CNN reported that sources confirmed to them that Russian intelligence had tried to recruit Trump aides like Carter Page to infiltrate the campaign before the election. Pamela Brown spoke about the story to Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room Friday.
"We have learned the FBI gathered intelligence last summer suggesting Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisors including Carter Page to infiltrate the Trump campaign," Brown reported. "This is according to several U.S. officials. Now Carter Page's critical speech of U.S. policy against Russia in July 2016 in a prominent Moscow university is part of what raised concerns in the bureau that he may have been compromised by Russian intelligence."
"But this new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to meddle and influence the 2016 U.S. election," she continued, "not only through email hacks and propaganda, sometimes referred to as 'fake news,' but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. And the intelligence led to an FBI investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians that the FBI has acknowledged in a public hearing on Capitol Hill.
Page was recently identified as the target of a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant for monitoring because of actions he took that made intelligence officials suspicious that he might be colluding with the Russians.
Trump had said Page was one of his foreign policy advisors during the presidential election, but he later left the campaign. Trump and his allies took the monitoring revelation as evidence proving his claim that former President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.
"The officials we spoke to made clear," Brown added, "that they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him as well as the other advisors because of the way that Russian spy services operate. Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents."
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) April 21, 2017
Page denied that he had any meeting with Russian officials for the sake of colluding on behalf of the Trump campaign. "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government," he said, "as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."
CNN described the actions Page took that appeared suspicious enough to put him under monitoring:
His trip to Russia in July 2016 revived the FBI's interest, when he delivered a lecture at a graduation ceremony for the New Economic School. The university opened after the fall of the Soviet Union and is ranked as one of the best universities for economics in Russia. Former President Barack Obama gave a speech there during his first official trip to Russia in 2009.
But Page's lecture sounded different than what would be expected from most Americans. He parroted Kremlin talking points by chastising the West for prolonging "Cold War tendencies."
"Ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change," he said, adding that US foreign policy toward Russia was "condescending" and "hostile."
Carter Page has said that he's going to sue the government for infringing on his privacy rights.