Another Shoe Drops: Papadopolous Says Trump Campaign Approved Meeting With Putin Reps

Well, here we go.

On Monday, everyone was caught off guard when the biggest news turned out not to be that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted, but rather that Mueller had already flipped a witness.

That witness was George Papadopolous, a former campaign adviser to Trump, who unbeknownst to pretty much everyone, secretly pleaded guilty on October 5 to making false claims to the FBI.

 

It quickly became apparent that while the Manafort indictments were bad, the Papadopolous news was potentially worse. You can read our coverage (which includes the full unsealed complaints and plea deal) here.

Early Tuesday, Trump attempted to downplay his connections to Papadopolous with the following series of tweets:

manafort

Got that? Just a “young, low level volunteer named George.”

That assessment is refuted by all of the evidence presented in the documents you can find at the linked post above, and hilariously, it also seems dubious given the following picture that Trump himself tweeted out of a meeting that shows “a guy named George” sitting just a few seats down from Trump:

Trump

Well on Tuesday evening we get the latest on this and according to George, the campaign approved a meeting:

  • PAPADOPOULOS CLAIMED TRUMP CAMPAIGN APPROVED RUSSIA MEETING

“Top Trump campaign officials agreed to a pre-election meeting with representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Bloomberg reports this evening, adding that “the message, if true, would bolster claims that Trump’s campaign attempted to collude with Russian interests.”

Of course “a guy named George” could have been lying to the Russians in order to bolster his own image and reputation as a reliable go-between, so we’ll have to wait and see if that can be confirmed.

Still, this is looking worse, and worse literally by the hour for the administration and it further underscores the fact that they are going to have to hunker down for what is likely to be an ongoing barrage of next shoes to drop.

Below, find a complete recap of why the  Papadopolous story is so important from  and for JustSecurity.org

For months, it was well known that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman (who has longstanding ties to the Trump world), was in serious legal trouble. That he was the target of an indictment in the Russia investigation did not come as a surprise on Monday, but the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, was unexpected. On Monday, we learned that he is cooperating with federal investigators. His plea also delivered an enormous amount of new information with significant implications for the Russia investigation. Here are some of the key takeaways:

The Trump campaign knew about the Russians’ having emails involving Hillary Clinton as far back as April 2016. An overseas professor with extensive ties to the Russian government told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” at a meeting at the end of April.

This provides important new context to the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, and other Russia-connected officials. Since Papadopoulos was keeping “high level campaign officials” informed of his communications with the Russians, it is very likely Paul Manafort himself knew about this initial dangle from the Russians with reference to Clinton’s emails. It bears emphasis here that the document also indicates Papadopoulos knew specifically that the offer of derogatory information on Clinton was not just the professor acting alone. The plea states: “In truth and in fact…Papadopoulos understood the Professor to have substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials and that the Professor spoke with some of those officials in Moscow before telling defendant Papadopoulos about the ‘dirt.’”

These new facts also go to a critical point Ryan made in an earlier article: The Don Jr emails and June 9 meeting showed multiple “signs of a pre-existing understanding of Russian government cooperation with the Trump campaign.” Recall that Rob Goldstone, who attended the meeting as well, said explicitly that the provision of derogatory emails from the “Russian government attorney” was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

It also raises some new questions:

First, the Russians told Papadopoulos they had “emails of Clinton.” However, to date there is no evidence the Russians had Clinton’s emails. Instead, the Russians had by May 2016 “exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC,” according to the January 2017 intelligence report, and later obtained John Podesta’s emails. That said, perhaps the Russians referred to “emails of Clinton” as a shorthand.

Second, the plea is chock-full of references to Papadopoulos telling Trump campaign officials about his various communications with Russians. However, there is a conspicuous absence of any reference to Papadopoulos telling those individuals about the Clinton emails. The references are instead to matters such as setting up a meeting with Putin’s circle. Perhaps Mueller is holding back that card to see what other witnesses/suspects tell him, and whether they risk lying about what Papadopoulos said to them about the emails.

Trump is directly made aware of Papadopoulos’ work. At a national security meeting in Washington, DC, on March 31, 2016, Papadopoulos briefs Trump and his other foreign policy advisers working on the campaign about his connections to Russians. The plea says he: 

introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.

Trump tweeted out a photo of the meeting, in which you can see Papadopoulos sitting a few seats away from the president.

Trump

A heads-up: I met with Putin’s niece (and other Russians). According to the plea, on March 24, 2016, Papadopoulos emailed the “campaign supervisor and several members of the Campaign’s foreign policy team” that he’d just met with his “good friend,” the professor, and “Putin’s niece.” (Papadopoulos later learned the woman was not a relative of Putin.)

Papadopoulos  said the reason for the meeting was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

In April, Papadopoulos continued to keep the campaign informed of his contacts with “the Russians” and his “outreach to Russia.”

A big takeaway point: After months of congressional grilling and press inquiries about Trump contacts with Russian officials, these new details reveal that several people on the Trump campaign were aware that a Trump campaign representative was taking meetings with Russian officials. The Mueller team clearly has a copy of this email and so knows exactly some of the people who were made directly aware of this meeting.

We don’t know the identities yet of the unnamed campaign officials who received Papadopoulos’ updates. In the plea they’re called the “campaign supervisor” or the “high-ranking campaign official,” or “another high-ranking campaign official” (indicating at least two were directly in the loop).

It’s worth noting that Papadopoulos was one of five members of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, which was chaired by Jeff Sessions. The other four members were retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg (now the chief of staff of the National Security Council), Carter Page, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Always read the footnotes: Papadopolous was not acting on his own. One of the most important pieces of information in the Papadopoulos plea is contained in a footnote. It reads:

The government notes that the official forwarded defendant PAPADOPOULOS’s email to another Campaign official (without including defendant PAPADOPOULOS) and stated: “Let[‘]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

The footnote shows that Papadopolous was not freelancing and that others in the campaign were aware of his activities and on board with them. It also exposes an awareness that these activities — meetings with the Russians — should be kept discreet. That said, we do acknowledge a different (though less plausible) read, which is that the email meant someone low level should communicate Trump is not doing these trips, rather than someone low level should do the trip.

And here’s one other potentially important part of the timeline: That email exchange occurred in late May 2016. In July 2016, someone low-level in the campaign did travel to Moscow: Carter Page. The Trump campaign was extraordinarily cagey for a long time, refusing to answer press inquiries about whether Page’s trip had been approved by the campaign–until Politico’s Josh Meyer and Ken Vogel broke the story that campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had approved Page’s trip in advance.

What did Trump campaign officials say to Papadopoulos about working with the Russians? We know what Papadopoulos said to Trump campaign advisers, keeping them updated on his work and the conversations he was having with Russian officials. But, for the most part, we don’t know what they said back to him, but presumably Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team do. The responses we have, thanks to this plea, are significant, and imply that Mueller has far more information about the role other campaign officials played and the views they had about working with the Russians. (The footnote above also strongly suggests Mueller has access to internal Trump campaign emails in addition to the ones Papadopoulos had in his account.)

After Papadopoulos tells the campaign he met “Putin’s niece,” the “campaign supervisor” responded

that he would “work it through the campaign,” but that no commitments should be made at that point. The Campaign Supervisor added: “Great work.”

With reference to a potential “off-the-record” meeting with Russian officials, a Trump Campaign Supervisor told Papadopoulos in mid-August 2016: “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign to “make the trip[], if it is feasible.”

No one saw Papadopoulos news coming, which supports the idea that Mueller’s team is not leaking. The indictment against Paul Manafort, also made public Monday, was widely anticipated, but the guilty plea from Papadopoulos, that he was cooperating with Mueller’s team, or many of the details included in the plea were never even hinted at within news reports. This suggests that Mueller’s team is not leaking to the press and keeping a tight lid on some of the most important parts of its investigation.

Why did Papadopoulos feel he could lie so extensively to FBI agents? During his Jan. 27, 2017 interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos made several “material false statements and material omissions to the FBI.” He lied about when he started talking to the professor with connections to the Russian government. He lied about what he knew about the professor, saying the man was “a nothing” and “just a guy talking up connections,” when, in fact, he was fully aware of the professor’s “substantial” connections to Russian government officials. He lied about when he met “a certain female Russian national,” saying it was before he joined the campaign, when it was after he’d become an adviser.

Papadopoulos’ lies were extensive and fairly brazen, given the seriousness of the FBI’s investigation and what was at stake. Many of his actions to cover his tracks (deleting his Facebook account and getting a new cell phone number) also appear very clumsy and foolish–it suggests that Mueller may have even greater evidence than one would think. The plea does not say his counsel was present for his first interview with FBI officials in January, but notes that Papadopoulos’ counsel was present for a second interview on Feb. 17.

He was arrested at Dulles International Airport on July 27, after which he met with government officials numerous times to answer more questions. This time, truthfully.

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6 thoughts on “Another Shoe Drops: Papadopolous Says Trump Campaign Approved Meeting With Putin Reps

  1. Didn’t Trump also PERSONALLY meet with the Mexican President before the election??? So the campaign was ALSO colluding with the Mexicans???

    Get a clue and present a balanced story… just conversations. No $’s or favors were exchanged (at least none discovered over the last 10 months)… unlike the Clinton campaign.

  2. Believe me, I’d like nothing more than for this disgraceful experiment to be terminated as quickly as possible. I predicted, and bet, it would be over within the first calendar year. Nonetheless, this entire Russian thing, insofar as it will actually bring down Trump, is a giant “nothing-burger.”

    There is nothing there. Did the Russians try to peddle opposition ammo – sure – so what? It’s a free country. Did members of the Team Trump collaborate with Russians and others to advance their respective causes? Sure – so what? Again, it’s a f r e e s o c I e t y, and that’s fundamental. None of this stuff is going to stick – nor should it. Besides, what’s the big deal?

    The best way to bring down a renegade like Trump is to give him as much rope as he’ll take – and then some. One day he will hang himself. Were it not for all these side-shows giving him cover for what is likely really going on we would be much closer to euthanizing this administration.

  3. This really is a side show – by design. It’s a side show sponsored by both sides, or several sides, to deflect attention and scrutiny from each of their respective scams – all of which come down to their own enrichment. None of these scandals, investigations, arrests, and indictments means anything in comparison to the underlying and ongoing crimes. It starts at the top and flows right down to the lowest level of alt-media on each side – all with the objective of deflecting blame, guilt and scrutiny of whomever and whatever they serve.

    Ultimately, they are all just different breeds of dogs: from the NY Times to the Washington Post, from FOX to CNN and from Alex Jones to The Heisenberg. Each has a clear agenda and bias. None provide a balanced assessment of the facts – just a spin that serves their sponsors. The model is the same as the early media outlets that blatantly spun the value of useless and/or harmful products of their sponsors – from secret decoder rings and X-Ray glasses to cigarettes and Cialis. Now its corrupt anachronisms from Trump to Clinton and the DNC or the GOP.

    • Your negative analogy for “useless and/or harmful products” fell apart on your example of Cialis which you clearly have not explored either personally or critically. Cialis benefits in both sexual dysfunction and the reduction of BPH symptoms – and its extremely low demonstration of consistent harmful side effects (all drugs have side effects) – especially side effects not caused by other drug interactions and or preexisting pathologies. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tadalafil)

      Necessarily, this makes us wonder (as you should consider) how capable your are in separating the “useless and/or harmful products” that Trump and his administration have proven to represent – beyond the current criminal investigation that clearly is of Trump and his administration whether yet named or not and most of which is yet to unfold.

      While we all have bias and certainly paid content and specific sponsored media have their for profit biases, this doesn’t excuse us as individuals from using our basic critical thinking skills to sort the bias in the face of what has become an international embarrassment to American democracy and the people it is supposed to serve – whether they are discerning enough to know it or not.

      • Glad to hear Cialis works for you. I really had no idea – it worked for the alliteration and I think I remember the creepy commercial of the elderly couple sitting in matching bathtubs looking at the sunset or sunrise. No offense intended – sounds like a good and helpful product – so happy endings!

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