A former foreign policy adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign has acknowledged in testimony to Congress that he had contact with a high-level Kremlin official while on a trip to Russia last year.
According to a transcript released on November 6, Carter Page, an unpaid adviser who left the campaign before Trump was elected, told the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee last week that he "briefly said hello to" Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich when he traveled to Russia for a speech in July 2016.
Under repeated questions about the contact -- which he had at times denied in the past -- Page said that he had spoken to Dvorkovich after his speech at Moscow's New Economic School.
"It was a very brief interaction. It was some nice pleasantries. I cannot recall the precise words I said, but it was sort of best wishes, and, you know, that's about it," Page said.
Page, a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow, testified that he saw Dvorkovich again at a dinner during a second trip to Russia in December 2016.
When asked if he had a private meeting with Dvorkovich on that trip, Page replied: "We did. He stopped by a dinner I went to in December with people from the university."
Page's testimony was part of the committee's probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether it is linked to Trump's campaign. Russia has denied any interference and Trump has denied any collusion with the Kremlin.
Page's Russia trips raised questions just as the FBI began its investigation into Russian meddling in the summer of 2016, and he has offered contradictory accounts about whom he met there. At one point, he told the Associated Press that he hadn't met with Dvorkovich, AP reported. But his testimony on November 2 was under oath.
The House panel released the transcript from the closed-door interview with Page with partial redactions. Page was subpoenaed by the committee in early October.
Page told the panel he had informed some members of the Trump campaign about the Russia trip, including then-Senator Jeff Sessions. He said he mentioned in passing to Sessions, who is now attorney general, that he was preparing to visit Russia and Sessions "had no reaction whatsoever."
The testimony could raise more questions about the extent of Sessions' knowledge about interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians.
Sessions recused himself from overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaign in March after acknowledging two previously undisclosed conversations with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Since then, Sessions has downplayed his knowledge about communications between campaign aides and Russian officials.
Page has insisted that the July 2016 trip was personal and not campaign related.
However, the committee produced an e-mail in which Page wrote to campaign officials and asked them to let him know "if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you'd prefer me to focus these remarks," apparently referring to the speech he gave in Moscow.
He also suggested that Trump take his place at the speech -- a suggestion that appeared to go nowhere.
In a statement prepared for the committee, Page insisted that he had no personal information that the Russian government or anyone affiliated with it played any role in the 2016 presidential campaign.
He said he was not approached by anyone during the trip who led him to believe they were planning to interfere in the election.
Page said he had no direct relationship with the Russian government, though he conceded that he may have spoken with different Russian government officials over the years.
Representative Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, pressured Page on what he suggested were inconsistencies in his testimony and past statements.
He noted how Page told the committee that he had met only one Russian government official during his July 2016 trip to Russia, and yet had told campaign officials in an e-mail that he had received valuable insights from legislators and senior members of the Russian presidential administration.
"Are you being honest in your testimony?" Schiff asked. "Because it doesn't seem possible for both to be true."
Page said the insights he was referring to were based on materials he had read in the press, "similar to my listening to President Trump in the various speeches that I heard of his."
With reporting by AP and Reuters