WASHINGTON: A second foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign has admitted to contacts with Russian officials during last year's election and to having proposed that Trump travel to Russia during the campaign.
Former investment banker and Russia expert Carter Page told the House Intelligence Committee last week that he had "brief" contact with a Russian deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, during a "private" trip to Moscow in July 2016, according to a transcript of his testimony released late Monday.
Page also said that he had proposed in May 2016 that Donald Trump travel to Russia to meet officials and make a speech.
That was the same month that another foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, also suggested a Trump Moscow visit, according to court documents last week.
The Page testimony added to the mounting evidence of numerous contacts between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia in 2016 just at the time Moscow was mounting a hacking and disinformation operation aimed and boosting Trump's chances to win the White House.
The House committee and its Senate counterpart, along with a justice department special prosecutor, are investigating whether the campaign colluded with the Russians in any way to help defeat then-front-runner Hillary Clinton.
- Parallels to Papadopoulos -
Page told the committee in a closed-door hearing last Thursday that he was an unpaid volunteer on Trump's initial foreign policy advisory team, never met or spoke directly to Trump, and had no inappropriate contacts in Russia.
But in questioning he admitted contacts with Dvorkovich, other officials, businessmen and senior academics while in the country on trips in July and December.
He said he had told Jeff Sessions, now US attorney general but at the time in 2016 the leader of the foreign policy team, that he was planning the Moscow trip to lecture at a university which invited him.
Upon returning, he suggested to senior campaign officials in an email that he had done more than that.
"I'll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here," he wrote.
Page's Russia contacts paralleled those of Papadopoulos, who, according to the FBI, wrote a number of emails to senior Trump campaign officials between March and September last year about his own Russian contacts and proposed Trump travel to Moscow.
Nothing came of either proposal, and White House officials say both Page and Papadopoulos were insignificant aides on the campaign with few responsibilities or input.
Last week Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his Russia contacts during 2016.
In his testimony, Page strongly downplayed his role on the campaign. He told the committee that he never "met" Trump, and had never spoken to him "directly".
But he also said he had "been in a lot of meetings with him (Trump), and I've learned a lot from him."
Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate are under house arrest on charges including conspiracy to launder money, linked to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into allegations that the campaign colluded with Russia.