When President Donald Trump granted Attorney General William Barr broad powers to declassify documents related to government spying during the 2016 presidential election, what went through former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page’s mind?
Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek sat down with Page, the founder and managing partner of Global Natural Gas Ventures, who was a volunteer adviser to the Trump 2016 campaign and a central character described in the discredited “Steele dossier.”
They discussed the defamation lawsuits that Page has launched, how being investigated by the FBI affected both his personal and professional life, his pre-campaign contacts with the FBI, and his take on how Trump is dealing with the whole situation.
Jan Jekielek: So, Carter, where to start? You were the central figure of the so-called Steele dossier, and some pretty horrible things were written about you in there. It was used as a pretext to obtain a FISA warrant, which was then renewed repeatedly. And then, multiple members of the Trump campaign and, later, the administration were spied on as a result. You’ve actually filed a defamation lawsuit over some of the stuff that was in the dossier or perhaps all of it. Where do things stand with that?
Carter Page: So, I have a few suits. One … was the initial suit I filed in the Southern District of New York in September 2017. There was a lot of false pleadings by the U.S. Department of Justice, prior to Barr coming into office. And so, that’s on appeal right now. We should have oral arguments at some point … over the summer, I believe. And I have a separate case against—eventually, we learned beyond the defamatory news reports—in October 2017, we learned that it was actually the DNC and Perkins Coie that was behind that. So I have a case against … there’s a lot of falsehoods there.
So I’m considering options now that the truth is starting to come out, because they’ve been really resisting telling the world about the reality of where that stands. They’re both works in progress, but I’m confident that now that we have a Justice Department that’s looking to address these criminal activities, I think we should have a lot more truth, and I’m cautiously optimistic that things will proceed well in that regard.
Mr. Jekielek: In a moment, I want to ask you a little more about this Oklahoma lawsuit. But before I do, when President Trump authorized the attorney general to declassify, what went through your mind?
Mr. Page: I think each of those individuals [Trump and Barr] are people that have great character and want to see what’s best for the country. President Trump, first of all, and Attorney General Barr, listening to him, originally in his testimony in Congress for his confirmation hearings … it’s obvious that he’s a solid set of hands. I’m a former Naval officer, and I remember there were some captains who really have great command of a ship, and others who are more likely to run the ship aground. And I think we’ve had a long situation over recent years where things have really gone off the rails in the U.S. Department of Justice. I think the steps he’s been taking to reform the situation at DOJ and address head-on these crimes that were committed [are] a positive step forward.
Mr. Jekielek: Is there anything in particular that you are looking to see declassified?
Mr. Page: I think it’s just been so ridiculous from the very beginning in terms of these falsehoods. It’ll be interesting to see how outrageous some of their assumptions were. Everything I’ve seen thus far is just—as more details come out, it just becomes, on the face of it, so outrageous that it’s just … I’m glad that the full truth is starting to get out there. I think step by step, things are looking a lot better.
Mr. Jekielek: Tell me a little bit more about this lawsuit. I mean, you were, essentially, you’ve been defamed as being an agent of a foreign power. All of this resulted in death threats originating from Oklahoma, and so forth. And this is a piece of this lawsuit. Can you tell us more about the details?
Mr. Page: Well, I think, there’s two approaches. I think what’s come out is, I was always very confidential about my support of the U.S. government, both as a source for the FBI, as well as the CIA. This in comparison—and I was always a volunteer, if the U.S. government asked me to help with something or provide insights and information, I always tried to give them the most accurate information available, and I was always happy to help. Now, compare that to these false insights or, made-up stories that the DNC consultants were feeding to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, and it’s just two polar different worlds.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. And so tell me about these death threats?
Mr. Page: It’s unfortunate. I think there are different levels of libel and defamation. When it goes so far that … really, the brunt of the injury was in Oklahoma. I kept getting these calls, running for a year from October 2016 all the way until October 2017. And unfortunately, I asked for the FBI’s support on that, in this long series of interviews I had with them in March 2017. And not only did they do nothing, but they kept leaking more false information or things that really put me in a negative light, and they only continued. It’s pretty unfortunate.
Mr. Jekielek: So, well, let’s jump back to the beginning of it, OK? So you are, you know, according to the special counsel, you were actually introduced to the Trump campaign by Ed Cox. Is that right?
Mr. Page: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: How did that happen? How did that introduction happen?
Mr. Page: Ed Cox is a great guy who I’ve known for a long time. And I was very enthusiastic about candidate Trump when he announced in June 2015. I had been traveling a lot and working a lot. But, toward the end of 2015, I reached out to Ed and mentioned that I was very enthusiastic. And I actually previously worked with … or I was a member of the New York delegation in 2008 for Senator McCain, who I knew for most of my life—I got to originally meet him while I was at the U.S. Naval Academy. … Ed’s been a great guy, and I mentioned that I was interested, and he passed my name along.
Mr. Jekielek: And what about Sam Clovis? How was he involved in those early days?
Mr. Page: Sam is a really incredible U.S. military veteran … he’s been a teacher, he’s been … a squadron commander in the U.S. Air Force, an entrepreneur, just a great individual. So I got to know him a little bit during the campaign. It’s really unfortunate that he got dragged through so much of this craziness. So many lives were really put through the wringer. And Sam is one of those people who is high on that list, in terms of people whose lives were negatively affected.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned that you had dealings with the FBI prior to the campaign, actually quite a bit from what I understand. This wasn’t really mentioned in the Mueller report at all. Do you think this is a fair omission?
Mr. Page: Well, look, I think they were … every paragraph about me was basically spun, to this sort of, not really providing the full story. And I got the sense that it was—which I thought was the same for a lot of people—most vividly with President Trump. I think it’s things that have an obvious partisan agenda and, unfortunately, didn’t really give the full sense of reality. You asked about the death threats. That’s one example. I had told the special counsel when I was in the grand jury with them about that. And [while] they mentioned a lot of the things I had talked about, none of that was mentioned. So rather than showing everything that we were going through, it’s just things to essentially paint Trump supporters in the most negative light possible.
Mr. Jekielek: What was the nature of your interactions with the FBI prior to all this?
Mr. Page: Well, look, I typically don’t talk about those things, but it was leaked, you know. It was in April 2017 that the “security director” of the Senate Intelligence Committee had a girlfriend, and he was telling his girlfriend about this—the fact that I had supported the U.S. government. So, it’s just another example of those partisan agendas coming out and people trying to spin things in a very negative way for Trump supporters.
Mr. Jekielek: And what was your role in the Buryakov case?
Mr. Page: Yeah, that was, one example. I was a source, and I just mentioned, some of the FBI had asked me some questions and I told them a bit about that.
Mr. Jekielek: So essentially, you were a trusted source, and then, suddenly, you’re a spy?
Mr. Page: Well, I think there’s a lot of—there’s a lot of open questions, and I think people had some negative motivations on a lot of levels, but I’m hoping those things will be resolved in due course.
Mr. Jekielek: Stefan Halper was outed as an alleged FBI informant last year, and he’s suing for defamation. I know you’ve interacted with him. Can you talk a little bit more about your interactions with him?
Mr. Page: I’ve been very careful, having been through a situation where people said a lot of negative things about me. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m a pretty easygoing, nice guy, trying not to damage anyone’s reputation. So, there’s been various allegations out there. He’s someone that I met at a … he’s a university professor. I had been a professor—in the area of international political economy myself. So, we had some things in common. I met him at a conference over the summer of 2016, and we had stayed in touch. As far as I know, it was nothing more than that, but there’s been various allegations. So I guess we’ll end up seeing as some of these details eventually come out. I hope for the best.
I just try to be a positive force, someone who has, you know, decent relations and treats people with respect, and if people were acting in ways to damage me then and, more specifically, really to damage then-candidate Trump … that would be unfortunate. I’m glad that people are now looking into what exactly happened through this very tumultuous time in U.S. history.
Mr. Jekielek: I wanted to ask you a little more about some of this other cast of characters that we know about, like, for example, Azra Turk. Do you know who she is?
Mr. Page: I don’t think I’ve come across her, not that I can recall.
Mr. Jekielek: And what about George Papadopoulos? What’s your impression of him?
Mr. Page: I had very limited interactions with him. We had a lot of volunteers that would get together from time to time. He may have showed up at some of those; I just have no recollection. I think one interesting question, you know, there’s been various allegations that some of these ridiculous FISA warrants that were taken out on me and these crazy applications, with all kinds of nonsense in there, may have had some allegations related to him. If that turns out to be true, it’ll be even more ridiculous because, again, my relationship with him was very limited. We may have kind of crossed paths a few times, but anything he may or may not have been doing really had nothing to do with me. I guess we’ll see.
Mr. Jekielek: The last I’m aware of, you actually hadn’t met the president?
Mr. Page: No, I’ve still never met him. … But he was a great inspiration during the campaign, and in terms of—I attended a lot of rallies, and really, that was a historic moment, a very positive moment. And being a part of that great turning point in U.S. history, I thought was very exciting on many levels. I just—I feel really bad [about] everything that this has put him through, and really his whole administration. …
It’s really a great testimony to how much he’s been able to accomplish, despite all this craziness going on in the background related to these outrageous made-up investigations, based on these completely false pretenses. And, I guess as you say, I’m an example of that outrageous phenomenon.
Mr. Jekielek: The attorney general is now looking into the origins of the Russia probe. He has people doing specific investigations. I’m curious if you have been contacted by anyone—by the FBI, DOJ, Office of the Inspector General?
Mr. Page: No, I haven’t. … I spent a lot of time with the FBI back in 2017, and various members or congressional committees have asked me questions. And as I’ve alluded to on a lot of occasions, I’m just trying to get the truth out there. So to the extent if people have questions, I’m happy to help. But I think we’ll have to wait and see here.
Mr. Jekielek: You said something [about] these conversations with the FBI—you once said that, I believe, they never asked you one question about doing anything illegal. Is that right? How could that be?
Mr. Page: The questions about them asking me about things that I did, nothing that they even touched on could be viewed as illegal in any way, even these false premises. Literally, I did nothing wrong. … There may have been a lot of attempts to trip me up, but there’s really no there, there.
Mr. Jekielek: OK, let’s jump to the FISA warrants, the details of [which] still remain classified. That might be something we learn more about with this declassification. It’s unclear how extensive was the intelligence that the FBI was able to gather. Because the way it works, just for those in the audience that might know, as soon as you’re a target, then the people you connect with are a “legitimate” target. And then the people they’re connected with are also “legitimate” targets, and so it could be a very, very broad reach. What was the extent of your contacts after the time, roughly when that first FISA—
Mr. Page: Contacts with?
Mr. Jekielek: With the campaign people? Just to get a sense of the scope.
Mr. Page: It’s funny, because there were these defamatory reports that started coming out on Sept. 23, 2016, basically the day that changed my life. And a lot of reporters were being pitched by the DNC consultants, being pitched this false story. A lot of top news agencies and newspapers—The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN—they’re all calling me. … None of them bit.
Everyone, I think, realized, a legitimate reporter would realize just how insane some of these stories or these false allegations are. But, eventually, they found someone, and it led to a real firestorm. At that time, I took a leave of absence from the campaign, and pretty much everyone I spoke with—the volunteers who were … supporting the campaign, they all said, “You’re still part of the Trump movement.” And actually, if you listen to President Trump’s victory speech, or then President-elect Trump late on Election Night in November 2016, he said: “This is not a campaign. This is a movement.”
It’s interesting because people that are trying to cover up the illegitimate surveillance, they like to say, “Well, he had already left the campaign, so we’re spying on him, but he’s not really part of the campaign.” Well, that’s false in a lot of different ways. No. 1, I was just on a leave of absence. And if you’re on a leave of absence from any affiliation, you’re still part of that. … And, again, as President-elect Trump said, this is not a campaign, it’s a movement. But [going back to your question on the spying,] I also stayed in touch with people … so, unfortunately …
Mr. Jekielek: So how many people do you think, since the FBI obtained the FISA you’ve interacted with? But, I mean, ballpark.
Mr. Page: Ah, it’s hard to say, but it’s a fair number. Unfortunately, it just created a lot of chaos. … One name that came up is … Steve Bannon, for example. But it’s unfortunate … not only my privacy was invaded, but [that of] a lot of other innocent Americans, as well.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about that. You said that day, your life changed. How has your personal life been affected by this?
Mr. Page: The way I think about it, as an Annapolis graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, is I had some great military training. But the training that ended up—although I did a lot in terms of national security, military affairs, et cetera—the training that actually turned out to be the most valuable and relevant was anti-terrorist training that I went through at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Given all the terror threats that I lived through during this period, it was—
Mr. Jekielek: It sounds bizarre. Anti-terrorism training is the thing that was most useful to you? How does that work?
Mr. Page: I think people that have their lives put at risk, there are a lot of tactical things that you can do to basically protect yourself when you’re out on your own. Unfortunately, these crazy stories unleashed this complete hysteria, and a lot of people actually got caught up in it. So, as a practical matter … although I had a great educational experience in my many years in the military, that turned out, unfortunately, to be the most immediately valuable and important.
Mr. Jekielek: Terror threats as a result of being fingered in the dossier.
Mr. Page: Yeah. And just these false allegations, which took me from being a totally unknown figure to an infamous person—sort of notoriously known worldwide, based on complete lies. There are a lot of people that, unfortunately, bought into it for a while. So, [that]s] yet another reason why it’s important to get the full truth out there.
Mr. Jekielek: How are you participating in getting that truth out now?
Mr. Page: One way is through various litigation. As you alluded to, I have a few lawsuits, but I believe now that we may be getting some more of this information, I believe there will be significant additional claims. It’s still open. We’ll have to see how it plays out. But I’m cautiously optimistic, and by all indications, the fact that people are actually taking serious these crimes that were committed against President Trump and supporters of his like me, I think, is a positive development.
Mr. Jekielek: So, and, obviously, your career got hit with a sledgehammer here.
Mr. Page: Yeah. I always was … as a volunteer for the Trump campaign, I had a great passion for international relations, international political economy. This turning point in American history has given me a new interest and love for the law. I had been a legal officer on my ship. I always obeyed the law and supported our country. But, you know, the things that … where I saw the tremendous crimes that were committed against me as a way of trying to advance this coup against President Trump, I think, was an eye-opening experience. And I think it’s made me appreciate the way the law should operate. It’s unfortunate that it was not respected by these government bureaucrats who were doing these evil acts against President Trump.
But it’s interesting understanding some of the legal and constitutional questions that are closely related to these criminal activities. So even though I haven’t been able to stay engaged as much in terms of my intellectual interests on the international relations front … having so much of my energy focused on resolving these criminal activities has been extremely interesting and an important turning point for our country.
Mr. Jekielek: And aside from getting, hopefully or possibly, some closure with the lawsuits—the litigation—what is the road to normalcy look like, even at this point? Do you see a path?
Mr. Page: I’ve always just wanted what’s best for our country, and I’ve done my best. Part of the reason I always refer to this DNC dossier as “the dodgy dossier” is because, in 2002 and 2003 … that term “dodgy dossier” was originated for the first time. That’s when the U.S. and UK governments were putting together this false intelligence report as a way to sell the population of the U.S. and Great Britain for the war in Iraq. And, unfortunately, that original dodgy dossier from 2002 and 2003 led to thousands of lives lost.
So, although this has been a painful and difficult process for our country, for President Trump, and some of his supporters like me, I look at it from a pretty big-picture perspective and realize, No. 1, it could have been a lot worse. And No. 2, we’re lucky that we have a president who was able to kind of cut through this false story and this, real illegitimate noise—unlike what eventually happened in Iraq with the original dodgy dossier, which led to so much death and destruction. So although things have been pretty rough, it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been, if we didn’t have leadership in the White House and in this new administration looking to keep moving and advancing their agenda.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Carter, what are your plans for the immediate future?
Mr. Page: I think we’re at a big turning point, and now that there’s been so much done—so many steps are being taken by the U.S. Department of Justice and other parts of the American government to dig into this. I think we’re really entering a new era where there’s real facts in terms of what exactly happened. We’ve been in this alternative reality for the last couple of years with these crazy stories that really derailed our country in many ways, or could have derailed it, if our president had been effectively blocked as people were trying to do to him. So, I’m cautiously optimistic. I think there’ll be a lot of positive developments, but I’d say it’s a very time-consuming process, particularly from the legal perspective, in terms of thinking through some of these issues and helping to get the truth out there.
Mr. Jekielek: And, so, despite all this, do you think you’ll stay involved in politics? I say that in a very broad way.
Mr. Page: I think some of the people I worked with in the Trump movement as a volunteer in 2016 [are] really some of the best people I’ve met in my life. And I think there is a passion for service and helping to think through and work on key strategic projects, and keep strategic ideas for the positive development of our country and for the world. And so, these are areas where, as a former university professor and as a business leader, I’ve made contributions in the past. Despite a lot of downside and a lot of pain that this has caused for myself and so many other people, I think there are important lessons to be learned … I think—as a lot of people have said, both in Congress and in the U.S. government—we really need to make sure that this never happens again.
Mr. Jekielek: You want to be a part of that?
Mr. Page: I think that getting the truth out there and allowing people to understand what happened, and how the law should operate, as opposed to this concept of abuse of process where this sacred court system is really turned into complete shambles. So I’m happy that steps are being taken to fix that situation right now.
Mr. Jekielek: Great. Is there anything you can share with us, anything on the horizon, any news?
Mr. Page: Well, it sounds like there’s going to be a lot of news very soon, and I think, unfortunately … so up until this point, there’s been a lot of, the old saying, “fake news”—completely made up stories that were paid for by some illegitimate political operatives, part of the DNC and the Democratic Party. And thankfully, I think, people are looking into that, and there’s definitely going to be a lot coming out in the very near future.
[There’s] going to be a lot of excitement, I’m quite sure, in the weeks and months to come.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.