Oz on Papadopoulos

I want to use this thread to review certain details about recent George Papadopoulos disclosures.

NYT’s sources cannot be exclusively FBI

First, GOPers have suggested that the NYT story disclosing that Papadopoulos got drunk and told the Australian Ambassador, Alexander Downer, that Russians had dirt on Hillary is an FBI attempt to relieve pressure on Mueller by providing a different explanation for the start of the investigation. But that can’t be true, at least not entirely. Here’s how the NYT describes their sources:

four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role

That is, at least one (and possibly several) of their sources is a foreign official, presumably Australian. The description of these sources as “officials” could also mean they’re current or former members of Congress.

The story also provides a really odd statement about Papadopoulos’ lawyers’ involvement, saying only that his lawyers declined to provide a statement.

In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos’s lawyers declined to provide a statement.

This admits the possibility they said something off the record.

Finally, remember that Papadopoulos’ fiancée told ABC that he had a bigger role in the campaign than Trump defenders have claimed; she also said she had emails to prove it.

Mangiante said Papadopoulos “set up meetings with leaders all over the world” for senior campaign officials. He was “constantly in touch with high-level officials in the campaign,” she added. That included direct communication with now-former senior Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, Mangiante said, adding that she had seen correspondence supporting the assertion.

[snip]

Mangiante said that while she is eager to offer proof that Papadopoulos was a campaign insider, she has been instructed by attorneys to not provide emails or other possible evidence to reporters.

[snip]

She said she believes he will now have a firm place in history as “the first domino in the Russia investigation.”

If I were an enterprising NYT journalist, I’d certainly try to convince her to offer that proof, especially any proof she had that Papadopoulos was “the first domino” in the investigation — the story offered by the NYT.

So there’s no reason to believe the NYT story comes entirely — or even partially — from the FBI. It likely came from Papadopoulos and Australians, perhaps confirmed by former members of Congress.

Turnbull to Trump: Don’t blame me for the investigation

Meanwhile, the Australians are trying to dodge blame for this story coming out, accusing Americans of leaking Downer’s role.

It is also understood there is now annoyance and frustration in Canberra that the High Commissioner to Britain Alexander Downer has been outed through leaks by US officials as the source of information that played a role in sparking an FBI probe into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Moscow.

Note, Downer is in the process of being replaced as Ambassador to the UK, so he may have some reason to make life difficult for Turnbull, who has a trip to the US scheduled for February. That said, the Age cites several other people, both at CSIS, who appear to have some familiarity with the story who could also be NYT’s sources. And even in a piece trying to blame Americans for this story, it reveals that Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey personally worked with the FBI on this tip.

Aussie sources narrowing in on which emails were discussed?

While I don’t take it to be definitive (because a lot of journalists, even in the US, don’t track these details well enough), the Age claims that Papadopoulos described the emails as “hacked Democratic Party emails.”

In May 2016, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told Mr Downer over drinks at an upscale London wine bar that the Russians had a dirt file on rival candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic Party emails.

If that is indeed what Papadopoulos told Downer, it would be a key detail in the case against Trump’s team, because it would mean they likely learned specifically what Russia had hacked and leaked.

Delayed reporting

The Age explains why the Aussies didn’t report the conversation to the FBI right away (though, again, I’m not sure this is meant as definitive).

Downer conveyed the conversation to Canberra via an official cable, though apparently not immediately – perhaps because he did not take the 28-year-old adviser’s claims altogether seriously until the hacked emails were released by Wikileaks in late July.

If this reporting is correct, it suggests the delay came on Downer’s side, with Hockey informing the FBI in timely fashion after Downer submitted his report on an official cable. I’d still like to know why the Guccifer 2.0 releases didn’t elicit any reporting. After all, it’s possible that Downer only reported the conversation when it became clear their wayward citizen, Julian Assange, was acting in a way that might affect the elections.

In a follow-up post I’m going to look at some timing details in the Papadopoulos documents.

 

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

52 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Just thinking out loud – how much, if any, of this might have fed into that dustup Trump had with the Aussies right at inauguration time?

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think at all. I don’t think he would have known about it at that point. It might be why the Aussies leaked it though.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      I’m going to say “not much, probably not any”, because the snit was mainly about the refugee relocation deal announced just after the election. (I’m sure it’ll raise suspicions that the US offer to accept some of those refugees was a quid pro quo.)

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:

    The Labor opposition is also sticking to “no comment”, which is notable when pretty much everything in Australian politics becomes (very) partisan very quickly. Nobody apparently wants to place Turnbull under pressure to disclose when he became aware of Downer’s report and Hockey got involved on the US side.

    You’re right to be cautious about “Democratic Party emails”: it’s most probably Fairfax not tracking the specifics, though it could be them accurately reporting what their own sources have told them without knowing that it makes news.

  3. dalloway says:

    I wonder if Downer asked Papadopoulos if he’d actually seen the e-mails — and what Papa answered. And the fiancee’s statements make me think it’s possible Papadopoulos (and others in the campaign) had copies of them, not just conversations about them. If copies were attached to any e-mails between them (I know, unbelievably stupid thing to do, but remember who we’re dealing with), it would be game over for many Drumpfians (including Jeff Sessons), who would have lied about it to the FBI just like Papa did. You wouldn’t think the Attorney General of the U.S. would lie to the FBI, but you wouldn’t think he’d lie to Congress, either.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It seems likely that anyone’s fiancee would be supportive, or else make no comment or walk away.  Comments are unlikely to be helpful, and who wants a fiancee rooming for several years with Bubba in the federal pen?  Whatever she says should be discounted.

      Even so, what she says is enticing.  She should not know about the e-mails, for example.  If she does and they’re real, it’s another sign Papa is a talkative fool destined to end up face down in a ditch for spilling the wrong beans.  But surely someone would have been tasked with examining what the Russians claimed to have and to pass it to those who could evaluate whether it would help or hinder Trump’s campaign.

      • bmaz says:

        My recollection is that her main substance was that George was NOT a coffee boy, and that he was in constant contact with, and absolutely working for, the heart of the campaign. Which boils down mostly to he was communicating with them constantly. That is slightly corroborative, but not worth much. She came off as pretty bright though.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That was what I meant in my second paragraph.  I’ve always thought the “coffee boy” slur was an obvious attempt, probably by Trump himself, to create the illusion of distance between himself and the guy pictured six feet to his right.  He is better at coming up with derogatory names than was Shrub, and tosses them more often and with more vitriol.

        Papa’s fiancee may well know of the existence of evidence that would show Papa to be a more important cog than the rest of the Trump machine is willing to admit. Why he was on the team and had importance is a different matter.

        His information – and his ability to corroborate information from or about others – could create legal peril for members of team Trump.  Papa’s loose lips may well pop the rivets on several plates along the hull of the SS Trump.  The Potomac is exceptionally cold this time of year.

      • TGuerrant says:

        Is now a good time to reflect on the fact that The Professor introduced George to the woman who became George’s fiancee and spokesmodel?

  4. bell says:

    ” Papadopoulos told Mr Downer over drinks”…no, scratch that.. lets start with the opening line from the ever so reputable nyt : “During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

    well one thing you can say for sure.. if the fbi needs cover, the nyt will certainly provide it for them even as late as the quiet pre new years celebration date of dec 30th 2017… this new year ought to be another fun who knew what when year, lol…

  5. Ghost ship says:

    Who had Papadopoulos learnt of the alleged existence of the documents from? As far as I can make out Papdopoulos had contacts with a Maltese Professor of International Relations, a Russian commercial lawyer trying to get American adoptions of Russian orphans going again and a “niece” of Putin who wasn’t really his niece.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Australian embassies are famously generous with their booze and the inclusiveness with which they choose drinking partners.  But it does seem odd that such a small-fry as Papadopoulos would be having a long drinking bout with the high commissioner himself.  It seems likely that talk must already have been swirling round Papa to make him such an interesting drinking companion.

    But if talk were swirling round Papa, why would Downer delay transmitting his contact report?  I agree with a comment from the previous story, as a former foreign affairs minister and ambassador to a post second only to Washington in importance, Downer’s reports would be read. It’s one more thing that seems to be missing.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The NYT piece fills that out:

      It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

      The sourcing for that presumably comes from either P. himself or the Australian side.

  7. bell says:

    January 15th 2017 FBI visits Papadopoulos for first time.
    FBI waited for six months to talk to him?

    quote on downer from one aussie – “Downer, the aussie diplomat/ex foreign minister is as corrupt as they come. Timor cabinet offices built and bugged with aussie aid. Screwed out of their sunrise gas field by foriegn minister Downer, which is acquired by Woodside, Downer becomes high paid ‘consultant’ to Woodside after leaving politics.”

      • SC says:

        I can see why some are sensitive about Downer; he’s that much more credible because his conservative/authoritarian roots make him a natural Trump ally. Hearing that Downer has evidence of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign no doubt stings a bit.

        • bell says:

          another quote from an aussie.. “Alexander Downer reached the pinnacle of his incompetence on the coat-tails of his father’s career which included being High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the same position Junior currently holds and in which capacity he was conversing with the drunken George Papadopoulos.” yeah downer and his uk position just reeks of collusion with trump and russia, lol… it’s not like uk, chatham house and all the various gov’t stooges have ever sided up with the usa on anything…  i mean, boris is just such a russiophobe, lol…

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Anyone his country’s foreign minister for twenty years earns enemies. Finding quotes from them would be easy. Establishing that they are credible and representative of his career is another matter altogether. Nor is Downer the issue, he’s a picker up of trifles. Papadopoulos is the issue, what he said, what he did, and with and for whom.

    • bell says:

      that’s true… as regards the character and quality of info being offered by papadopulos, i think this quote off wikipedia sums him up well..  – “a little-known, little-qualified 30-year-old.” on with the fishing expedition~!

      • cat herder says:

        If there’s no evidence, that is clear proof that the whole thing is a TPTB plot. But, any evidence that might happen to turn up is clear proof that the whole thing is a TPTB plot. Your logic is a little transparent.

        • bell says:

          it is true i think this whole thing is a stupid goose chase.. what has been turned up in however many months to date? nada… but as i said – for those who love fishing – let the expedition continue…  and as i maintain – the move towards war with russia is ongoing come what may…i wish i could see the agenda of the usa at this moment in time differently, but i don’t..

          • bmaz says:

            Your last few entries here have been unsourced anonymous “Aussies” and now Wikipedia without explaining the source (Wiki has those you know). This is garbage and you are using garbage to ridicule reasoned commenters.

            Again, you are trolling our commentary section. Clean up your act, go away, or you will be disappeared. It is really that simple, and I am tired of dealing with your crap. Shape up, or be shipped out. And if you give me any lip, that process will start tonight.

             

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A little-known, little-qualified young man working intimately with a child man who is now president.  If he was fishing, his boat was full of compatriots.

  10. manymusings says:

    So, speculation aimed at ferreting out possible identities of NYT’s vaguely described “four current and former American and foreign officials …” — cobbled together with “interviews” (of lord knows who) and “previously undisclosed documents” (which, mind you, NYT isn’t actually disclosing) — is all for the purpose of ….. what, really?

    What exactly is the point here? That having to guess at the sourcing of “bombshell reporting” by reputable news outlets has become part of the “game” or ongoing saga of this whole “Russia-Trump thing” thing is itself exhibit #1 that this is an embarrassing farce, proving the utter lack of transparency and accountability in our current civic life and, sadly, the complicity of a citizenry so pliable to authority that we accept “trust us” not just from our government/law enforcement but from the “fearless free press” that is supposed to demand answers, eschew cowardice, and cast sunlight (not provide the cover of darkness).

    Who cares if NYT wrested some information from GP’s fiancee and “interviewed” some important people to shake loose what even under the protection of blanket anonymity are still guarded, cryptic and de-contextualized tidbits.  Is the point here that if the elements from the FBI/DOJ/IC *didn’t* plant the story, that makes it somehow more credible? Is the suggestion that this was some “earnest” real journalism by the NYT, carefully mining sources for heretofore protected backstory, that we accept as true and newsworthy? Even as the “report” pushes its naked agenda of de-emphasizing FBI/DOJ reliance on the Steele dossier (which the article announces front and center, lest we fail to make the proper inference) precisely at the moment that any objective news judgment would be *more* critical, questioning, and probing about how dossier/oppo research factored into a counterintelligence investigation of a political campaign and incoming administration, perhaps even providing (knowingly) false cover for surveilance of U.S. citizens during an election?

    What is Trump doing to our critical thinking. This NYT article isn’t some muckracking investigative piece that helps us clarify a murky picture; it’s gossip designed to muddle what is becoming an increasingly clear picture. Thinly-sourced, vaguely-reported, self-announced-“narrative-changing” news items, that are scant on details or context or plausibility, with no sources on the record, don’t deserve be to taken seriously. Pondering who the NYT got this from only legitimizes and emboldens this M.O., that rightly warrants our contempt. The NYT (and others) are treating us like we’re stupid. Let’s not prove them right.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh my…….

      Who cares if NYT wrested some information from GP’s fiancee and “interviewed” some important people to shake loose what even under the protection of blanket anonymity are still guarded, cryptic and de-contextualized tidbits.  Is the point here that if the elements from the FBI/DOJ/IC *didn’t* plant the story, that makes it somehow more credible? Is the suggestion that this was some “earnest” real journalism by the NYT, carefully mining sources for heretofore protected backstory, that we accept as true and newsworthy? 

      Yes, indeed, who cares if journalists do their job and it does not always fit within the wings of either side’s framing? You are right there on top ManyMusings! But, on top of what pile?

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      [arglebarglegarble]

      it’s gossip designed to muddle what is becoming an increasingly clear picture.

      It’s remarkable how increasingly clear things can become when one has decided to discount anything that disagrees with them. How precious.

  11. manymusings says:

    @bmaz and @pseudononymous in nc —

    None of us really can draw any conclusions, that’s the point.

    I suppose it’s “precious” to credit sourced information over rampant use of anonymous leaks and repetition of uncorroborated assertions; to be skeptical of off-the-record reports the point of which is to discourage demands for transparency or accountability among the intelligence community (at least until the report is verified on the record); and to manage the cognitive dissonance that after a year of aggressive investigation (and desperate leaking) over the conduct of our grossly incompetent and dangerous president, so far the “collusion” that actually is corroborated is that one candidate in the last election — my preferred candidate — commissioned “dirt” on an opponent from foreign sources (including Russia) covertly, funneled it to the FBI (possibly through obscuring its origin, though not sure which is worse), and steadfastly lied about it for a year, during which time the likes of the NYT treated this unconfirmed “dirt” as the ominous-sounding “product of a Western intelligence source that the FBI has been working to verify.” Which in itself is no shame to DOJ/FBI, if we had assurance that DOJ didn’t use the dossier *without corroborating it* for a FISA warrant and/or as cover for surveiling a major political candidate in a presidential election. So far, that is the most troubling implication of 2016 election mischief to emerge as a credible question in all of this. I don’t think even the most jaded among us would think it possible — but on-the-record (non-leak) revelations, e.g., from court orders and the DOJ-OIG, leave the question staring us starkly in the face, and as easy as it would be to clear up, so far DOJ-FBI won’t do so. It’s separate from the question of “collusion” and demanding the information need not be equated with any judgment about collusion at all. It’s about evidence. In the bigger picture we can’t let abject panic or rage over an administration blind us from demanding evidence; from demanding that those with the powers to intimidate, to deprive life and liberty, use that power legitimately, modestly, and when doing so must be prepared to make the case. If the NYT were “doing it’s job” it would join the call for the DOJ to declassify the FISA application, or at least produce it under Congressional subpoena. The DOJ should be eager to show the country it exercises its grave power of surveilance with the upmost care — especially concerning an election and a transfer of power. If it did go by the book, thank god. But if it demands extraordinary power it can’t then shun any and all accountability. We should all want proof. Revealing the basis for surveilance warrants during the campaign — at least to Congressional oversight — in no way impedes Mueller’s investigation, and, if proper, only bolsters its credibility. That DOJ won’t hand over the FISA application or give straight answers (even to congressional committees) on how it was used should terrify all of us. Frankly it’s stunning to me having to even argue this.

    That’s what this NYT story was about: the role of the dossier in the DOJ’s use of spying powers during the 2016 election. As for “collusion” or criminal conduct — either Mueller’s investigation ultimately will bring indictments, or it won’t. Anonymous leaks on that question are just interesting noise. But the purpose of this article was to ward off public pressure for the DOJ to comply with congressional subpoenas on Trump campaign FISA applications, i.e., to demonstrate that it legitimately obtained authority to use spying powers last summer and fall.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      None of us really can draw any conclusions, that’s the point.

      Start with Papadopoulos’s statement of facts. Then methodically go through all the lies that have been told over the past year about the campaign’s contact with Russians, and the people who have abetted the telling of those lies.

      That’s what this NYT story was about: the role of the dossier in the DOJ’s use of spying powers during the 2016 election.

      No, it was about the origin of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

      But please don’t let that get in the way of your narrative. Your concern is noted. Be sure to claim your Bronze Bouffet (IIIrd Class) badge from Byron York.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, hi there ManyMusings!

      Yeah, I do not need you to tell me when, where, and how to draw conclusions. Won’t speak for them, but doubt PINC does either. Speaking of “precious”, your inability to use paragraph breaks, and ability to babble on with bullshit, is noted. As to sourced information, the reporters at NYT, some of whom are well known here, had sources, you just spewed bullshit. This is without even going into your relentlessly run on sentences.

      Secondly, if you are, as it appears, focused on “the dossier” vis a vis FISA warrants, not to mention “collusion”, you are a clown and have no clue whatsoever how federal investigations are run, much less the FISA application process. “Collusion” is the fool’s gold of idiots in this investigation. It is neither a crime, nor even a legitimate legal term of art. And that is not how the FISA court, nor the warrant application process to it (not even the lesser Title III process), works. I could go on, but your run on comment makes my eyes tired.

      Please try to do better.

      • manymusings says:

        Wow.

        I will try to do better. I don’t mean that sarcastically.

        I know “collusion” isn’t a crime, which is why I put it in quotes. Consider, for a moment, that I’m not just an idiot.

        Sorry if my comment makes your eyes tired.

        But I do try. I bristle at any number of things, like we all do.

        Engaging my supposed intellectual/moral kindred spirits these days makes my eyes tired. Still.

        I mean it; I’ll try to do better.

      • manymusings says:

        And this I do mean, pointedly: you know nothing about what I know, but implicitly claim better expertise, so please then, tell us, how is it that federal investigations are run?

        • bmaz says:

          Welp, no, I do not know “what you know”, but when you make statements like this:

           if we had assurance that DOJ didn’t use the dossier *without corroborating it* for a FISA warrant and/or as cover for surveiling a major political candidate in a presidential election. So far, that is the most troubling implication of 2016 election mischief to emerge as a credible question in all of this. I don’t think even the most jaded among us would think it possible — but on-the-record (non-leak) revelations, e.g., from court orders and the DOJ-OIG, leave the question staring us starkly in the face, and as easy as it would be to clear up, so far DOJ-FBI won’t do so.

          I can tell you are a little nutty.

          And then there is this sentence:

          In the bigger picture we can’t let abject panic or rage over an administration blind us from demanding evidence; from demanding that those with the powers to intimidate, to deprive life and liberty, use that power legitimately, modestly, and when doing so must be prepared to make the case.

          Which is fine demagoguery, but hollow. As is the rest of that paragraph. And I “mean that pointedly”. I do appreciate the more compact reply though. If you would like to lay out your expertise in the field and law, please do so. By the text of your initial comment, it is hard to see much more than rote demagoguery.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          I’ll be generous here.

          Again, let’s start with the working story from the campaign/transition at, say, inauguration day, so, before Flynn’s resignation, before Beauregard’s confirmation hearing and subsequent recusal, before Comey’s firing and on-record, under-oath testimony, before news of the June Tower meeting, before Crown Prince Jared’s umpteen amendments to his SF-86, before Papadopoulos taking a plea, before Flynn taking a plea.

          [old school tape rewind noise]

          How many times has the story on that side changed? It’s lies upon lies upon lies. But you’ve apparently priced in the lies because the people who told and still tell the lies are in charge, while every potential flaw and foible that might have taken place in the process of penetrating that concrete bunker of lies is held up as a sacred offering to the liars.

          Frankly it’s stunning to me having to even argue this. Your concern is noted.

          • manymusings says:

            I don’t see how any part of my comments would personally insult the prevailing “narrative” here on emptywheel to the degree of inviting snide quips (“nutty”? accusations that I have no idea? congratulations on a badge from Byron?) along with lame insults about my writing (oh dear this already is probably another bad sentence. sorry. oh no, again. sorry. sorry.).

            I tried to engage here in good faith — acknowledging facts, viewpoints, and offering what is actually a compatible issue of concern. Go ahead, attack me personally, again. To adopt the popular phrase — all concerns noted.

            Thanks for the “generosity.”

            And enjoy your echo chamber. Not coming back.

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