Carter Page, a former Trump adviser whom many have speculated could be among those next to face possible federal charges, has said he had “zero” concerns about the threat of action and believes Robert Mueller will prove there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia.
Speaking a day after Mr Mueller, the Special Prosecutor, revealed criminal indictments against three former Trump campaign associates - campaign manager Paul Manafort, Mr Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos - Mr Carter said: “I have nothing to fear.”
Mr Page, 46, an American oil industry consultant who was among those named by Mr Trump in March 2016 as advising him on foreign policy, said the former reality television star had made clear his desire to improve US-Russia relations.
....came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
Mr Page is named several times in the now infamous Steele Dossier as being among those Trump associates who met with senior Russians, including oil baron Igor Sechin and senior Kremlin official Igor Divyekin. He has denied meeting either man, although he has admitted visiting Russia in the summer of 2016 to deliver a graduation ceremony speech at a prestigious Moscow school and again in December 2016, when he met business leaders.
“My gut instinct is that this original focus [by the federal probe] to uncover Russian collusion, will find nothing,” Mr Page told The Independent. “My gut instinct, is that I am glad we are going to get to the truth and we have someone looking at this.”
Asked for his thoughts on Mr Mueller, a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War and former FBI Director, Mr Page said: “He’s a military veteran. He is a good man.”
Reports suggest FBI agents spent many hours interviewing Mr Page this summer as the federal probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election gathered pace, after Mr Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation in May.
He was asked to do so after Mr Trump fired FBI Director James Comey after voicing concern about the direction the investigation was taken and claiming Mr Comey was a “grandstander”.
Mr Page, who worked in Russia for Merrill Lynch, last week met with officials from the Senate Intelligence Committee for five hours and is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee this week. He appeared without the assistance of a lawyer.
The indictment against Mr Papadopoulos reveals that he has admitted lying to FBI agents about the nature of his conversations with an intermediary to the Russian government and a Russian national. Emails included in the indictment reveal Mr Papadopoulos was told that at least one of individuals with alleged connections to the Russian government wanted to provide “dirt” on Mr Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to MSNBC this week, Mr Page said he exchanged some emails with Mr Papadopoulos and that in some of those, Russia “may have come up.” Asked about this, Mr Page said on Tuesday any mention of Russia in an email chain was written by Mr Papadopoulos.
Mr Page likened the Steele Dossier, which was produced by Washington-based research firm Fusion GPS, which contracted former British MI6 operative Christopher Steele, to the 2003 so-called "dodgy dossier", produced by the British government of Tony Blair and designed to bolster the case for the invasion of Iraq. It was subsequently found to include many errors and examples of plagiarism.
Asked if he feared being charged, Mr Page said: “Charged for what? This dossier is totally false.”
He added: “I’m excited because we are going to get to to the bottom of the real intelligence.”
Mr Page said he had launched his own lawsuit against Verizon’s Oath Inc, the umbrella firm that overseas AOL and Yahoo, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which overseas Voice of America, for what he called a fake report - “perhaps the most dangerous, reckless, irresponsible and historically-instrumental moments in modern-day sensational crime story journalism” - which claimed he was being investigated for alleged links to the Kremlin.
Oath Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In recent days, Mr Trump and the White House have sought turn the focus away from Mr Mueller, by suggesting Ms Clinton should be investigated.
Mr Trump stepped up his rhetoric after it emerged that her campaign paid for GPS Fusion and Mr Steele to produce the dossier about him; the company was initially contracted by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who was keen to support Ted Cruz’s election run. Mr Trump has dismissed the contents of the dossier as lies.
Mr Trump has sought to distance himself from Mr Papadopoulos, repeating a White House line that he was just a volunteer. “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS,” he said on Twitter.
However, Mr Papadopoulos' case - the first criminal case to involve connections between the Trump campaign and Russia - clearly takes the investigation by Mr Mueller in a new direction. As well as the White House, a number of former officials have also sought to downplay the role of Mr Papdopoulos.
Michael Caputo, another former adviser to President Trump’s campaign called Mr Papadopoulos “the coffee boy” and “had nothing to do with the campaign.”
“I mean, you might have called him a foreign policy analyst,” Mr Caputo told CNN’s New Day.
“But in fact, you know, if he was going to wear a wire, all we’d know now is whether he prefers a caramel macchiato over a regular American coffee in conversations with his barista,” he added.
But further questions are being asked. Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman for President Donald Trump's campaign, is said to be "the campaign supervisor" referenced in the indictment papers relating to Mr Papadopoulous. The documents say that n August 2016, Mr Clovis responded to efforts by Mr Papadopoulos to organise an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials. “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible,”
Mr Clovis has since been nominated by Mr Trump to a top post at the US Department of Agriculture.Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told CNN that she is sending a detailed letter to Mr Clovis to press him further on his ties and communications with George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI during the Russia probe.
“It does raise another series of multiple red flags,” Ms Stabenow said.
Later in the day, in a statement released through a lawyer, Mr Clovis said he never encouraged Mr Papadopoulos to improve relations between the United States and Russia.
In a statement provided to Reuters, attorney Victoria Toensing said Clovis never said that "a principal foreign policy focus of the campaign was an improved US relationship with Russia" and that Mr Clovis opposed any Russian trip by Trump or campaign staff.
Responding to a question about the nomination of Mr Clovis at the daily White House press briefing, about whether Mr Trump was comfortable with his pick in light of the revelations about Mr Papdopoulos, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I’m not aware of any change on that front” when asked if the president is comfortable with Clovis, in light of Papadopoulos
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he saw nothing wrong with Mr Papadopoulos reaching out to a Kremlin-linked think tank.
The Russian International Relations Council has confirmed contact with Mr Papadopoulos, but said a meeting never took place. The council insisted that it was an independent advisory body and that it hosted many politicians at various public meetings, according to the Associated Press.
Mr Lavrov said he was getting bored by the story. “I’m already quite sceptical and losing interest in the news coming out of these investigations,” he told reporters.
Mr Manfort, and Mr Gates are under house arrest having pleaded not guilty to all charges against them, including charges that they funnelled payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their political work in Ukraine for a pro-Vladimir Putin party.
The foreign minister said it made more sense to look for allegations of criminality in Ukraine. After all, the indicted Mr Manafort had worked for Viktor Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government, he said.
“The Ukrainians have something to say about this,” he said. “They can tell you all about taking sides during the presidential election campaign.”
Other officials have looked to question the professionalism of the US investigation.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s pugnacious press officer, Maria Zakharova, criticised apparent inaccuracies in Mr Mueller’s investigation. The initial report referred to Yulia Tymoshenko as former president of Ukraine when, in fact, she was prime minister from 2007-2010.
According to Ms Zakharova, the error demonstrated the report had been thrown together at the last moment.“You understand that serious investigations don’t contain this type of thing,” she said.