he “briefly said hello to” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich when he travelled to Russia for a speech. Under repeated questions about the contact – which he had at times denied in the past – Page said that he had spoken to Dvorkovich after his July 2016 speech at Moscow’s New Economic School.

WATCH: Trump: “I don’t remember much” about Russia meeting

Click to play video: 'Trump: “I don’t remember much” about Russia meeting' Trump: “I don’t remember much” about Russia meeting
Trump: “I don’t remember much” about Russia meeting – Nov 3, 2017

“It was a very brief interaction. It was some nice pleasantries. I cannot recall the precise words I said, but it was sort of best wishes, and, you know, that’s about it,” Page said in response to several questions about the contact.

Story continues below advertisement

The testimony was part of the committee’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether it is linked to Trump’s campaign. Page’s trip raised questions just as the FBI began its counterintelligence investigation into the Russian meddling in the summer of 2016, and he has offered contradictory accounts about whom he met there – at one point telling The Associated Press that he hadn’t met with Dvorkovich. But his testimony on Thursday was under oath.

Page was interviewed in March for several hours as part of the FBI probe, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over. Page wouldn’t answer questions about his contact with Mueller.

The House panel released the transcript as part of its agreement with Page, who was subpoenaed by the committee in early October. Parts of the transcript are redacted, even though lawmakers started the discussion by saying it would be unclassified.

READ MORE: Donald Trump goes on Twitter rant against Russia investigation

Page told the panel he had informed some members of the Trump campaign about the Russia trip, including then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. He said he mentioned in passing to Sessions, who is now attorney general, that he was preparing to visit Russia and Sessions “had no reaction whatsoever.”

The testimony could raise more questions about the extent of Sessions’ knowledge about interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians. Sessions recused himself from overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaign in March after acknowledging two previously undisclosed conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Since then, Sessions has downplayed his own knowledge about communications between campaign aides and Russian officials and intermediaries.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: White House officials named in Paradise Papers linked to Russian money


Click to play video: 'White House officials named in Paradise Papers linked to Russian money' White House officials named in Paradise Papers linked to Russian money
White House officials named in Paradise Papers linked to Russian money – Nov 6, 2017

Page has insisted – and continued to insist in the interview – that the trip was personal and not campaign related.

However, the committee produced an email during the interview in which Page wrote to campaign officials and asked them to let him know “if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you’d prefer me to focus these remarks,” apparently referring to the speech he was giving in Moscow.

He also suggested that Trump take his place at the speech – a suggestion that appeared to go nowhere.

READ MORE: Donald Trump this week: A who’s who from the Trump camp in wake of Mueller’s 1st charges

In a statement prepared for the committee, Page insisted that he had no personal information that the Russian government or anyone affiliated with it played any role in the 2016 presidential campaign. He said he was not approached by anyone during the trip who led him to believe they were planning to interfere in the election.

Story continues below advertisement

Under questioning at the hearing, Page depicted himself as an unpaid member of a campaign foreign policy team that met infrequently and provided him with no direct access to Trump.

“I have never met him in my life,” Page said of Trump. “I’ve been in a lot of meetings with him, and I’ve learned a lot from him, but never actually met him face to face.”

Page said he had no direct relationship with the Russian government, though he conceded that he may have spoken with different Russian government officials over the years.

At another point in the interview, Page was asked about his relationship with George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser whose guilty pleas to lying to the FBI about his foreign contacts was unsealed last week.

Page said he had “very limited” interaction with Papadopoulos and suggested that the last time he had seen him was in June 2016 at a dinner he said was organized by Sessions, who at the time was a prominent Trump campaign aide and supporter.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, pressured Page on what he suggested were inconsistencies in his testimony and past statements.

He noted how Page told the committee that he had met only one Russian government official during his July 2016 trip to Russia, and yet had told campaign officials in email that he had received valuable insights from legislators and senior members of the Russian presidential administration.

Story continues below advertisement

“Are you being honest in your testimony?” Schiff asked. “Because it doesn’t seem possible for both to be true.”

Page said the insights he was referring to were based on materials he had read in the press, “similar to my listening to President Trump in the various speeches that I heard of his.”

Sponsored content