A former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump has admitted that he met privately with Russia's deputy prime minister, on one of two trips to Moscow.
Under oath as he testified before the US's Congress' House Intelligence committee, Carter Page initially said that he did not meet with any senior Russian officials during a trip in July 2016.
But Mr Page, who left his unpaid advisory role on the presidential campaign before Mr Trump was elected, later admitted that he had “briefly” greeted Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
Asked if he had a private meeting with Mr Dvorkovich on a second trip in December 2016, Mr Page replied: “We did - he stopped by a dinner I went to in December with people from the university.”
Mr Page, who works as a consultant to the oil industry, said he had told senior members of Mr Trump's campaign team about the July 2016 trip, including then-Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who is now US attorney general.
Mr Page said he reported back to other campaign officials about the July 2016 trip, saying in one email that he had received “incredible insights and outreach”.
He has maintained he made the trip as a private citizen, not as part of his role with the Trump campaign.
His tesitmony was part of a wider investigation by the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee, which is exploring any possible collusion between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government.
Mr Page was also interviewed earlier this year as part of the FBI investigation, before special prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over.
Last week, Mr Mueller charged two former Trump campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
The two men face numerous charges which mostly focus on alleged money laundering and failure to disclose their financial assets.
Mr Page, a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow, has attracted the scrutiny of investigators for his contacts with Russia. His trip to Moscow in July 2016 came after he joined the Trump campaign and he used it to deliver a pro-Russia speech at a university.
But Mr Page, who declined to have an attorney present during the testimony to the House committee, said his trips to Russia were “benign” and blasted the congressional investigations as a waste of time.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House's Intelligence committee, said Mr Page's testimony showed that his denials of formal meetings with senior Russian officials were inaccurate.
“Page — after being presented with an email he sent to his campaign supervisors, and which he did not disclose to the committee prior to the interview and despite a subpoena from the Committee — detailed his meetings with Russian government officials and others, and said that they provided him with insights and outreach that he was interested in sharing with the campaign,” Mr Schiff said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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