After President Trump allowed the declassification of key Russia records at Attorney General Barr’s discretion, Carter Page, a former aide to the Trump campaign, told Fox News that his contact with Stefan Halper, an alleged FBI Informant, was more extensive than previously reported. Fox News has also learned that congressional investigators have renewed their focus on a text message that was sent nine days before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was applied to monitor Page. The text in question showed then-FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page talking about “who’s playing games,” “scared,” and “covering.” According to Carter, he first met Halper in July of 2016 after he received an invitation to a seminar overseas. Carter explained that his communication with Halper continued for over a year, until September of 2017 when Special Counsel Robert Mueller was chosen to investigate the alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and actors from Russia.
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According to Page, "during that period, amidst frequent terror threats” and Halper was one of the few people that he felt comfortable speaking to. "He [Halper] was one of the few people who would talk to me. He seemed understanding of my predicament and the incessant personal security risks that stemmed from the (Democratic National Committee) consultants' false reports." According to Fox News, Page confirmed that spent time on Halper’s farm in Virginia several times, the first time being three weeks after Strzok officially opened the FBI probe into the possible collusion with Russia. On October 21, 2016, the DOJ and the FBI received a warrant to monitor Page.
Fox News asked Page if he had said anything to Halper during this time that would suggest that he wasn’t acting on behalf of Russia, or he would refuse to act on behalf of the Russian government. Page responded by saying: "I'm sure Russia came up. We talked international relations. It must have. ... I can't imagine anything I said could conceivably lead to a FISA." On Tuesday evening, Page told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he wants to see the United States continue to “grow” once the people who “have been obstructing” the agenda of the Trump administration are brought to justice.
Republican critics have proposed that the earliest records to be declassified and publicly released could show exculpatory evidence in regards to Page and Trump aide George Papadopolous. Because the FISA court is considered ex parte, which means that it only involves the government providing evidence without a defense team present, the government has a unique responsibility to not only provide evidence to support its surveillance application, but also the exculpatory evidence that could undermine the application.
Some GOP lawmakers have claimed that exculpatory evidence was available, but most likely it was withheld. According to Fox News, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said: "There was western intelligence sent to spy on Papadopoulos and there's a recording and transcript of the conversation. And there, Papadopoulos denies any illegal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. So, they had evidence presumably that was against Papadopoulos and for him. What they will never be able to defend is that they never presented that evidence to the FISA court."
Meanwhile, a previously revealed conversation in text messages between Lisa Page and Strzok is now the center of attention. Last year, the text referencing “who’s playing games” and “covering” was released, but Fox News has recently confirmed the names hidden beneath the blacked out redactions. Among them include a senior FBI lawyer, as well as the FBI agent “Gaeta” who is believed to be a principal handler for the dossier written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele. According to Fox News, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes said: "This is why declassification is so important, so Americans can finally see for themselves all the facts about how the Russia hoax began and how it spread.”
The texts between Strzok and Page were sent on Oct. 13, 2016, just eight days before the FBI and DOJ obtained a surveillance warrant for Page. The day before, on Oct. 12, texts obtained by Fox News showed that Page complained to her boss, then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, about the hesitance of a Justice Department official to approve the application of the Page surveillance. Within hours of the text exchange between Page and McCabe, a senior state department official, Kathleen Kavalec, had sent an email to her FBI counterpart about the information given to her by Steele, which was apparently a breach of Steel’s work as a confidential human source for the bureau. These types of sources do not typically reach out to multiple government agencies.
Strzok wrote in the Oct.13 text to Page: "We got the reporting on Sept 19. Looks like [Gaeta] got it early August. Looking at [Clinesmith] lync [internal messaging service] replies to me it's not clear if he knows if/when he told them. But [Steve] and [Kate] talked with [Spencer] they're both good and will remember. It's not about rubbing their nose in it. I don't care if they don't know. I just want to know who's playing games/scared covering. totally get it will never be provable."
According to Lisa Page’s closed-door testimony in 2018, Gaeta is believed to be the FBI agent who met with Steele in the summer of 2016. “Clinesmith” is believed to be then-FBU lawyer Kevin Clinesmith. It wasn’t clear in the texts whether “Steve” or “Kate” referred to the FBI or State Department employees. The identity of “Spencer” is unknown but is considered to be of significant interest to congressional investigators who have questioned whether or not he operated outside of the DOJ and FBI. Carter Page hasn’t been charged with anything, even though federal surveillance lasted for over a year. Since then, Page has sued several actors, including the DNC, for defamation related to the claims that he worked with the Russians.
On Oct. 12, 2016, Page wrote to McCabe, saying: "OI [Office of Intelligence] now has a robust explanation re any possible bias of the chs [confidential human source] in the package. Don't know what the holdup is now, other than Stu's continued concerns." Page added: "Strong operational need to have in place before Monday if at all possible, which means to CT tomorrow. I communicated you and boss's green light to Stu earlier, and just sent an email to Stu asking where things stood. This might take a high-level push. Will keep you posted." Just a few minutes later, Page sent another urgent text to McCabe: "If I have not heard back from Stu in an hour, I will invoke your name to say you want to know where things are, so long as that is okay with you."