JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to a former member of the Trump campaign foreign policy team, among those alleged to have been in contact with Russian officials.
Carter Page manages an energy investment company, and he joins me now.
Mr. Page, thank you for joining us.
So, briefly, start out by telling us how you knew or know Donald Trump. And what kind of work did you do on the campaign last year?
CARTER PAGE, Former Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser: You know, I — it’s funny. You were just talking about leaks with your former — former interviewee.
I don’t talk about the internal works that I did to help the campaign. I — I was a junior member of the campaign’s foreign policy advisory group, and I didn’t — had — you know, compared to other people that were much — had much more direct interaction with Mr. Trump, who I never actually briefed or was in any small meetings with.
I went to many rallies with him, but never any direct meetings. So, you know, I think there’s a tendency to talk about a lot of internal dealings in the U.S. government, as you were talking about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just …
CARTER PAGE: And I think — yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just move on by saying, but you were a member of his foreign policy team. We were just talking about that a moment ago.
CARTER PAGE: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But my first question, then, after that, Carter Page, is to ask you, you’re aware of these reports out there that there were officials in the Trump campaign who were in repeated contact with Russian officials, Russian intelligence officials during 2016.
Were you one of those campaign officials?
CARTER PAGE: Well, Judy, you know, that — going back to the question to Sean Spicer about fake news, I mean, this — yes, I’m aware of the reports, which I saw on the front page of The New York Times today.
But I think I can actually answer that question as to why that was fake news. That was just a regurgitation of old reports, based on the dodgy dossier that the Clinton campaign came out with.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words …
CARTER PAGE: So, yes, I’m aware — I’m aware of these ongoing public relations attacks against the administration and people who have supported it. But …
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just stop and say the reports are citing intelligence agencies. So, we’re talking about the CIA, the FBI.
So, you’re saying these agencies are not to be believed, or the news media is making this up, or what?
CARTER PAGE: Well, what I’m saying, what I’m saying is, you know, at least last year, they were responding to false evidence, which is an obstruction of justice, false evidence given to the Intelligence Committee — intelligence community by the Clinton campaign.
Now that’s pretty well-established, you know, with this dodgy dossier that came out last month. So, I think it’s pretty clear evidence.
And, you know, in terms of it being fake news today, the big front-page story on The New York Times, I actually sent them a copy of a real dossier that I submitted to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice over the weekend.
And, unfortunately — to one of the authors of that front-page article — and that never got included at all. So, you know, it’s — it’s very one-sided.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We only have a limited amount of time here, so I want to use this time to everyone’s advantage, and ask you, you were in Russia. You have worked in Russia for a number of years. You clearly know Russian officials.
Where do you think this comes from? Were you in any kind of contact last year with Russian government officials?
CARTER PAGE: It comes from deep animosity and deep negative feelings against the Russians.
And I think, you know, you just have to look back at the history of the last 70 years, and it’s pretty clear where that originates from.
And Mrs. Clinton and her team did a great job of ramping that up. And it continues to this day, with the help of the likes of Sally Yates and others that were holdovers from the Obama administration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying — so, you’re saying that that, whatever you — what you describe as animosity toward the Russians is not deserved.
We just heard Senator Amy Klobuchar talk about the Russians having the kind of an agenda that the U.S. could never share, that they’re undermining democracies across Eastern Europe.
You don’t agree with that view of Russia?
CARTER PAGE: I view it as a two-way street.
And, you know, what I talked about in my speech in Moscow in July, and what President Trump and President Putin talked about in their initial call, was the concept of mutual respect.
I think, if both sides are acting respectfully and really thinking through and understanding the other side’s perspectives, that takes care of a lot of it.
So, you know, absolutely, there — you know, the senator is right that there’s a lot of things that need to be repaired. But I think continuing these fake news, fake intel reports is only going to continue driving us into the gutter.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you have any meetings — I will ask again — did you have any meetings last year with Russian officials in Russia, outside Russia, anywhere?
CARTER PAGE: I had no meetings, no meetings.
I might have said hello to a few people as they were walking by me at my graduation — the graduation speech that I gave in July, but no meetings.
JUDY WOODRUFF: 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?
CARTER PAGE: Judy, I don’t think they said discovered. I think they — that they’re looking at it.
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.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well …
CARTER PAGE: And, admittedly, they have done quite a good job over the last year. So, I have to — I have to hand it to them as excellent politicians.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And are you cooperating with any federal investigators who are looking into this? Have you been asked, for example, by the FBI or another agency to answer questions?
And if you were called on to go before, say, a Senate committee investigation, would you be willing to do that?
CARTER PAGE: I have never been asked by anyone in the FBI or any of the other agencies over the last year.
And I think, yes, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with the Senate. And I have offered to a few of the senators to speak with them and maybe offer them some realistic views of actually what’s happening in the world. But I think, you know, there’s — there’s a great level of ignorance.
And so one question to ask your other senators you speak to is, have they ever actually stepped foot in Russia or talked to Russian people? And I think, you know, that’s very strong correlation with the ignorance that you see today …
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, finally …
CARTER PAGE: … due to the lack of knowledge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sorry. Excuse me.
Just very quickly, finally, what should the U.S. relationship with Russia be? You’re clearly arguing for something far more positive than what exists right now.
CARTER PAGE: I’m not saying positive.
I’m saying more practical and realistic and just having a open, respectful dialogue, in which you really think about the other side and, you know, look to build your own country up here in the United States through better, positive relations, and not getting swirled out of control with these ongoing distractions, which are taking away attention from bigger national security threats and causing disruptions, great — very unfortunately, for the United States.
So, I think there’s a lot of work to be done. And I think Russia can be a tremendous ally for helping in that regard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, thank you very much for talking with us.
CARTER PAGE: Thanks, Judy.