Carter Page, the former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump who is at the center of a controversy in Washington over whether the FBI improperly wiretapped him, was already known to the FBI at the time from an espionage case several years before in which Russian agents were caught on tape talking about their efforts to recruit him.
A House Republican memo, released Friday with the blessing of GOP President Donald J. Trump, was critical of the FBI and Justice Department’s applications for orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing surveillance of Page. The first of four applications was filed in October 2016.
Page’s contacts with Russians in 2013 were also part of the application for the surveillance order, which asserted there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, according to a Washington Post report last year. But that is not mentioned in the House GOP memo.
Here’s why Page (who has not been charged with any crime) was already on the FBI’s radar:
Page met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents about the energy industry, according to filings in a 2015 espionage case in New York. The case included secret discussions between Russian spies that sounded like they were from an airport novel.
The Russian operative, Victor Podobnyy, was one of three men charged in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring. According to the court filings, Podobnyy tried to recruit Page, an energy consultant working in New York at the time, as an intelligence source. Page is referred to in the document as ‘‘Male-1.’’
“I will feed him empty promises,” Podobnyy told one of his co-defendants, according to the filing.
Page’s contacts with Podobnyy happened about three years before Trump listed him as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign.
The court filings included an FBI agent’s criminal complaint that, at one point, cited a transcript of Podobnyy speaking with co-defendant Igor Sporyshev about Page.
‘‘I like that he takes on everything,’’ Podobnyy says. ‘‘For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot.’’
Podobnyy also said in the transcript, “I will feed him empty promises. ... This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go [expletive] himself.”
The FBI agent who penned the complaint explained that in the conversation the two Russians were discussing Podobnyy’s “attempted use” of Page, who was interested in business opportunities in Russia, as an intelligence source for Russia.
The agent wrote that Podobnyy “explained his recruitment method, which includes cheating, promising favors, and then discarding the intelligence source once the relevant information is obtained.”
The agent said he and another agent had interviewed Page in June 2013 and Page told them he exchanged emails with Podobnyy and sometimes met in person. Page told the agents that he provided Podobnyy with his outlook on the “current and future of the energy industry” and “provided documents ... about the energy business.”
BuzzFeed News first reported on the court filings in the 2015 case.Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.