One of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers said Monday he was stepping down from the campaign, while pushing back on allegations that he had engaged in private communications with top Russian officials.
Carter Page said in an interview with Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin that the claims were “just complete garbage,” but nonetheless he had chosen to take a leave of absence from campaign become the accusations were causing a “distraction.”
Page decision came on the heels of a report by Yahoo News Friday that U.S. intelligence officials were looking into whether he met privately with Kremlin-aligned Russian figures while on a trip to Moscow in July.
“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,” Page told the Washington Post.
Page was first publicly attached to the Trump campaign by Trump himself, in a March interview with the Washington Post, when the candidate listed Page among his foreign policy advisers. The campaign has since wavered on exactly how involved Page actually was in advising Trump. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said last month that Page was an “informal advisor” who did not speak for the campaign, while spokesman Jason Miller said he had “no role” in the campaign when asked about him by Yahoo News last week.
According to Rogin’s reporting, Page had never met with Trump one-on-one nor was he deeply involved in drafting speeches. However, Rogin described him as “an early member of the team who was working with Sam Clovis,” a policy adviser who joined the Trump campaign in 2015.
Page told the Washington Post that he didn’t meet with any of the Russian figures — including officials in the Kremlin and allies of Putin — mentioned in reports about the U.S. probe into his Russian activities.
“It’s completely false and inconceivable that someone would even accuse me of that,” Page said. He said that while in Russia, he did meet briefly Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, but that the introduction was merely an exchange of pleasantries. Page also said that he made clear while he was in Russia that he was not there on behalf of the Trump campaign, and that when he sought approval for the trip from the campaign’s senior staff, it was made clear that no campaign issues would be discussed.
Additionally, Page sent a letter Monday to FBI Director James Comey, requesting the agency to terminate any investigation into his Russian travels.
“As you may be aware, the source of these accusations is nothing more than completely false media reports,” Page said in the letter. “Yet 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.”