Christopher Steele told a State Department official weeks before the 2016 election that U.S. congressional contacts “confirmed” Carter Page had a hand in altering the Republican party’s platform regarding Ukraine.
The former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump vehemently denies the allegation.
Steele’s claim, which is found in notes that State Department official Kathleen Kavalec took on Oct. 11, 2016, is the first evidence that the former MI6 officer might have had interactions with someone on Capitol Hill regarding his investigation of the Trump campaign.
Steele is known to have had contacts during the campaign with the FBI, Justice Department, State Department and media.
“I may be losing track of all the damning hard evidence, but this seems to be the first time I’ve seen it officially documented that was having some sort of pre-election interactions with the U.S. Congress,” Page told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday, after seeing Kavalec’s notes, which were obtained by conservative watchdog group Citizens United.
The documents, first published by The Hill, contain several questionable claims about Trump associates, including Page. Similarly, key claims in Steele’s dossier were all but debunked by the special counsel’s investigation, which was unable to establish evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
According to Kavalec’s notes, Steele claimed that Page was one of the campaign’s main contacts to the Russian government. He shared with her a claim he made in the dossier, which is that Page met secretly during a trip to Moscow in July 2016 with two Kremlin insiders, Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin. Steele also claimed in the dossier that Page worked with then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on the Russia effort.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s dossier, even though it was unverified, to obtain surveillance warrants against Page.
Kavalec wrote in her notes: “Carter Paige is involved, and he had two secret meetings with Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin in Moscow earlier this year. Steele says U.S. congressional contacts confirmed Paige was involved in the effort to have the Republican platform changed with respect to Ukraine/lethal weapons.”
The notes do not say whether Steele had direct contact with the congressional sources, or whether he received the information from someone else. Steele was working at the time for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that had been hired by the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump.
Page denies having any role in the Ukraine platform issue. He has also said he did not meet with Sechin and Diveykin. Notably, the special counsel’s probe found no evidence of a conspiracy between the campaign and Russia. That despite the dossier claiming there was a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the two sides.
During the GOP convention, Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon battled with a delegate over adding an amendment to the platform that called for providing “lethal weapons” to Ukraine in his fight against Russia.
Gordon objected to the amendment, saying he believed it was not consistent with Trump’s public statements about how he wanted to handle the Russia-Ukraine issue.
There is no evidence that Page was involved in the battle. The special counsel’s report includes lengthy passages about the GOP platform issue, but does not mention Page. The special counsel found no wrongdoing on the part of the campaign or Gordon. Investigators also found no evidence that Russia was involved in getting the campaign to oppose the amendment.
“Dr. Page played no role whatsoever in the drafting of the 2016 Republican party platform,” Page said in a lawsuit he filed in 2017 against news outlets that published Steele’s allegations about him.
Page did express support for the success if blocking the Ukraine amendment.
“As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work,” Page wrote in an email to Gordon and other Trump campaign advisers. When asked about the email during a House Intelligence Committee interview, Page said that was the only interaction about the amendment that he remembered.
“This … is my only interaction that I vaguely recall. And this expresses my personal opinion. And that’s all that was,” Page testified.
Reached for comment on Friday, Page again reiterated having nothing to do with the GOP platform.
According to Kavalec’s notes, Steele made several other dubious claims.
Steele asserted in the meeting that the Russian government was running a hacking operation out of its consulate in Miami, and that the Kremlin had placed a mole inside the DNC. He also said that Paul Manafort was the campaign’s liaison to Russia. Steele asserted that Manafort was Trump’s contact to the Kremlin as far back as 2013.
But the allegations are all either inaccurate or highly questionable.
For one, the Russian government does not have a consulate in Miami., as Kavalec wrote in her notes.
Kavalec wrote in her notes: “It is important to note that there is no Russian Consulate in Miami.”
Steele’s claim about Manafort also does not match up with what’s known about the longtime GOP operative’s links to Donald Trump.
“Contacts between Trump — via Manafort — and the Kremlin that go back to about 2013, about the time he took Miss Universe to Moscow,” she wrote, citing Steele.
While Manafort has known Trump for decades, the two were not close until Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016. Manafort has also not been linked to Trump’s work on the Miss Universe pageant.
Steele also shared with Kavalec the unfounded claim that the Russian government had placed a mole within the DNC.
“The Russians have succeeded in placing an agent inside the DNC,” Kavalec wrote in her notes.
Steele made the same claim in his dossier, which was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign, though there is no evidence to back it up. Some conservative conspiracy theorists have floated the unfounded claim that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was behind the theft of emails published by WikiLeaks.
Though Steele provided dubious information to Kavalec, she told another State Department official that the meeting was “very helpful.”
“Thanks for bringing your friend by yesterday — it was very helpful,” Kavalec wrote to Jonathan Winer, who then served as the State Department’s special envoy to Libya.
Winer played a key role in passing Steele’s dossier throughout the State Department and on to the FBI. Winer was also in contact with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, and served as a background source for at least two news articles based on Steele’s information.
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