George Papadopoulos’ Social Media Call Records Were Not Subpoenaed Until After His Interviews

I’ve been tracking questions about how aggressively (or not) the FBI investigated George Papadopoulos after receiving a tip, in July 2016, that he had heard the Russians bragging about having dirt in the form of emails from Hillary Clinton in April 2016. In this post, I showed that, given that they didn’t know about Ivan Timofeev until after his interviews, they could not even have started pursuing a warrant until after the first interview, at best (and didn’t know about the existence communications over a Section 702 provider with Timofeev until after both). In this post, I suggested that it looked like the FBI first obtained a preservation order for the device GSA had on him on March 9, 21 days after his second interview.

Since then two details have come out. First, this Peter Strzok/Lisa Page SMS text highlighted by Matt Tait suggests that as late as June 6, 2017, the Special Counsel’s office was still debating whether searching Section 702 presented a litigation risk (meaning Trump’s buddies are getting far more protection than the rest of us might be).

Then there’s a point that Eric Swalwell made in Monday’s hearing debating whether or not to reveal the Schiff memo. In response to Michael Turner’s suggestion that there was no evidence of “collusion” between Trump and Russia, Swalwell pointed out that only after the FBI challenged Trump aide claims did the Bureau find evidence to support a conspiracy.

George Papadopoulos I think is the canary in the coal mine. He was interviewed January 27, 2017, by FBI. He lied about his contacts over in London with the professor. He was interviewed again in February, and he lied. Only when the FBI showed the willingness to subpoena his Skype and Facebook logs did he come around 6 months later.

This makes it clear that the FBI had not even obtained call records from Papadopoulos (via an NSL or a subpoena) before the second interview, the standard for which is really low.

Again, this shows that, at least during that phase of the investigation, the FBI was moving very conservatively. The GOP keep complaining that Carter Page, who had been a suspected foreign agent for years, was targeted under FISA. But they’re not acknowledging that the FBI appears to have treated the other Trump aides with kid gloves. for nine months after the period when they obtained a real tip about their involvement.

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.

29 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Given the oddness and inconsistencies of his background, it looks like Carter Page was treated by the FBI with kid gloves, too. And the Dems are weak at framing the public debate. If they insist on being fact and evidence based, they need to up their game. The Goopers are all about eliciting emotion from a credulous base. Facts don’t stand up well to that wind and cryin’ rain.

      • Willis Warren says:

        Thanks,

        It’s looking like this “story” was leaked to the Intercept, who someone is feeding crap (HRMcMaster) on a regular basis, and to the NYT (who tell a completely different story), in an obvious smoke screen.

        Trump’s already calling to “drain the swamp” as a result.

         

        • Trip says:

          I initially wondered if Reality Winner was a set up. First, the name. It couldn’t get any closer to describing Trump. And then secondly, what she released really didn’t demonstrate strong proof. The entire dopey way she was caught seemed too unbelievably dumb for someone in intel. But maybe reality is stranger than fiction (both the term and the woman).

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rachel Brand: Univ. Minn., Harvard Law School (deputy editor-in-chief HLR), clerked for Mass. supreme court and Kennedy at the Supremes.  Also worked for Bush the Younger and at Cooper & Kirk with Francisco.   Shepherded Roberts and Alito nominations through Senate.

    SG Noel Francisco: University of Chicago for college and law school, clerked for Scalia and the 4th Cir., worked for Bush the Younger, Cooper & Kirk and Jones Day.  Bookend match for Brand’s resume.

    We seem to be moving right, more predictably corporatist and in favor of unfettered presidential power.  But I don’t see a lot of distance between Brand and Francisco.

    I do see Trump continuing to avoid the Senate confirmation process, allowing him to avoid publicizing to his base how corporatist and anti-Main Street American he is.  He avoids anything having to do with process, which he seems to abhor because he doesn’t understand or have patience for it.  He avoids making deals to get his nominations confirmed, which he doesn’t know anything about either (despite his mythology).

    None of this will be lost on Bob Mueller.   Does Rachel not like the hot seat, did someone get to her?  If she were resigning because she knows that Trump intends to fire Mueller, she would be cowardly for resigning too soon and for hiding her reasons for it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Head of global governance (top lawyer) at Walmart, world’s biggest company.  Nice soft landing for Rachel.  The rest of us will just have to wait for ours.

        • Trip says:

          Might be, but either way; an escape hatch for Brand, or an active recruit to get her out of the way, it clears a path for the final massacre.  Brand deciding to take the job puts her squarely for herself, in the end.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, maybe. Hard to tell. I suspect there were a LOT of offers to Brand. Bet there are to Rosenstein too.

          Still shocked she took the parachute, but not that shocked. And it was almost certainly a VERY smart play on her behalf.

          What I don’t have any sense of is that it was any grand conspiracy. My bet is Brand was smart enough to see a great exit and no reason not to take it. I don’t blame her.

          • Rayne says:

            If you’re only in the job for the money and the CV buffing, sure, it’s a great exit. Personally, I wouldn’t care how much they offered, I wouldn’t have accepted a job with Walmart. Nor would I bail out if I was the last domino between Trump and a Saturday Night Massacre. Probably why I didn’t go into law — no, it really ~is~ why I didn’t go into law after working as a drone for a Fortune 100 legal department.

            • bmaz says:

              I don’t know, nor have eve dealt with, Brand personally. And while I think she has never been an avatar of ACLU/EFF type of ideological advocacy, I think she is very far from the worst. In fact, all things considered, think she is light years better than we could have hoped for the AAG slot in the Trump Administration.

              And also believe that is why she is parachuting out now. She may not be Bill Kuntsler, but not going to mess with her for getting out. As the Allman  Brothers might say, she may not be a saint here, but not a sinner either.

              • Bardi says:

                From the Palmer Report :

                Carl Bernstein of Watergate investigative fame reported on CNN today that Brand’s husband is a partner in the law firm that just took over the defense for Trump-Russia suspect Rick Gates. That law firm is now negotiating a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This means that Brand could not have been in charge of Mueller’s investigation. If Trump did oust Rosenstein, it would have forced Brand to take a pass, and hand it off to the next person in the line of succession.

                Any ideas?

                • bmaz says:

                  My inclination is that Bernstein is wrong. I don’t think that would create a disqualifying conflict, even if true.

  3. Bay State Librul says:

    Good profile of Porter from Boston Globe

    “On campus, he was known as the quintessential golden boy, the clean-cut son of a Harvard professor who would follow in his father’s footsteps by earning a Rhodes scholarship and working in the White House.

    Now, classmates who knew Rob Porter at Harvard and Harvard Law School say they are reeling from the revelations that Porter, until Wednesday a top adviser to President Trump, has been accused of domestic violence by his two ex-wives.

    The accusations, some said, have shattered the image they had of Porter as a straight-arrow student who was the picture of Harvard propriety — someone who was “charming, bright, engaging, and handsome with impeccable Brahmin . . . cred,” as Nikki Usher, a member of the Harvard class of 2003, wrote on Twitter this week. “The reason it’s shaking a lot of people I know is that, if it’s Rob who was capable of this, who else are we missing?” Usher, who had several classes with Porter and was active with him in Republican politics on campus, said in an interview.

    “Maybe more so than anything else, it reminds you that this stuff is happening, and you can’t always see it, and you don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors — and that’s maybe more upsetting to me.”

    Porter’s downfall has engulfed the White House in controversy amid reports that chief of staff John F. Kelly, who initially defended Porter, knew of the allegations before they were made public.

    Despite his title of staff secretary, and low profile, Porter was a key gatekeeper in the West Wing and worked closely with Kelly to impose order on Trump’s White House, overseeing the flow of paperwork to Trump’s desk, traveling with the president, and helping to craft last month’s State of the Union address.

    Porter has denied abusing his former wives, calling the accusations “a coordinated smear campaign,” despite the publication of photos of his first wife with a black eye that she says he gave her during a vacation in Florence, Italy.

    On Friday, Trump, who has himself been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, said he learned of the allegations against Porter recently and was surprised by them.

    “Hopefully, he will have a great career ahead of him,” Trump said. “We absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job while he was at the White House.”

    A Belmont native, Porter, 40, seemed destined for a career in Washington.

    His mother, Ann R. Porter, who died last year, worked in the Senate, and his father, Roger B. Porter , served in the Ford, Reagan, and first Bush administrations and has been on the faculty at the Kennedy School of Government since 1977.

    While a student at Belmont High School, Porter interned for Senator John Chaffee, a Rhode Island Republican. At Harvard, he relished being a conservative on a liberal campus. He was president of the Harvard Republicans and chairman of Harvard Students for Bush during the 2000 presidential election.He also took two years off after his freshman year to work as a Mormon missionary in London, where he held debates, presented lectures, and organized seminars about the Mormon faith, according to the Harvard Gazette. “I think it’s important for the character and soul of America to create caring people, people who get involved and help individuals in their lives,” Porter told the Harvard Crimson in 2000, in an article headlined “The Zealot,” about his tireless work on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.“He’s ushering in an era of personal responsibility,” Porter said about Bush in the article, which described him hanging a large “George W. Bush for President” sign over the fireplace in his dorm. “That resonates with me.”During his senior year, in 2001, Porter, like his father before him, was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. In a Globe article that year, Porter credited his success to his “family, professors, teachers, and mentors.” “I’ve had a lot of mentors and people who have been interested and helpful and useful in my life,” Porter said. “I’m just thrilled.”Ron Kaufman, a longtime member of the Republican National Committee from Massachusetts, said Friday that he recalls Porter working in 2002 for the gubernatorial campaign of Mitt Romney, another Harvard-educated Mormon from Belmont.“I don’t know anybody who isn’t honestly and truly dumbfounded and sad,” Kaufman said. “Great family.”In 2008, Porter graduated from Harvard Law School, where he was academic chair of the conservative Harvard Federalist Society, and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.Porter met his first wife, Colbie Holderness, at a Mormon student event when she was a freshman at Wellesley College and president of the Wellesley Alliance for Life, an antiabortion group, according to news reports.Holderness, who married Porter in 2003, has said that Porter kicked her in the thigh during a fight on their honeymoon and that, on other occasions, he struck her in the face, threw her on a bed, choked her, and pushed her down.The couple divorced in 2008.Jennifer Willoughby, who was married to Porter from 2009 to 2013, told CNN that she was subjected to deeply disturbing emotional abuse from her ex-husband and that, during a fight, he “grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me.”“Everyone loved him. People commented all the time how lucky I was,” Willoughby wrote in a blog post last year. “Strangers complimented him to me every time we went out. But in my home, the abuse was insidious. The threats were personal. The terror was real.”Melissa Langsam Braunstein, who was at Harvard with Porter, wrote Friday on the Federalist Society website that she was “gobsmacked to learn that the guy I remember as always smiling and friendly, who always seemed like he had everything going on, has been accused of abuse by not one, but two ex-wives.”“Rob was the quintessential golden boy, always polished and put together,” she wrote in an essay titled, “Rob Porter Story Shows It’s Time To Agree Character Counts For Public Officials.” “He exuded calm and confidence, like he knew exactly what he was doing with his life, and everything was going swimmingly,” Braunstein wrote. “Notably on a campus where dating was exceedingly rare, Rob was also often accompanied by some beautifully coiffed young woman. Forget Mr. Darcy. Rob was Pinterest-perfect.”       Globe, February 9, 2018

     

    • Rayne says:

      Hey BSL – I appreciate your sharing this profile extract but it may exceed Fair Use. Please try to use excerpts not longer than 100-300 words, thanks — and definitely not from AP sources at all.

  4. harpie says:

    Jared reads the PDB’s for Trump:

    Karen Tumulty@ktumulty

    On Page 1, the @washingtonpost reports that the president doesn’t read his daily intel brief. On Page 4, it reports that his son-in-law, who hasn’t been able to get a permanent clearance, does.

  5. Trip says:

    Does this counter the narrative that the FISA request on Carter Page’s was, at least in part, generated by the Papadopoulos information? If they didn’t really move to proceed with Papadopoulos until 2017, does that call into question how the ball got rolling on Page in 2016? I’m a bit confused here.

      • Trip says:

        I just wondered how the Trumpian world might interpret, based on the Dem refrain of “the Papadoupolos drunky meeting started it all”.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          There wouldn’t have been a boys’ night out between the lowly Papadopoulos and the senior Australian High Commissioner if the Trump-Russia “it” hadn’t already started.  The event happened to be memorialized and passed on, creating a data point for an investigation, presumably one of many.

  6. Christopher OLoughlin says:

    Thank you for great article; “(meaning Trump’s buddies are getting far more protection than the rest of us might be). ” Is this reminiscent of your earlier caution regarding past performance of our special counsel regarding inability to charge person/persons responsible for DC 2001 anthrax murders? Or am I over thinking?

  7. Peah Yoogh says:

    Papadopolous did not graduate in 2005. The HS yearbook from his listed High School does not reference him. The 1989 class does. Can anyone even confirm that the basic details about Papadopolous are accurate?

  8. Peah Yoogh says:

    BMAZ, the High School stated in teh Wiki is Niles West.
    http://www.classmates.com/yearbooks/Niles-West-High-School/4182711048
    http://www.classmates.com/yearbooks/Niles-West-High-School/4182847931

    There is the 1989 and 2005 year book. No Papdop seen in the 2005 one. There is a weird 2005 webpage that DOES list him but none of those people exist in the 2005 yearbook page. Very odd.

    http://nileswesthighschool.org/class-of-2005.html

    You people are better at these machines than I could ever be. You tell me? Is this nothing or something?

    My own information checks out from the classmates site, unfortunately. I also pulled his info on one of those background sites and the 46 year old Papadop has a bit more of an established existence than the 30 y/o Papadop.

    There is no reason to assume I am trolling. I like this site because whoever it is writing is a very thorough researcher unlike most of the dogpoop in the news these days. I respect it quite ab bit.

    Cheers

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