The Trump campaign has repeatedly denied communication with Russian officials during the 2016 elections and its transition to the White House. In fact, USA Today has counted at least 20 denials since last summer.
In February, former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour that he had “no meetings” with Russian officials last year.
Video by PBS NewsHour
“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,” he added.
But on Thursday — the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from federal probes into Russia after reports revealed he met twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016 — Page told Chris Hayes of MSNBC that “I do not deny” meeting with the ambassador last summer in Cleveland, in an apparent contradiction.
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) March 3, 2017
“I will say I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland. Let’s just say that much,” he added.
Why it matters
Shortly after Sessions announced his recusal Thursday from any investigations into Russian interference, USA Today reported that two additional advisers to Trump’s campaign also spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year during the election season.
Former Trump campaign advisers Page and J.D. Gordon spoke with Russia’s ambassador during the Republican National Convention in July, the newspaper reported.
It’s not known what the two advisers specifically discussed with Kislyak. Page cited “confidentiality rules” when asked about the topics discussed with the ambassador.
Gordon also told USA Today that the meeting wasn’t unusual, saying it was “an informal conversation just like my interactions with dozens of other ambassadors and senior diplomats in Cleveland.”
Page also sent the following statement via email to the NewsHour:
“I have no comment about any meetings or discussions that may or may not have occurred at the off-the-record Global Partners in Diplomacy event in Cleveland as alleged by USA Today. Although people in Washington frequently disregard such confidentiality rules as we have seen throughout recent weeks, these were not the standards and practices I learned while serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy. However, I will reiterate that I never did anything improper in my activities related to Russia, both last year and throughout the quarter century that I have been traveling to that country.”
Earlier in the evening, reacting to Sessions’ recusal, President Donald Trump said “this whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win.”
Statement from President Donald J. Trump Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have…
Read more on how Washington is reacting to Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador here.