The situation is getting curiouser and curiouser when it comes to Donald Trump, his aides and Russia. Now former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has said he “can’t deny” meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in July.
“I’m not going to deny that I talked with him,” the onetime foreign policy adviser for the campaign said Thursday on MSNBC. “I will say I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland,” where the GOP convention was held, he added, smiling and waving his hands. “Let’s just say that much.”
“The only time you met him was in Cleveland?” asked MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
Then Carter, sounding like a character out of “Alice in Wonderland,” added: “I may have met him, possibly; it might have been in Cleveland.”
There is a “pattern of this bizarre dissembling about the basic facts of the matter,” said Hayes. “Can you see why that reads to people as fishy?”
USA Today reported earlier that Page met with Kislyak at a diplomacy conference linked to the GOP convention along with J.D. Gordon, the campaign’s national security adviser. Page told the newspaper he could not explain what was discussed because of “confidentiality” issues. Gordon confirmed he had met with Kislyak, but said there was nothing unusual about such a meeting.
Page, a global energy consultant who works closely with Russian state-owned companies, has downplayed U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered with the presidential campaign in a bid to sway the election Trump’s way. Page was bounced from the campaign in September after he gave a controversial speech in Moscow in which he criticized U.S. foreign policy.
Page’s apparent “non-denial” of a meeting with Kislyak in Cleveland followed by just weeks another televised interview in which he denied ever meeting the Russian ambassador, who has been described in the press as a top spy and spy recruiter.
In a Feb. 15 interview on PBS, Page was asked if he’d ever met Kislyak in 2016 “in Russia, outside of Russia, anywhere.”
“I had no meetings,” Page said. “I might have said hello to people as they walked by me.”
He was asked again: “In other words, these [media] reports citing, in very specific detail, what intelligence agencies say they have discovered: continuous, repeated contacts between the campaign and Russia ... your’e saying that’s entirely made up? Is that what you’re saying?”
“It’s a nice way for the enemies of the administration ... to keep stirring this negative pot over and over again,” Page responded.
It’s beginning to look like it might be difficult to find anyone connected to the Trump campaign who didn’t meet with a Russian official.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stepped down last month after it was revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered he discussed sanctions against Russia with Kislyak weeks before Trump became president.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now recused himself from any investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia after it emerged that Sessions himself met twice last year with Kislyak, a fact he denied twice when questioned under oath during his confirmation hearings.