The controversial Republican-authored memo, declassified by Donald Trump on Friday, has been thrown into further doubt after it was revealed the man at the centre of it bragged about being an adviser to the Kremlin as far back as 2013.
The claims were made in a letter he wrote during a dispute over edits to a manuscript he had submitted for publication.
The revelation appears to undermine the central premise of the Republican-authored memo, that law enforcement officials misled a secretive court that approves surveillance (FISA) warrants when they applied for permission to spy on Page in 2016.
The memo claims top FBI and DOJ officials signed off on the applications without disclosing that they were based on the infamous “pee-tapes” dossier compiled by a biased source - former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
But the latest revelation shows a FISA warrant would likely have been granted with or without the Steele dossier - a point conveniently left out of the memo and just one in a growing list.
Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda. Carter Page, 2013.
In 2013, Page met with a Russian spy who was later charged by the Justice Department for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
That spy had tried to recruit him but later described him as an “idiot”.
Page, 46, is an oil industry consultant and served as a foreign-policy adviser to Trump during the 2016 Presidential election campaign.
The memo, written by Republicans on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chaired by Devin Nunes, argues the federal investigation of potential collusion betweenTrump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia was a product of political bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department.
Trump approved the release of the formerly classified memo without redactions, despite objections from the FBI in a move that deepens tension between the White House and senior law enforcement that has existed since Trump first took office.
A Republican line has grown louder over the last few days, propounding the idea that the FBI cannot be trusted as an institution.
Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Trump’s decision to allow the release of the memo was “part of a coordinated propaganda effort to discredit, disable and defeat the Russia investigation”.
The US now finds itself in a situation where the White House is at war with its own justice department and the FBI.
Trump’s fervent embrace of the memo on Saturday raised again the prospect that he may use it as justification to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the probe, or Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller, Reuters reported.
Asked by reporters on Friday whether the memo made him more likely to fire Rosenstein or whether he had confidence in him, Trump replied, “You figure it out”.
Dismissing Rosenstein or Mueller would trigger a political firestorm much like the sacking of FBI Director James Comey by Trump last year.
Mueller also is examining whether Trump has obstructed justice in trying to thwart the Russia investigation.
On Saturday, Nadler circulated a memo to House Democrats disputing the conclusions of the Nunes memo and arguing that Page was a lawful target of surveillance, according to NBC News.
“Carter Page was, more likely than not, an agent of a foreign power. The Department of Justice thought so. A federal judge agreed,” Nadler wrote in the memo.
Steve Vladeck, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas-Austin, said it was unprecedented for the president to feud so publicly with leaders of the U.S. intelligence agencies.
“You do long-term damage to these institutions if you convince a large swath of the American public that they can’t be trusted,” Vladeck said.
Trump’s decision to release the memo has also backfired to a certain extent as the apparent new-found desire for transparency is being selectively applied.