The Footnote Shows Manafort Was Hiding Willingness to Reach Out to Russia

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There is now some debate about what this footnote, from George Papadopoulos’ plea, means.

On or about May 21, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed another high-ranking Campaign official, with the subject line “Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.” The email included the May 4 MFA Email and added: “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss.”2

2 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 question is, does this mean the speaker was trying to agree to meetings, but keep it low level to hide the intent to cooperate with Russia, or send a low level person to reject the meeting.

As southpaw has noted, this exchange was actually included in a WaPo post this summer claiming that Papadopoulos was ignored by the campaign. The two campaign officials involved are … Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who were surely shocked to learn Papadopoulos had flipped on them three weeks ago as they pled not guilty today.

Several weeks later, Papadopoulos forwarded the same message from Timofeev to Manafort, the newly named campaign chairman.

“Russia has been eager to meet with Mr. Trump for some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss,” the adviser told Manafort.

Manafort reacted coolly, forwarding the email to his associate Rick Gates, with a note: “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”

Gates agreed and told Manafort he would ask the campaign’s correspondence coordinator to handle it — “the person responding to all mail of non-importance” — to signify this did not need a senior official to respond.

Already, it’s clear that whoever shared this content with WaPo was spinning, hiding the context.

But the complaint against Papadopoulos written to support an arrest this July says something different. It shows that on July 14, Papadopoulos wrote Timofeev proposing an August or September meeting in the UK.

On or about July 14, 2016, PAPADOPOULOS emailed Foreign Contact 2 and proposed a “meeting for August or September in the UK (London) with me and my national chairman, and maybe one other foreign policy advisor and you, members of president putin’s office and the mfa to hold a day of consultants and to meet one another. It has been approved from our side.”

That is, less than two months later, Papadopoulous at least claimed that a meeting including Manafort had been approved, though not including Trump.

Mind you, back to the plea, by August 15 it was decided just Papadopoulous and an unnamed “another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign” [which WaPo has identified as Sam Clovis] should “make the trip[], if it is feasible.” But it then says that the meeting did not take place.

That’s likely not because at that time, August 15, Manafort was being ousted from the campaign because his corrupt ties to Ukraine (basically, the stuff he got indicted on today) was causing a scandal. Which is to say that particular meeting didn’t happen (though Papadopoulos remained on the campaign and — in Facebook messaging he tried to destroy after meeting with the FBI — remained in contact with his Russian handlers as late as October 1), but it didn’t happen not because Manafort wasn’t game, but because Manafort’s ties to Russia became toxic, precisely the kind of “signal” Manafort was trying to avoid in May.

And the connotation of that May 21 email is important because it shows Manafort’s mindset in the weeks before, on June 9, he met with a Russian lawyer hoping for dirt he likely expected to include stolen Hillary emails.

34 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Isikoff apparently has sources from within the campaign who say that Campaign Supervisor was Clovis and HRCO was Manafort.

    Supervisor was probably on board just a little too early to be Manafort, even though he was unofficially on the team earlier than any announcement. Clovis was supposedly behind assembling the Island of Misfit Foreign Policy Advisors.

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Isikoff apparently has sources from within the campaign who say that Campaign Supervisor was Sam Clovis and HRCO was Manafort.

    Supervisor was probably on board just a little too early to be Manafort, even though he was unofficially on the team earlier than any announcement. Clovis was mentioned in 2016 as one of those who assembled the Island of Misfit Foreign Policy Advisors.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    TPM also has some more good background. Although, it seems Mr. Gates was around far longer than previously admitted (more problems for the “they weren’t important” defense).

    SHS is going to be a press conference pinata this week, but she knew what she was signing up for….

    Bwa hahahahahahaha.

  4. Charles says:

    One minor point that’s interesting to me is that Mueller only charged Manafort and Gates with regard to the Ukraine and money laundering, which allows Trump supporters to say that there’s no (quickly stuffing Papadopolous under the carpet) collusion. Emptywheel says, correctly, that this leaves investigators with plenty of charges to tie to Manafort’s legs should he choose not to cooperate.


    However, I see Manafort as such damaged goods that no prosecutor would want him as a witness. Sure, he could provide documentary evidence and also fill in gaps of knowledge, but he is really, really dirty.


    So I suspect he was charged in this manner to make it politically impossible for Trump to pardon him or otherwise interfere in the prosecution, at least in the near term.  Trump himself sealed the exit by saying that this all happened before Manafort was associated with the campaign and No Russia and What About Hillary?

    And then there’s the question of who Manafort’s testimony could crush. I would guess Sessions. Which means Sessions is asking himself whether now is a good time to talk to Mueller.  And (Wonderland reference) if the Red Queen’s head is taken off, how much longer does her King have before his is on the block?


    It must be time to start a war.

    • bmaz says:

      I believe you are short selling how easy it is for a prosecutor to sandpaper the rough edge off of government witnesses for a jury.

      • Charles says:

        Not underestimating, bmaz…I know about Vinny the Chin. Prosecution didn’t have any choirboys as witnesses. But Manafort is not just bad in the Vincent Gigante mode.  He sold out his country and he’s a pathological liar.  This is like putting a hybrid of Benedict Arnold and Bonnie Plunkett on the witness stand.


        And I do think Manafort’s testimony can crush Sessions… just not in court. Sessions is not very smart. But he is smart enough to know that what Manafort can tell Mueller is enough to send Sessions to jail even without testifying and that it is time for Sessions to cooperate.


        Speaking of smart, having listened to Carter Page on Chris Hayes, I now think he is the brains of the Trump organization. He won’t shut up and yet he’s still not indicted.

  5. PG says:

    I’ve believed that if there were actual “collusion” or coordination with the Kremlin in the form of an explicit quid pro quo, it would have been a sophisticated operation, through channels established by Manafort (and/or others with similar long-standing connections) and difficult to trace. And that still may pan out.

    What strikes me, in contrast, is the nature of the outreach to Papadopoulos. This cloak and dagger scenario is conducted as if no other more suitable avenues of communication and negotiation already existed. The Papadopoulos ensnarement narrative seems to contradict the long-standing Trump/Manafort/Russian ties and enmeshment narrative. And, it appears that in both the case of the June 9th meeting and the Papadopoulos contacts, the promised quid/information never materialized. So, I can’t shake the sense that Kompromat was at play in the melodramatic contacts that the more inexperienced members of Team Trump had with Russians, while actual collusion may have taken place elsewhere.

      • PG says:

        PS — Sorry for the double post!  I thought my comment didn’t load the first time, so I tried again.  Didn’t realize it wound up going through on the other article.

  6. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    OK folks, strap it up. I am now convinced that Mueller is gunna be at this long after the Orange One has fled to sunny Novosibirsk, Siberia. In my wildest hopes I never thought that Mueller would get this far this fast and whaddaya know he’s been there since July for God’s sake!! The only thing that stands in the way of getting the Republican Party named as an unidicted co-conspirator is a deal between Pelosi, Schumer and the Kochs to fund the DNC!

  7. klynn says:

    A timeline is vital. Bill Moyers has a good one but we need a crowd sourced timeline. Today is a good example. Today’s timeline alone is vital.

  8. Dc says:

    Ok. Whomever fed Tom hamburger his info on Papadopoulos for his August 15 Wapo scoop was sympathetic to Trump and getting the word out that Papadopoulos was radioactive.

  9. gedouttahear says:

    Given the extraordinary control and professionalism that M’s team demonstrated by keeping today’s events under wraps, and given the passage of time between flipping PapaDocALoose and today, my hunch is that M has numerous filings ready to go and it’s just a matter of which will be filed as indictments and which as plea agreements. I’m looking forward to the father-son and father-son-in-law filings for Flynn, Jr., T, Jr. and JK : it will be a true test of ‘family values.’

  10. bell says:

    still can’t find the russian boogie man? wow, this thing is taking a long time, lol….. keep on looking.. i am sure it is somewhere! those dang ruskies screwed your clinton win and ya’ll won’t be happy til you find em, lol…

  11. Mal Reynolds says:

    If you don’t mind me butting in, could this specific question be the result of a misunderstanding? What I mean to say is that while the earlier communication from Manafort is aimed at squashing an attempt to, in my opinion, do an event with Putin similar to what they did with Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico to let Trump look Presidential standing side to side with a world leader. The email from July 14, from how I read it, seems to indicate instead a desire to hold a foreign policy get together between George, Manafort, and one other on the Trump side and Ivan Timofeev (who matches in the Post report the role played by the MFA official in George’s case) and members of the Russian government to discuss foreign policy matters.


    I can’t say I know for sure the traditional extent foreign governments interact with Presidential campaigns beyond the fact that they do, and that Clinton and Obama officials say they never got similar invitations, but I wonder whether this was evidence of part of an espionage operation, or just an attempt by the Russians to feel out Trump’s positions on various issues from someone a little brighter than George. Especially since unlike Clinton and Obama, who had made statements in the past on foreign policy and held foreign policy positions in the U.S. government (Secretary of State and Senate Foreign Relations Committee respectively) would therefore be lesser unknowns to a man who’s last job prior to running for President was hosting a game show. The fact that someone who, as far as I can tell, is primarily an academic in the form of Timofeev was the main Russian contact on this really pushes me to think that the greater focus would be on figuring out what Trump would do if elected. And, if this is anything to go by  (, it was not at all uncommon during the Cold War for American campaigns to contact Soviet diplomatic personnel in the U.S. to get an idea of the Soviet’s views on different issues. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a campaign lacking depth in foreign policy experience would desperately want to feel out the views of other countries.


    As to the offer for dirt on Clinton, the first thing that comes to mind is that of course any actual and halfway competent intelligence operation done by the Russians wouldn’t be done over Skype, given concerns over PRISM. Second, the material that Foreign Contact 1 (identified tentatively as Joseph Mifsud of Stirling University and Stirling’s London Academy of Diplomacy) claimed the Russians had on Clinton isn’t described as far as I can tell in the Complaint. The Statement of the Offense however ( describes it in a little more detail. According to that document, the material that the Russians supposedly had were thousands of Clinton’s emails. The obvious problem with this is that none of those emails ever saw the light of day during the campaign, which raises doubt to my mind as to their existence. Additionally, there is the whole weirdness of meeting ‘Putin’s niece’ who really wasn’t Putin’s niece (that’s so far the one person in all of this who hasn’t been even tentatively identified) in London and that while the Complaint quotes a message from George saying that he was introduced to the Russian Ambassador to the U.K. (who also was the Deputy Foreign Minister), in the Statement of the Offense it’s stated that George never actually was introduced to the Ambassador.


    Honestly, this smells to me more like Mifsud more likely than not was engaging in some bullshit artistry. I can imagine a scenario where he wants to play the go between with Trump and the Russians and move up in the world. George, being the type of guy who’d voluntarily be interviewed by the FBI, lie to them, and then try to stall them by deleting his Facebook account after the fact, and who believed that he met Putin’s niece is not a terribly bright guy and thus falls for it. Mifsud dangles the prospect of Clinton emails, for which again we have no evidence were actually in Russia’s possession to begin with and seem not to be the type of thing you’d inform a Western university professor of, as a means of keeping George hooked (the whole thing about the Trump campaign trying to find Hillary’s missing emails I think is an interesting story and not necessarily dependent on Russia, but this has run long enough as is). Mifsud uses his connections from speaking at Russian think tanks to establish himself as a go between with the Trump campaign, some of whom want to burnish Trump’s foreign policy credentials and others the campaign’s lack of foreign policy knowledge, and the Russians, who want an idea of what exactly Trump’s positions are on various relevant issues. George want’s to use this as a means to round out a resume that includes how he was a Model UN champ and to make himself important in the campaign, and suggests the Mission to Moscow for the same reason that Trump meets Pena Nieto in the fall. That idea gets scratched, but the idea of having people from the Trump campaign having a sit down with Russian foreign policy officials is still in play until Manafort gets let go, assuming it didn’t happen at some point later on.

    • matt says:

      yes, to all of that.  If the Trump campaign didn’t “buy” it’s just the Russian State acting on their own accord to turn the election, which they had plenty of reasons to do so.  They still have their man in office, and likely the real dirt on him for influence.

  12. Rugger9 says:

    Today’s Hail Mary comes from AOL, referring to an op-ed in July  by the same expert in the LA Times, essentially claiming that Mueller’s appointment is unconstitutional and as of now he has no supervisor and therefore needed to be approved by the Senate.  Oh, the independent counsel law expired in 1999 as well.

    Professor Kmiec is based out of Pepperdine University, which is a conservative Catholic school in Malibu, and where Kenneth Starr was Dean of the law school from 2004 to 2010 before taking the Baylor gig, which I think says all that needs to be said about Kmiec’s ambient environment.  Kenny was busy at Pepperdine.

    Kmiec for his part supported Obama (!) but also supported Prop 8 in California on religious grounds.  he walked that Prop 8 back later, which tells me he has a habit of not fully grasping legal issues when issuing his opinions.  This analysis is published at LawNewz which looks like a Fauxian legal shop (Lawfare is better and sticks to the law, and Lawfare so far doesn’t seem to have this) chock full of conspiracy stuff on the RH clickbait zone.

    I would expect that the GOP would have already raised these issues / deficiencies loudly once it was clear Mueller is getting close to Trump and that was some time ago.  It mirrors the resurrected “lock her up” bleating from the Fauxbots in that if there was anything to get HRC on, there is no reason that Trump / Sessions / etc. would not have filed charges already.  There’s always a toady or two looking to score points with the boss.

    LA Times op-ed:

    AOL story: which points to:

      • orionATL says:

        in my view doug kmiec is a religious freak. his judgment is clouded by what he imagines god and scripture require him to do. such men a dangerous, for all their goodness.

        i regard his legal views as victims of his excentric convictions.

  13. Babyl-on says:

    Nothing describes this blog more accurately than this quote from John Updike talking about the conspiracy theories and intense focus on the final seconds of JFK’s life:

    “seems to demonstrate how perilously empiricism verges on magic.”


    There is so much “empiricism” here that the magic thinking thrives making you a laughingstock.

    • orionATL says:

      babyl-on –

      very, very, very clever screen name you got there. you do realize it is self-condemnatory don’t you?

      the wide-ranging speculating of the sort done here at emptywheel is an essential part of critical thinking.

      your words here are your footprints and clearly you came trudging in from a foreign kingdom, the land of we’ve-no-doubt-what’s-what.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nicely generic, not tied to immediate news or events.   My compliments on the improved software.

    • orionATL says:

      babyl-on –

      yours is a very unsophisticated, schoolyard response, all the more for one who quotes famous writers.

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