Carter Page, an adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump whose communications were reportedly monitored under an FBI-obtained court order, denied Wednesday that he'd worked for the Russians.
"Of course, I wasn't a foreign agent," he said in an interview with CNN.
Last month, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that his agency was investigating whether members of Trump's campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials believe Moscow intervened to try to sway the election in favor of Trump.
The FBI obtained a secret court order last year to monitor the communications of Page, whom the Trump campaign had hired as a foreign policy adviser in March 2016, The Washington Post reported. Citing unnamed law enforcement and other U.S. officials, the Post said the FBI and Justice Department were able to secure a FISA warrant after convincing a judge "there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia."
Other reported targets
Page was one of several Trump associates reported to be a focus of that investigation. Others included former campaign chief Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone.
In the CNN interview, Page — who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticized U.S. sanctions against Russia — refused to say who'd brought him into the Trump campaign, calling that issue irrelevant. But he did emphasize that it was not Manafort, whom he said he'd never met or spoken with.
In recent months White House officials have tried to downplay Page's role with the campaign.
"This confirms all my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance," Page said in a statement to the Post. He also compared his situation to that of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., who was monitored and harassed by the FBI.
Page, a former investment banker, has not been accused of a crime. But in order to obtain the FISA warrant, the Post said, law enforcement officials submitted "a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators' basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow."
Specifically, the application mentioned contacts Page had with a "Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013," as well as other contacts with "Russian operatives" that had not been previously disclosed, the report said. Reports last month suggested that Page met with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. on the sidelines of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The original 90-day warrant has been renewed "more than once" by the FISA court, the Post report said. It added that Page was the "only American to have had his communications directly targeted with a FISA warrant in 2016 as part of the Russia probe."
Russia denies trying to influence the 2016 election. Trump officials insist any suggestion they colluded with Moscow is false and politically motivated, although the FBI investigation and a separate congressional probe have continued to draw headlines.
Asked Wednesday during an interview on the Fox Business Channel whether he would consider asking Comey to step down, Trump said: "I have confidence in him. We'll see what happens. You know, it's going to be interesting. But, you know, we have to just — look, I have so many people that want to come into this administration."