At the heart of the recent Nunes memo controversy lies a FISA order application for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. But Page had piqued the interest of FBI investigators long before the Trump campaign, owing to his contacts with the Russian government and energy sector. For example, his 2013 contacts with Russian intelligence operatives who promised him business connections led to the FBI obtaining a FISA order against him in 2014. Likewise, Page touted himself as having had the “privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin” in a letter to a book publisher in 2013. Below find a timeline describing key events in Page’s contacts with the Russian government before, during, and after the Trump campaign.
2004 to 2007 – According to Page’s biography on the website of Global Energy Capital, his venture capital firm, he served as a vice president at the Merrill Lynch office in Moscow and remained there for three years. The bio adds that Page served as an adviser “on key transactions for Gazprom, RAO UES and others.” Page told Bloomberg News in March 2016 that he advised Russian energy giant Gazprom as it was buying a stake in a lucrative Russian Far East oil and gas project called Sakhalin II.
However, Politico later reported that the CEO of Sakhalin Energy, who negotiated with Gazprom on the deal, said that he didn’t know anyone named Carter Page and did not believe Merrill Lynch was involved with front-line deal negotiations at all, because the negotiations were political and done at the CEO level, with Putin himself giving the final approval.
A source from RAO UES confirmed that Page did work on the privatization of the oil company, while adding that “[Page] made no impression whatsoever. Whether he was there or not, it made no difference…When you’re dealing with a pro, you see it. Page, unfortunately, did not leave that impression.”
Similarly, Sergei Aleksashenko, who directed the Merrill Lynch office in Moscow for part of the time Page was there, told Politico: “[Page] wasn’t great and he wasn’t terrible…without any special talents or accomplishments…What can you say about a person who in no way [is] exceptional?”
Jan. to June 2013 – In January, Page meets Victor Podobnyy, whom he believes to be a junior attaché at the Russian consulate in New York, at an Asia Society event on energy development in China, according to Page’s House Intelligence Committee testimony. Page and Podobnyy meet again over drinks in March of that year, with Page saying that he wanted to meet Podobnyy to learn about Russian culture and practice the Russian language.
Over the course of that time, Page gives documents relating to the “energy business” to Podobnyy, who was actually working as an intelligence operative for Russia’s external intelligence agency. Page later tells BuzzFeed that their interactions did not include anything sensitive.
On June 13, 2013, court documents show that FBI agents interview Page for the first time in relation to his Podobnyy contacts. Page tells them that he has exchanged emails and met in person with Podobnyy over the past several months, sharing his views on the current and future energy industry. The documents state that Page has also provided Podobnyy with documents about the energy business.
Podobnyy: [Page] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could be rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money.
Podobnyy: […] For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot…
Podobnyy: I did not even indicate that this [Podobnyy’s offer to connect Page with Trade Representatives] is connected to a government agency. This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go ____ himself…This is ideal working method.
Aug. 25, 2013 – During a dispute over an unpublished manuscript, Page writes a letter to an academic press that states he is an adviser to the Kremlin, according to TIME. His letter says: “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.”
In messages to TIME after the release of the Nunes memo on Feb. 2, 2018, Page says he “sat in on and contributed to a few roundtable discussion with people from around the world” during 2013. Page describes the meetings as, “really plain-vanilla stuff…Does that make me an evil villain, as some of your sources would like to have you think?”
2013/14 – The FBI begins monitoring Page’s communications under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant relating to his 2013 contacts with Russian operatives, according to multiple U.S. officials briefed on the Russia investigation (reference: multiple news sources).
Jan. 23, 2015 – The U.S. government charges Podobnyy and two other Russian operatives for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, after it had broken up a Russian spy ring aimed at seeking information on U.S. sanctions. Federal prosecutors include the Russian intelligence effort to recruit Page as part of the government’s evidence.
Mar. 21, 2016 – In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump personally names the then-obscure Carter Page as part of his foreign policy team. News coverage at the time focused on how strange a choice this was given Page’s lack of experience:
WP: We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly… Any you can share with us?
Trump: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names…Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy…But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that’s a representative group.
Early June 2016 – At a closed-door foreign policy round table held for visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Page praises Putin as a stronger and more reliable leader than President Obama. He added that a Trump presidency would have a positive effective on U.S.-Russian relations. The meeting was held at Blair House in Washington, D.C.
Weeks before Page’s trip to Russia – Corey Lewandowski approves Carter Page’s trip to Moscow on the condition that he not act as an official campaign representative. Page had initially asked J.D. Gordon, his direct supervisor on the national security team, for permission to take a trip to Russia. After Gordon strongly advised against the trip, Page emailed Lewandowski and Hope Hicks for their permission, and Lewandowski agreed. The Trump campaign would refuse to acknowledge whether it had approved Page’s trip for several months until Politico broke the story.
Page tells CNN in an interview that, in June 2016, he told Attorney General Jeff Sessions, head of the Trump campaign national security team at the time, that he was planning on traveling to Russia. He says that he informed Sessions about the trip “in passing” following a group dinner meeting of campaign aides. It was the only time Page ever met Sessions.
July 7 and 8, 2016 – Page gives a rambling Power Point presentation and Q&A on “the future of the world economy” in Moscow, and the next day, gives the commencement address for the New Economic School at the World Trade Center, criticizing U.S. policy toward Russia for being too harsh.
Page later testifies to the House Intel Committee that he met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, an interaction he briefly characterized as an exchange of pleasantries after the New Economic School address. He adds there was “no substantive content” in any of his interactions with Russian officials during his trip to Moscow. Page also testifies that he met with Andrey Baranov, Rosneft’s head of investor relations and a senior aide to Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. Page claims that Baranov gave him “an investor relations presentation,” but their discussions involved “nothing more substantive than that.”
Page adds: “In terms of anything sanctions-related, we never got into those types of specifics in any way, shape, or form. And what I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was never any negotiations or any quid pro quo or any offer or any request, even, in any way related to sanctions.”
Page denies meeting with Rosneft CEO Sechin himself, who is a close Putin ally and is subject to U.S. sanctions. The Steele dossier claimed that Page had met with Sechin while in Russia, as well as Igor Diveykin, Putin’s deputy chief for internal policy, whom U.S. officials believe was responsible for Russian agencies’ intelligence-gathering about the 2016 election. According to the dossier, during their meeting, Diveykin told Page that he had compromising material on Hillary Clinton.
July 20, 2016 – Page meets with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. In spite of this meeting, Page continues to deny publicly that he met with any Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
Aug. 5, 2016 – Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells the Washington Post that Page is an “informal foreign policy adviser…[he] does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”
Aug. 29, 2016 – Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) writes a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey calling for an investigation into evidence suggesting that Russia may try to manipulate the results of the 2016 election. In it, he indirectly refers to Carter Page’s speech in Moscow criticizing U.S. sanctions policy toward Russia.
Sept. 23, 2016 – Yahoo News reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Page engaged in private communications with senior Russian officials, including talks about a potential lifting of economic sanctions should Trump be elected President. The report adds that Page’s activities have been discussed with senior members of Congress during briefings about suspected Russian attempts to influence the election, and that Sen. Reid wrote his August letter to Comey after one of those briefings.
Meanwhile, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller tells Yahoo that Page “has no role…We are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.”
Sept. 24, 2016 – Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign’s director of rapid response, mirrors Miller’s comments, telling ABC News:
He [Page] has no role…We are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.
He’s certainly not part of the campaign I’m running, meaning we don’t have him — we have a number of people, fabulous people, men and women, as part of our national security and foreign policy team. And he’s not among them at Trump Tower.
Tapper asks if Page had any contact with Kremlin officials, to which Conway responds:
If he’s doing that, he’s certainly not doing it with the permission or knowledge of the campaign, the activities that you described…He is certainly not authorized to do that.
Sept. 25, 2016 – Page sends a letter to then-FBI Director Comey, stating: “For the record, I have not met this year with any sanctioned official in Russia despite the fact that there are no restrictions on U.S. persons speaking with such individuals.”
He also writes that he has sold his “de minimis” stake in Russian energy giant Gazprom at a loss. Bloomberg News reported on Page’s “deep ties” to Gazprom in March, but a Politico account in Sept. suggested Page exaggerated his contacts with Gazprom. Politico notes that when Page founded an investment fund called Global Energy Capital in 2008, former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko served as a partner in the venture.
Sept. 26, 2016 – In his first public comments about accusations that he met with Russian officials, Page tells the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin: “All of these accusations are just complete garbage.” He adds: “All the ones that are mentioned in the various articles, I didn’t meet with any of those guys…It’s completely false and inconceivable that someone would even accuse me of that.” Page admits, however, that he did briefly meet and shake hands with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, a fellow speaker at the New Economic School commencement address.
Page also tells Rogin that he will take a leave of absence from the Trump campaign: “This is another distraction that’s been created here…There’s so little time between now and the election, this is in the best interests of the candidate. It’s so ridiculous I want to have it behind us.”
Sept./Oct. 2016 – According to ABC News, Page travels to Hungary to hold high-level foreign policy meetings with senior Hungarian officials, exchanges that eventually draw the attention of congressional investigators, given Hungary’s role as a Russian intelligence hub. In September, Page has a 45-minute meeting with with Jeno Megyesy, a senior adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Megyesy confirmed to ABC that he met Page at the request Reka Szemerkenyi, Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time. Page had met with Szemerkenyi herself at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July 2016. And he also met her in Budapest in September, and then again in Washington, D.C., in October 2016.
When questioned about his Hungary meetings by the House Intelligence Committee, Page says that he could not recall with whom he met, or whether he met with any Russians while in Hungary:
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “You don’t remember the names of anyone you met with or what their positions were in the Hungarian government?”
Page: “Not right now…I can’t recall.”
Schiff: “And while you were in Budapest, did you meet with any Russian natives or representatives of the Russian government?”
Page: “Not that I can recall…There may — again similar to — we went to a — you know, there was a hotel, and we had a coffee at a hotel, and there were a few people passing through. There may have been one Russian person passing through there. But I have no recollection because it was totally immaterial and nothing serious was discussed. So — but I vaguely recall that, there may have been someone that we, you know –”
Schiff: “I am asking you about a Hungarian Government official with which you stayed in touch after you left the country, and you can’t tell us his name. You can’t tell us what government agency he might have been with. You can’t tell us in particular what you discussed. You can’t tell us much of anything.”
Page: “Because my life has been completely changed in the last 15 months, and it is a distant memory of a world I used to live in before the death threats and all the crazy attacks and the dozens of media requests I get a day asking questions of similar to what we discussed a couple of hours ago, about whether or not I ever met Papadopoulos, right? When you are getting — when I have gotten a hundred Papadopoulos questions over the last 48 hours, it’s hard to remember who I met 15 months ago, frankly.”
Oct. 21, 2016 – The Justice Department and the FBI apply for and obtain a FISA probable cause order to surveil Page’s electronic communications, according to the memo authored by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The memo states that the FBI and DOJ obtain three renewals of the order. Under the FISA statute 50 U.S.C. §1805(d)(1)), orders to surveil U.S. persons must be renewed every 90 days, suggesting Page’s was renewed in January, April, and July of 2017. The Washington Post had reported prior to the memo’s release that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order was obtained on Oct. 19, 2016.
The FBI had previously surveilled Page in 2014, and renewed its interest in him in 2016 because it initially viewed him as a potential victim being targeted by Russian intelligence.
Dec. 8 through 13, 2016 – Just one month after the election, Page travels to Russia again, telling state-operated RIA Novosti news service, “I am meeting with business leaders and thought leaders.” But he would later testify before the House Intelligence Committee that on this trip, he had private meetings with both Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Rosneft investor relations chief Andrey Baranov. Page adds that an unnamed banker attended his lunch with Baranov.
On December 12, at a public lecture in Moscow, Page admits that he met with a Rosneft official, and touts his connections to President Trump:
I did have the opportunity to meet with an executive of Rosneft, and I think unfortunately it’s a great example, where this recent deal, which Glenn Corp in Qatar was able to move forward with, unfortunately, United States actors were constrained, and I think there’s a lot of ways where, you know, a lot of the impact of sanctions has really affected individuals form the U.S. side much more so than we’ve seen in Russia.
You know, I think, again, I’m not, I have no role in the administration, officially or unofficially, at all, and I think, in any event, it’s quite early to speculate on this, again, there’s a lot to be optimistic about though, just looking at the strength of leadership that has started to take position, you know, being appointed to in Washington. And I think, you know, it’s a reflection of the great enthusiasm you have from these individuals.
I made a commitment not to talk about the internal work that I did at the campaign, but I’ve certainly been in a number of meetings with Trump, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him.
Jan. 12, 2017 – Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denies that Trump knows who Carter Page is at President-elect Trump’s first news conference: “Carter Page is an individual whom the President-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”
Feb. 15, 2017 – In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Page says that he had no meetings with Russian officials in 2016:
I had no meetings, no meetings…I might have said hello to a few people as they were walking by me at my graduation — the graduation speech that I gave in July, but no meetings.
March 2, 2017 – In a reversal of his previous comments, Page tells MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that “I do not deny that [that I met with Russian Amb. Sergey Kislyak].” He adds, “I’m not going to deny that I talked with him…I will say that I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland, let’s just say that much.”
The interview comes on the heels of USA Today first reporting that Page was one of two campaign officials other than Sessions who met with Kislyak on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18-21, 2016. Page cites “confidentiality rules” in refusing to say what he discussed with Kislyak, adding: “I had no substantive discussions with him.” However, Page’s invocation of confidentiality rules in itself suggests that he is trying to protect the contents of his substantive discussions with Kislyak at the Global Partners for Diplomacy conference, which took place on the sidelines of the Convention.
Mar. 3, 2017 – In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Page suggests he is unsure whether Russia ever interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, and offers as an alternative that the U.S. has interfered in the internal affairs of Ukraine.
COOPER: Your legitimacy on this, your credibility on this does seem under question if you’re completely unwilling to look at anything Russia may or may not have done to even entertain the notion that Vladimir Putin would be capable — I mean I read some quote you read during your speech in Moscow and I wish I had it in front of me, basically it’s a quote by Vladimir Putin which says — here it is. He said, we never meddle in the internal political affairs of other countries, unlike the U.S., do you believe Vladimir Putin?
PAGE: I think what he is saying — the point I was trying to make is that I don’t — I don’t — I’m not here — I made very clear that I was not there as part of the Trump camp — Trump campaign.
COOPER: Do you believe that Russia meddles in the internal political affairs of other countries?
PAGE: I don’t know anything about that. All I do know —
COOPER: You don’t know anything about that?
COOPER: You honestly can say — you have a PhD, right? You honestly can say about you don’t know anything about whether Russia meddles in the internal affairs of other countries?
PAGE: I –you know, in the context of my life all which, you know, all these defamation approach by the Clinton campaign to drag my name out —
COOPER: Carter, you’re not making sense. Yes or no. You can just tell me, yeah, I do not believe that Russia ever meddles in the internal political affairs of other countries or yes, I believe they do.
PAGE: Listen I mean, you know, they may — I think all countries, you know, are — certainly the U.S., if you look at what happened in Ukraine, right, on –
COOPER: — the U.S. meddled in internal — of course. The CIA —
PAGE: — exactly. So, yeah, I think that’s a fair statement.
Mar. 9, 2017 – George Papadopoulos tells the Associated Press that he has met Page only “once very briefly.” The AP article describes Page’s connections to Russia and his disavowal by Trump himself and other campaign staff.
Apr. 4, 2017 – Page makes an official statement confirming his role in the Justice Department’s 2015 spy case against Russian undercover operative Evgeny Buryakov, who had posed as a New York bank executive.
He writes: “As I explained to federal authorities prior to the January 2015 filing of this case, I shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents” with Podobnyy.
He adds: “In doing so, I provided him nothing more than a few samples from the far more detailed lectures I was preparing at the time for the students in my Spring 2013 semester ‘Energy and the World: Politics, Markets and Technology’ course which I taught on Saturdays at New York University.”
Apr. 13, 2017 – Page tells ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos that he has “no recollection” of discussing relief from U.S. sanctions on Russia during his trip to Moscow in July 2016, though he adds “something may have come up in a conversation…I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression…Someone may have brought it up…And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.” Page adds: “I never offered that [Trump] might be interested in easing sanctions on Russia” but qualifies that, “I don’t recall every single word.”
Oct. 30, 2017 – Unsealed court records reveal that Trump aide Papadopoulos was arrested in July for lying to the FBI about his communications with Russians. Carter Page tells MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: “We [Papadopoulos and I] met briefly a couple times early in the campaign, yeah.”
Hayes: Were you guys on e-mail chains together, you and Papadopoulos?
Page: Look, there is a lot of emails all over the place when you’re in a campaign.
Hayes: Were you in email chains with Papadopoulos?
Page: Probably a few, yeah.
Hayes: Were you on email chains with him about Russia?
Page: It may have come up from time to time…again, y’know, there’s nothing…nothing major, yeah.
Hayes: Well, I mean, nothing major. It was enough for him to lie to federal investigators about and then plead guilty to that he was having an intermediary come to him and say you should come to London and talk to someone who has Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
Page: Listen, I’ve been focused on other things today…
Nov. 2, 2017 – The New York Times reports that Page testifies before the House Intelligence Committee, revealing that he met with Russian officials during his July and December 2016 trips to Moscow, among other things. Politico reports that Page invokes his Fifth Amendment rights when asked why he had not turned in documents relating to the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “I’m helping to the greatest extent I can,” Page told reporters after the testimony.