Two former Trump campaign aides on Wednesday brushed off allegations that they had made contact with Russian officials, including intelligence officials, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Carter Page and Roger Stone responded to a Monday report from the New York Times in which they, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn are named. Citing four unnamed current and former officials, the Times reported that members of Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
Asked specifically about that charge multiple times by PBS “News Hour”‘s Judy Woodruff Wednesday, Page did not directly deny contacting Russian officials. He did deny any meetings with them, but said he “might have said hello to a few people” when he gave a graduation speech at Moscow’s New Economic School in July of last year. Otherwise, he painted questions about his ties to the country as political smears.
“So, in other words, these reports that are citing, in very specific detail, what intelligence agencies say they have discovered, continuous, repeated contacts between the campaign and Russia, you’re saying that’s entirely made up? Is that what you’re saying?” Woodruff asked near the end of the interview.
“Judy, I don’t think they said ‘discovered.’ I think they— that they’re looking at it,” he replied. “So, it’s a nice way for the enemies of the administration and the enemies of positive U.S.-Russia relations to keep stirring this negative pot over and over again. And, admittedly, they have done quite a good job over the last year. So, I have to hand it to them as excellent politicians.”
He also said it was “very one-sided” of the New York Times to not include in their report on him a “real dossier” he had sent to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division over the weekend (The Intercept has published a copy). The 37-page document blames the Clinton campaign for feeding a paranoia that he describes as a “Third Red Scare” and repeatedly denies any wrongdoing.
Stone, on the other hand, categorically denied any contact with Russian nationals during the campaign in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday.
“The answer, Chris, is categorically no. I have had no contacts from Russians or intermediaries for Russians, I have no Russian clients, no Russian communications. In all honesty, I’ve never been informed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I was under investigation. This is a canard,” he said.
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) February 16, 2017
Appearing on the “Today” Show Thursday, he repeated the categorical denial.
Page left his role as a Trump foreign policy adviser in September 2016 while denying as “ridiculous” allegations that, according to unnamed intelligence officials, he had met with “highly-sanctioned individuals” in Russia during the campaign. Page worked in Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office before, in 2008, launching an investment firm with a former executive of Gazprom, the Russian state-owned oil giant.