Former Donald Trump campaign national security adviser Carter Page had the Trump campaign’s permission for his controversial speech in Moscow in July 2016, Page told USA TODAY.
Page confirmed he asked the campaign for permission in June before making the trip to Moscow and campaign management cleared him to do so, as long as he acted as a private citizen and not a representative of the campaign. Page declined to publicly name the person.
“I’m confirming that information,” Page told USA TODAY when asked about getting approval from the campaign.
For months, Trump officials tried to distance the campaign from Page after his speech at the New Economic School in Moscow, which drew intense political scrutiny because he called aspects of U.S. foreign policy “hypocritical” and sharply criticized America’s sanctions against Russia. In the weeks that followed, Trump campaign aides first said he was only an informal adviser, while others said he had no role at all, though Trump himself had publicly named Page as an adviser.
Corey Lewandowski, who was President Trump’s campaign manager until June 20, 2016, in an interview with USA TODAY on Monday both denied granting Page permission to travel to Moscow in his capacity as a private individual and also said he couldn't remember whether he had or not. In that interview, Lewandowski gave a litany of contradictory answers about Page's involvement in the campaign.
“I'm very clear about this," he said. "I granted nobody permission to do that."
Lewandowski said he has never had a conversation with Page and has never met him. However, he said he was unsure whether he had communicated with Page by email.
“I can’t say unequivocally I’ve never responded to an email to somebody,” Lewandowski said.
In an audio recording of a March 21, 2016 editorial board meeting at The Washington Post, Trump is heard asking Lewandowski, who was also present, to hand him a list of national security advisers he was announcing. Trump announced members of the national security advisory committee at the meeting, including Page.
In the interview with USA TODAY this week, Lewandowski said he did not remember if Page was on the national security advisory committee.
“It’s possible,” he said. “I don’t recall it.”
In his July 7, 2016 speech at the New Economic School in Moscow, Page spoke about U.S. foreign policy, and made clear that he was speaking in his capacity as a private individual as the campaign had asked him to do. “I’m speaking with you today just as a private citizen and as a business executive,” he said. “So this lecture only reflects my own ideas which I’ve developed over years past.” However, an announcement posted July 5 on New Economic School's Facebook page describes Page as an adviser to the Trump campaign.
Later in July, Page attended events connected to the 2016 Republican National Convention, along with other members of the national security advisory team. There, both Page and Sessions both spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as part of a program attended by dozens of diplomats. Disclosure of the discussions between Trump campaign officials and Kislyak last week contradicted months of denials by Trump officials that there was any communication with the Russian government.
Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016 amid controversy over his speech. In a letter last month to the Department of Justice, Page said the controversy was politically motivated. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating alleged Russian influence on 2016 U.S. elections, has contacted Page and requested that he preserve materials related to Russia.
In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Lewandowski said, "I don’t know who Carter Page is."