TrumpWatch, Day 291: Top Trump Advisors Approved Page’s Meetings with High-Level Russians

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Former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page speaks to reporters, November 2, 2017

Trump campaign manager Lewandowski approved Carter Pagge’s July 2016 trip


Developments on Day 291 of the Trump Administration:

Trump Advisors Approved Page Visit, Including with Kremlin Officials and Staff of Russian Energy Companies

Senior members of the Trump campaign approved the trip of “foreign policy advisor” Carter Page to Moscow in July 2016, including meetings with senior staff of a major Russian oil company and Kremlin officials.

Page’s 7 1/2 hours of testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, given last Thursday, was released yesterday in a 200-page transcript.

Read the transcript

Page, announced as one of five foreign policy advisors by Donald Trump in March 2016, had said that his journey to Moscow was in a private capacity and unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.

But he replaced this story with a series of revelations in the testimony. He said he sought permission from campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; told the head of Trump’s national security team, Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General; and notified campaign staffer J.D. Gordon and Hope Hicks, Trump’s confidante and the current White House communications director.

Page told the committee that Lewandowski said he was clear to go on the trip as long as the travel was not officially associated with work on the campaign. He said Sessions “advised nothing”.

But Page spoke of ongoing contacts with the senior staff, after he was shown an e-mail he sent to campaign supervisors about the trip. He detailed the meetings, including with Kremlin officials, and said that they provided him with insights and outreach that he was sharing with the campaign”.

Page e-mailed campaign official Gordon on July 8 that he had received “some incredible insights” from “meetings with Russian legislators and a few members of the presidential administration”.

A former Merrill Lynch staffer and then a self-proclaimed oil industry consultant, Page said he was aware that another foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, was pursuing a meeting between Trump officials and the Russians and that Papadopoulos was meeting with a London-based academic, Joseph Mifsud, with links to the Kremlin.

In the first conviction in the Trump-Russia inquiry, Papadopoulos pled guilty in early October to lying to investigators. Reportedly coooperating with the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he has detailed months of initiatives for Trump-Russian contacts, including a pre-election meeting between Trump and Putin.

The campaign’s line manager for Papadopoulos, Sam Clovis, discussed the Moscow trip with Page before and after the journey, according to Thursday’s testimony.

See Timeline: Trump-Russia Connections and Clinton’s E-mails

Page’s testimony also confirmed the report, first circulated in a dossier collected by a former British intelligence officer last year, that he met with officials from Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom.

Page met Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at the Russian oil company Rosneft, before he went to Russia and that he then met an investor relations official at Gazprom while in Moscow in both July and in December.

The Steele dossier claims, from unnamed Russian sources, that Page was in discussions with Rosneft head Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin, Vladimir Putin’s deputy chief for internal policy. It says the conversation included the possibility of a 20% brokerage stake in the privatization of Rosneft, in return for an easing of US sanctions under a Trump Administration.

In December, Rosneft sold a 19.5% stake to the commodities trader Glencore.

Russian Lawyer: I Discussed Sanctions Deal with Trump Jr.

Changing her story, Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she discussed a deal for removal of sanctions on Russia in a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Veselnitskaya said in an interview with Moscow that the discussion, prompted by a Russian offer of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, considered the lifting of the 2012 Magnitsky Law, adopted by Congress to punish Russian human rights abuses.

The lawyer said that she will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, and that she is also ready to speak with the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

According to Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. said:

Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it.

She said that Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded US taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign, but that she did not have any and the 20-minute meeting was a failure.

Veselnitskaya said she had told Trump Jr. of information that Clinton’s campaign may have received some of almost $1 billion that Ziff Brothers Investments had gained from Russian investments which supposedly avoided tax payments.

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