At the very beginning of the Trump-Russia story, there was Carter Page. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the US intelligence community portrayed him as a 'hot lead.’ A spy. The main link to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. In the end, Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t charge Carter Page with anything. Today, Page speaks with us and reveals incredible details that may make you question much of what the American public was told over the past two years.
A good beginning for the story of Carter Page is June 16, 2015.
Carter Page: I think President Trump, then candidate Trump, from the moment he came down the escalator in the middle of 2015, had a great vision for the direction that the world should head and US's role in it. And I wanted to help out in any way that I can.
Page decided to volunteer for the Trump campaign, eventually meeting with other volunteer advisers on foreign policy issues. But he says he had no idea that would put him at the nexus of the FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion theory.
Reporter: We turn now to ABC investigation and trump campaign adviser Carter page
Brian Ross: Russian spies tried to recruit him as an intelligence source.
Page served as a Naval officer in Europe and the Mideast with a brief stint in Navy intelligence. Earning two Masters degrees and a PhD, he became a successful investment adviser and worked in Russia from 2004-2007. And there’s this surprising bit of background: his reportedly long history of assisting U.S. intelligence agencies prior to them deciding he was a Russian spy.
Sharyl: It’s been reported that you assisted the FBI years ago in the case of corporate espionage by a Russian spy case. Is that true?
Page: I had alluded to the fact that I'd helped out CIA and FBI going back decades.
Sharyl: How did that come about?
Page: Going back to my years in the military, I had a lot of relationships.
Sharyl: So the theory was, at the time, that a guy who had helped the FBI and CIA in the past, including with potential spy cases, himself became a spy while being watched by the FBI?
Page: It's just so outrageous, preposterous. Where do you even begin?
Once Page got involved in the Trump campaign, opposition research gathered by Democrats and paid for by the Clinton campaign was secretly turned over to the FBI. The so-called “dossier” was full of unverified allegations against Page and Trump.
In September of 2016, shortly before the presidential election, Yahoo News published a story linking Page to Russian operatives. Page says it was part of a government-led propaganda campaign to leak accusations about him and create an air of suspicion about Trump.
CNN: Despite what a 400 page document suggests, former Trump campaign adviser Carter page says he is not an agent of Russia’
Sharyl: When you felt you were being targeted or became aware of this, you wrote a letter to then FBI director James Comey. Tell me about that.
Page: Literally that weekend, so this outrageous Yahoo News article came out on Friday September 23rd, 2016-
Sharyl: About the opposition research dossier that implicated Donald Trump and you in all types of outrageous behavior?
Page: Yeah. And so I sent a letter to Director Comey over that weekend and just explaining, telling him reality, just how absolutely outrageous this whole thing is. And I mentioned in there, again that's why I brought up the fact that I had helped CIA and FBI over many years, and I said we've had long conversations with the intelligence community, if you have any questions, I mean this is just so implausible on the face, but if you have any questions about it whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me. And that's essentially the message. And what's interesting is over the next two months, both the next month in October 2016 and then again January 2017 they put in these FISA warrants.
Sharyl: Wiretap warrants?
Page: Yeah exactly.
The FBI had secretly used the “dossier” full of unverified allegations against Page and Trump, in part, to justify the most intrusive privacy invasion of a US citizen: a wiretap surveilling his every contact and communication. The FBI told the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA court that Page and perhaps others in the Trump campaign were “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”
Sharyl: I don't know if all Americans know that before our intel agencies take the drastic step of a privacy invasion by using our intel tools on a US citizen to surveil them, they are supposed to either have evidence in hand that you've already acted as a foreign spy or you're imminently about to become a foreign spy. So that's apparently what they convinced the FISA court was the case with you.
Page: Yeah it's just outrageous.
Sharyl: And then they got how many wire taps against you?
Sharyl: Four wire taps, each for 90 days I think.
Sharyl: Remarkably, the FBI’s supposedly most solid link to their Trump-Russia collusion theory says he’d never even spoken to Donald Trump.
Sharyl: Had you met him?
Page: I never met him at all. No.
Page: Nope. Never.
Sharyl: You never met Donald Trump?
Sharyl: Never spoke to him?
Page: Never. Never on the phone. Nothing.
Though he says he’d never met Trump, he was in an orbit that likely would have allowed the FBI to capture candidate, then president-elect Trump in the surveillance dragnet.
Sharyl: Again, something I'm not sure Americans know but if you are a target and you've been wire tapped, the government is allowed to or allows itself to also surveil everyone who's in touch with you and everyone who's in touch with those people. At least two layers back.
Sharyl: You communicated with people including Steve Bannon, who were talking to President Trump?
Sharyl: Therefore, would have or could have been wrapped up in the same surveillance.
Page: Absolutely. Absolutely.
The surveillance secretly continued even after Trump was inaugurated. For one full year, Carter’s ever move was watched. When no charges came, the media had reasons for that, too, other than his possible innocence.
Reporter: if the FBI had reason to believe Carter page was acting as an agent of Russia why isn’t he facing any charges?
Reporter: you might also want to have someone who is a suspected criminal roaming free because if they’re under surveillance you’re picking up a lot of valuable information
But in the end, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded no American colluded or even coordinated with Russia. The FBI’s main target the man they claimed for over a year was Trump’s unmistakable Russia connection— a spy— wasn’t charged with anything.
Sharyl: A portrait of you was created by some in the media. Russian spy, hapless guy exaggerating his role with the campaign, not too bright. I mean there were a lot of narratives that went out there. How is it to deal with what happened to you over the course of those two years?
Page: My focus has always, my biggest concern throughout this has been the damage that it's done to the country. And so I always sort of laughed it off and I think in some ways that was a negative cycle in a way. Because sometimes if I'm laughing at these people they almost want to come after you even harder to really bring you down. But I was always more concerned about the damage that it was doing to the Trump administration and other people.
Sharyl: You’ve never met President Trump, you've never spoken to him.
Sharyl: If you could say something to him, what would you say?
Page: I would say having experience firsthand the witch hunt that he's had to live through and it's been a basically an all-encompassing challenge that I've been dealing with, including terror threats that I've constantly been dealing with over the course of years. To me, I understand what he's, the challenges he faced. The fact that he has achieved so much is just absolutely extraordinary in the face of all that. I'm really excited. I think now that this cloud has cleared and we're starting to get the real truth about the crimes by the Democrats, I think there's great things ahead.
The Justice Department declined comment for this report. Carter Page is now suing the federal government for allegedly using the media to spread false propaganda about him so it would be used as evidence to get a wiretap. He’s also suing Yahoo News, the Democratic National Committee and some of their consultants.