ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Washington Post reports that the FBI got a secret court order last year to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign adviser. To get that order, investigators had to persuade a judge that there was probable cause to believe the adviser Carter Page was acting as a foreign agent. Page went on CNN today to refute that. He has been connected with Russian officials and companies, including Gazprom. He's given speeches in Moscow critical of American foreign policy.
The Post's Tom Hamburger has documented this in several detailed stories. So I asked Hamburger what would make federal investigators believe that Carter Page could be working as a foreign agent on Russia's behalf?
TOM HAMBURGER: Well, it's possible that the most compelling are intercepted conversations, which we know that the FBI picked up, at least in part, through a case that has already become public and prosecuted. It was a secret tape made of a Russian agent by the name of Podobnyy who it appeared was trying to recruit Carter Page as an intelligence asset for the Russians. Podobnyy is later charged with spying.
Carter has acknowledged that he, in fact, was involved with the case. By his description, he was assisting the FBI and assisting the prosecution. But it's quite possible that the FBI from this intercept and, perhaps, from others has a different view of Page and his relationship with the Russians.
SHAPIRO: We should note that Page has denied any wrongdoing. He has not been accused of any crimes. Many investigations like this do not result in any criminal charges. Tell us about who Carter Page is. Though he was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, he certainly does not come from a traditional foreign policy background, such as a think tank or academia or government work.
HAMBURGER: He's a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He had lived in Moscow for several years and worked in the Moscow office of Merrill Lynch and was a guy who was known in Moscow - and we found Merrill Lynch employees with whom he had worked at the time all expressed surprise, I must tell you, that Carter Page would have risen to the position of being a presidential campaign adviser.
SHAPIRO: Trump aides have downplayed Page's involvement in the campaign even though Donald Trump named Carter Page as an advisor to The Washington Post editorial board. What have you learned about the role that he actually played?
HAMBURGER: So what we've learned since is that he was one of several advisors who were named at that point and who actually did contribute position papers, memos to the campaign and to the candidate. But he was very much at arm's length. The campaign says and Carter Page has confirmed that he never actually met Donald Trump. Though, Carter Page was eager to meet with Donald Trump and requested a meeting on several different occasions.
SHAPIRO: There are now so many connections between Donald Trump associates and Russia. There's Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Those men were all much closer to Trump than Carter Page was. How does it change our understanding of the situation now that we know the FBI had a warrant to monitor Page's communications?
HAMBURGER: It is the first sort of official connection to the second area of inquiry in this ongoing story of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. The U.S. intelligence agencies agree that there's no question that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin sought to interfere in a way that would benefit Donald Trump.
The next question is, was there anyone in the Trump camp who was working with the Russian government? And this warrant for access to Carter Page's communications is the first indication we have that, in fact, there was someone in the Trump orbit who was tied to the Russian government.
SHAPIRO: Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post, thanks very much.
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