Page's Moscow talk said to have spurred FBI inquiry

Posted: April 20, 2017 at 4:05 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- Ever since FBI investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Page. So when he became a foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau's attention.

That trip in July was a catalyst for the FBI investigation into connections between Russia and Trump's campaign, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

After Page -- a Navy veteran and businessman who lived in Moscow from 2004-2007 -- stepped down from the Trump campaign in September, the FBI obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing the authorities to monitor his communications on the suspicion that he was a Russian agent.

Current and former law enforcement officials said that when the FBI opened its investigation, agents were just beginning to explore whether Trump's advisers had contacts with Russian officials or intelligence operatives. In the months that followed, they said, intelligence and law enforcement officials gathered more extensive information about contacts and communications, including intercepts of Russian officials discussing Page and other Trump associates.

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In his talk at the New Economic School in Moscow, Page criticized U.S. policy toward Russia in terms that echoed the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin, declaring, "Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change."

Page's relationship with Trump appears to have been fleeting. According to former Trump campaign officials, the two men have never met, though Page has said he attended meetings where Trump was present.

And Page's role in the Trump campaign appears to have been minimal. Former campaign officials play down his significance, saying Page had no ID badge, desk or email address from the campaign.

After The Washington Post broke the news last week of the court warrant the FBI had obtained, Page defended his bona fides and said he was the victim of a smear campaign by officials from former President Barack Obama's administration and by aides to Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Information for this article was contributed by Nicholas Confessore, Andrew E. Kramer, Michael S. Schmidt and Kitty Bennett of The New York Times.

A Section on 04/20/2017