Politics & Government

Ex-Trump aides push for end to Russia saga

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, speaks at a news conference at RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 12, 2016. Page said he was in Moscow on a visit to meet with businessmen and politicians.
Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, speaks at a news conference at RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 12, 2016. Page said he was in Moscow on a visit to meet with businessmen and politicians. AP

Two political advisers to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign embroiled in the political storm over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections are challenging law enforcement and the intelligence community to show their cards or move on.

Carter Page, a former Trump Russia adviser, told McClatchy on Friday that he has asked the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton because her presidential campaign smeared his reputation.

Former Trump adviser and longtime confidant Roger Stone said Thursday that he was willing to testify before Congress and was eager for the Justice Department to investigate Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

The two men are believed to be among a handful of Trump loyalists under scrutiny for allegations that Trump’s campaign could have had contact with Russians who interfered in last fall's presidential election.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.

FBI Director James Comey went to Capitol Hill on Friday to give members of the Senate Intelligence Committee a closed-door briefing.

National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was fired earlier this week amid revelations that he wasn’t forthcoming about conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador regarding U.S. sanctions weeks before Trump was sworn in.

PTrump insists there are no ties to Russia, but five congressional panels are investigating and at least 55 Democrats have called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself as an FBI probe continues. Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, was an early Trump supporter and later played an important role in the president’s campaign.

Few Republicans have joined that call, but Stone told McClatchy that he supports a Justice Department probe because he has nothing to hide. He steadfastly denied dealings with Russia. Stone’s behavior last summer, however, raised questions. Months before Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s hacked emails became public, Stone warned of a campaign twist. Last August, he tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon (be) Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Stone has said he knew of WikiLeaks releases because he had a mutual friend with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who gave him general information.

In October, Podesta emails were published on WikiLeaks, and he told reporters: “It’s a reasonable conclusion that Mr. Stone had advanced warning and the Trump campaign had advanced warning about what Assange was going to do.”

Having known Trump for four decades, Stone said there were no such ties to Russia or its meddling campaign and that he was confident enough to testify before lawmakers.

“I would relish the opportunity to testify in public before Congress,” Stone said, adding that it wouldn’t take a subpoena to get him there. “I’d probably come voluntarily.”

“I’ve never been formally notified of any investigation,” said Stone, adding that he doesn’t have an attorney counseling him. “Any fair, unbiased investigation would be fine with me. I don’t believe the president or I have anything to fear.”

While Stone initially favored an investigation overseen by Sessions, he said he now believes that Sessions should recuse himself.

Meanwhile, Page has gone on the offensive, calling on the Justice Department, in a letter sent Sunday, to investigate the Clinton campaign. He alleges that campaign conducted election meddling of its own.

“I am writing to request your urgent review of the severe election fraud in the form of disinformation, suppression of dissent, hate crimes and other extensive abuses led by members of Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their political allies last year,” Carter Page wrote in a letter to the department’s Civil Rights Division.

Page was an unknown in political circles when Trump mentioned him as a foreign policy adviser during an editorial board meeting last March at The Washington Post. He had worked as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in Moscow, and he runs a private equity firm called Global Energy Capital that seeks investment in developing markets.

Page delivered a commencement address in July at the New Economic School, a Moscow university, that attacked U.S. policy. A television station owned by right-wing Russian nationalist Konstantin Malofeev gave Page attention for his visit, and an affiliated website, Katehon, published Page’s speech and praised him. Questions about his connections with Moscow started soon afterward.

That same month, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks published almost 20,000 emails leaked after a hack of the Democratic National Committee, which embarrassed Clinton and party leaders. The Russia government on July 18 denied involvement.

Page resigned from the campaign in September, saying he did not want to be a distraction.

Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, who this week again denied any Russia ties, quit on Aug. 19. Manafort spent almost a decade in Ukraine earning millions advising pro-Russian oligarchs and consulting for the pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich until 2014, when Yanukovich fled to Russia.

Federal authorities have been investigating possible intercepted communications and financial transactions between Russia and Page, Manafort and Stone, The New York Times reported last month.

Page, Manafort and Flynn also all are mentioned as having contact with Russia in a research dossier compiled for Trump’s opponents by former British spy Christopher Steele. The report accuses the Trump campaign of colluding with the hacking plot, but its contents are largely uncorroborated. In the dossier, Page is said to have met with the second-most-powerful man in Russia, Igor Sechin, the head of the state-controlled oil company Rosneft. Page has denied this.

On Friday, Page declined to say who brought him into the campaign or to discuss if or what the FBI has asked of him.

“I’m no longer answering/talking about the same lies that have been cast against me since last summer,” he wrote. “Been there, done that.”

Page complained that his business associates and clients have been harassed as a result of the negative attention. But he said he would do it all again.

“The six months I served as a lieutenant in that movement has more meaning to me than the five years I spent as an officer in U.S. military during the Clinton administration,” he wrote. “I have no regrets whatsoever, other than the fact that I had falsely assumed the common human dignity of our campaign’s opponents and did not start fighting back earlier.”

Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent.