Three Data Points on George Papadopoulos

The frothy right has grabbed ahold of this Chuck Ross story, thinking it helps their case, without realizing that the main finding in it actually confirms something Adam Schiff noted in February (which Ross struggled to understand at the time). So I’d like to point out what Papadpoulos said when.

May 10: “Russians might use material that they have on Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the election, which may be damaging”

Per Ross’ quotes from Alexander Downer’s April 28 interview, here’s what Papadopoulos told Downer on May 10, 2016.

“During that conversation, [Papadopoulos] mentioned the Russians might use material that they have on Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the election, which may be damaging,” Downer told The Australian.

Downer said he felt the information “seemed quite interesting” and “was worth reporting.”

That’s mostly consistent with a redacted passage of the Schiff memo, which as I noted at the time must say something to the effect of Russia said it had materials that that it would release to help Trump, though given the public record I suspect there’s a dispute about whether hurting Hillary in a two-person race amounts to helping Trump.

George Papadopoulos revealed [redacted] that individuals linked to Russia, who took interest in Papadopoulos as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, informed him in late April 2016 that Russia [two lines redacted]. Papadopoulos’s disclosure, moreover, occurred against the backdrop  of Russia’s aggressive covert campaign to influence our elections, which the FBI was already monitoring.

That Papadopoulos had not told Downer in May they were emails was made clear by the next line in the Schiff memo, which made it clear HPSCI (but not the US government) only learned Russians had said the damaging material was email (which, if Papadopoulos can be trusted, he took to be the 30,000 emails that Hillary deleted, which the Russians would only have had if they had previously hacked her) when Papadopoulos’ plea was released.

We would later learn in Papadopoulos’s plea that the information the Russians could assist by anonymously releasing were thousands of Hillary Clinton emails.

In any case, Downer’s public statements, as summarized by Ross, confirm what Schiff claimed back in February: Papadopoulos told a virtual stranger in May 2016 that someone had recently approached him, a newly-minuted Trump advisor, and told him Russia had damaging material on Hillary that they were thinking of releasing closer to the election.

Downer makes it clear he reported the Papadopoulos within 48 hours because it “seemed quite interesting” and “was worth reporting.” The Australians didn’t tell the US, however, until July, after the DNC release made it look like Papadopoulos had predicted that event several months earlier. In response, the FBI opened a CI investigation, and Peter Strzok  got on a plane and interviewed Downer. It’s possible he checked in with Stefan Halper, who had been chatting up Carter Page, about whom the FBI had had enough concern to interview him back in March, for a few weeks. It’s also possible Strzok asked the Brits what they knew about Joseph Mifsud (or it’s possible NSA started targeting Mifsud and captured his communications with the Russians). It’s also possible that the anonymous “Trump campaign policy adviser [who] testified [to SJC] that Mr. Papadopoulos informed him that he had information on Hillary Clinton from the Russians,” went to the FBI in the wake of the DNC release, so before the FBI (presumably) asked Halper to ask Papadopoulos more questions.

Whatever happened, in September, Halper met with Sam Clovis and from that basically created a reason to invite Papadopoulos to London to do research.

Mid-September: “Hacking emails would be treason”

In mid-September, after his assistant Azra Turk had already broached the subject (I’m not aware that Ross has ever revealed how Papadopoulos responded to her) Halper asked Papadopoulos whether he was involved in the release of the emails. According to one version among several, Ross reports that Papadopoulos said that “hacking” the emails would be treason.

Sources familiar with Papadopoulos’ version of events say that during one conversation, Halper asked Papadopoulos whether he was involved in the release of DNC emails. Papadopoulos denied it, telling Halper that hacking emails would be treason.

Of course, that answer is nonsensical. Hacking emails is a CFAA violation, among other things. Absent knowing cooperation with Russian spies, it’s not treason. Moreover, as Ross depicts the question, Halper asked if he “was involved in the release of DNC emails,” which is different than hacking them. Did Papadopoulos instead suggest that being “involved in the release of DNC emails” hacked by Russia would be treason?

It’s a good question because, in spite of that answer and his subsequent lies to FBI, Papadopoulos doesn’t believe he “colluded” with Russia because he, “did not see, handle or disseminate Clinton emails, according to the source with information on the Downer meeting.” Note, he’s pointedly not denying that he told the campaign about the damaging material in the context of efforts to set up increasingly senior-level  meetings with the Russians.

January 27, 2017: Mifsud “actually told [Papadopoulos] that the Russians had emails of Clinton. That guy told me [the Russians] have dirt on her [and that] they have thousands of emails.”

When the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos on January 27, 2017, he provided a detail he hadn’t to Downer (but which FBI may have already confirmed elsewhere): that Mifsud had specified, even before the Democrats knew about it, that the Russians had thousands of emails.

Now, at least according to the public record, up until this point (and even later), the FBI hadn’t done one of the most basic things they do in investigations, which they can do on a relevance standard (meaning the person in question need not be suspected of any wrong-doing). They had not yet obtained Papadopoulos’ call records, nor had they searched already collected Section 702 data to see if Papadopoulos had had communications with any foreigner already under a full FBI investigation. The latter would have definitely alerted the FBI to something that Papadopoulos hid in his interviews with the FBI (and tried to hide by deleting his Facebook account, something Ross always leaves out of his efforts to spin Papadopoulos’ honesty): in addition to Mifsud and the fake Putin niece, he had been communicating with (and passing communications onto the campaign) Ivan Timofeev, someone Papadopoulos believed to be employed by the Russian government.

DOJ’s public Papadopoulos documents are curiously silent about whether he admitted that Mifsud had told him the Russians planned on releasing the emails to hurt Hillary (though I guarantee you his case file makes it clear).

Amid the squeals of surveillance, that point is worth noting. Again, at least according to the public record, it was some time after Papadopoulos had told Downer that the Russians had damaging material they might release closer to the election to hurt Hillary and after Papadopoulos had told the FBI that the damaging material in question was “thousands of emails” before the FBI took one of the most basic investigative steps, figuring out whom Papadopoulos had been talking to during that period. Though FBI put a preservation order on his campaign cell phone in March, it’s even possible, given Papadopoulos’ arrest in the wake of the disclosure of the June 9 meeting earlier in July 2017, that FBI didn’t take that step until after the later Russian offer of dirt on Hillary became known.

Trump may well think this amounts to spying. But given the year of concern about Russian meddling, it looks even more like an effort to bend over backwards to avoid touching materials that might impact campaign issues.

Update: Thanks to Mark S for this link to the Downer piece. Ross did not include this stronger language that the material definitely would be damaging to Clinton. Note the bolded stronger language.

Of the conversation at the upmarket Kensington Wine Bar, Downer recalls: “We had a drink and he (Papadopoulos) talked about what Trump’s foreign policy would be like if Trump won the election.

“He (Trump) hadn’t got the nomination at that stage. During that conversation he (Papadopoulos) mentioned the Russians might use material that they have on Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the election, which may be damaging.’’

Did Downer think, “Oh boy, this is intriguing?”

“Well, it was worth reporting,’’ he said. “It wasn’t the only thing we reported. We reported (back to Australia) the following day or a day or two after … it seemed quite interesting.’’

Did you realise you were one of the first people to have known about this dirt?

Downer doesn’t hesitate: “He didn’t say dirt, he said material that could be damaging to her. No, he said it would be damaging. He didn’t say what it was.’’


“For us we were more interested in what Trump would do in Asia. By the way, nothing he (Papadopoulos) said in that conversation indicated Trump himself had been conspiring with the Russians to collect information on Hillary Clinton. It was just that this guy (Papadopoulos) clearly knew that the Russians did have material on Hillary Clinton — but whether Trump knew or not? He didn’t say Trump knew or that Trump was in any way involved in this. He said it was about Russians and Hillary Clinton; it wasn’t about Trump.”

[my emphasis]

43 replies
    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Do not assume any negligence.

      Think about timing of DNC hack/leak vs Podesta hack/leak. Still no evidence of actual HRC email dump.
      How did FOIA tie in?

      And where is Imran Awan?

    • orionATL says:

      don’t know about cell phones, but landline phone companies used to keep records for three years.

    • orionATL says:

      the fbi was hard on clinton, soft on trump campaign. why? because comey et al were scared to death of the republican congress, the house especially, and because the fbi was a highly conservative police force that was ill-disposed toward clinton.

      but look how they outfoxed themselves and have now had their institution demeaned and torn apart by trump.

      the fbi has been a rotting, ill-led organization for decades. its criminal laboratory work a scandal. its failure to conscientiously keep the best statistics possible (on police killing of citizens, on gun ownership) a scandal. its investigatory abuse of minority groups and some eccentric political groups a scandal. its failure to investigate and restrain extreme rightwing groups a scandal.

      the good news could be that the fbi will be reformed by congress after trump – but i’m not holding my breath. doing so would require a new type of congressman and congress.

  1. Soldalinsky says:

    Adam Schiff is not exactly trying very hard to get to the bottom of things.  Again, where is Misfud?  Is there a death certificate filed away somewhere?  Is he sipping Mai Tais on a beach?  Nobody knows and nobody is interested in figuring this out.   I think Schiff should look into this.
    Recently, Assange attempted to provide insight on the matter.  I’m not sure why Schiff can’t meet up with Assange, but I’d like to think it would expedite matters considerably.

    Last week, Jullian Assange reached out to Schiff.  During an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, New York radio personality Randy Credico said Assange instructed him to communicate to Schiff that he was prepared to interview with the California Democrat.
    Credico said that Assange was interested in speaking to Schiff to show “there is no collusion,” a reference to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    What makes this whole easter egg hunt so comical is that Schiff has proven he is very very motivated to collect inculpatory evidence.  Exculpatory evidence just doesn’t help his objectives though.  A great example of this in play is the prank call Schiff received from a few Russian spoofers a while ago.  The spoofers claimed the Ukrainian government had obtained recordings and documents that proved Putin was blackmailing trump with naked photos taken during an affair between the President and a Russian model.

    Schiff began the call by thanking the ‘chairman’ Andriy Parubiy for his time and warning him that Russian spies were likely listening in.
    ‘I would caution that our Russian friends may be listening to the conversation so I wouldn’t share anything over the phone that you wouldn’t want them to hear,’ said Schiff.
    Vovan, who was posing as Parubiy, reassured Schiff: ‘I don’t think that will impact on our investigation.’
    The fake Parubiy claimed the Ukrainian government had obtained recordings and documents that proved Vladimir Putin was blackmailing Trump with naked photos taken during an affair between the president and a Russian glamour model.
    Vovan also claimed the Ukrainians recorded secret meetings between a Trump campaign aide and a famous Russian singer-turned-spy that took place at a non-existent mafia hangout in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach.
    Schiff appeared to be taking notes on the conversation and repeatedly asked for spellings of names and documentation he could send to the FBI.

    ‘I’ll be in touch with the FBI about this. And we’ll make arrangements with your staff. I think it probably would be best to provide these materials both to our committee and to the FBI,’ said Schiff during the conversation, which lasted around eight minutes according to the recording posted to YouTube.
    A spokesperson for Schiff confirmed he was on the call but claimed the congressman had suspicions that the caller might not be Parubiy and reported it to law enforcement last April.
    ‘Both before and after the call, we were aware that it was likely bogus and had already alerted appropriate law enforcement personnel, as well as after the call,’ the spokesperson said.
    ‘Obviously, it was bogus – which became even more evident during the call – but as with any investigation that is global in scale, we have to chase any number of leads, many of which turn out to be duds.’
    The spokesperson declined to address on the record why a staff member pursued the ‘politician’ after the call if the congressman thought it was fake.
    The FBI said it could not comment on whether it received or investigated any information about nude Trump photos or other alleged Russian ‘Kompromat’ from Schiff.

    • bmaz says:

      You are a dishonest troll. If you think, for one second, you will ever be more than that kind of troll here, you should think again. Never let it be said you were not engaged, for the tollery that you have relentlessly been and propounded.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I imagine there are a lot of things you’re not sure of, but that never stops you from claiming to know all about them.  For example, you don’t know how to spell “Mifsud” and you known less than nothing about Fair Use requirements for copyrighted materials.  Your selection of sources is about up to Glenn Beck’s standard.  It would appear, however, that when it comes to phone calls, Mr. Schiff has more street smarts than, say, Boris Johnson.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      Here they come now!! JEEzus bmaz, these trolls must be on ‘roids!



    • Rusharuse says:

      Are you Stephan “the boy from Brazil” Miller? (or one of his many identical, I mean IDENTICAL bruders).

      • orionATL says:

        and there’s stephen “dead fish face” miller. he works in the white house on things like immigration.

        • Rusharuse says:

          That’s him! The guy with the high albedo forehead. The asshole other assholes look at and say “now that’s an asshole”!

    • orionATL says:

      soldalinsky is a fking russian troll. you can tell that from his recent reference to a particular beer (i’m from your culture, guy)

      nuke him!

    • Michael says:

      The Daily Mail. You’re gonna go with that? Heck, I’m just a lowly engineer/IT/programmer but I know better than to echo The Daily FAIL, much less to cite that rag.

  2. Trip says:

    Yeah, Credico and Stone are topnotch witnesses:

    Dan Friedman‏ @dfriedman33

    Stone says he told comedian/ talk show personality Randy Credico to “prepare to die” not as threat resulting from Credico contradicting Stone’s statements about his WikiLeaks contacts, but because Credico told Stone he had terminal cancer. Credico says he doesn’t have cancer.
    9:13 AM – 29 May 2018

    Why would anyone talk to Assange, when he was assisting Trump Jr, and linked to reddit “Pizzagate” theories, before the election, and possibly channeling stuff to freakin’ Hannity, the clown?


    • greengiant says:

      Added to partial list.
      2004, Paul Klebnikov is shot dead on Moscow street after writing about Mogilevich
      2006 1 Nov, Alexander Litvinenko poison with polonium after talking about Putin’s pedophilia
      2009, 16 Nov Sergei Magnitsky lawyer for Browder in Russian prison
      5 Nov, 2015 , Mikhail Yuriyevich Lesin (Russian: Михаил Юрьевич Лесин;
      RT founder, Washington DC hotel, blunt force trauma
      20 July, 2016 Kiev, Belarus journalist Pavel Sheremet.
      March 2017, Moscow, balcony fall, Nikolai Gorokhov lawyer for Magnitsky’s mother
      March 2017, Kiev Ukraine Denis Voronenkov
      16 Oct, 2017 Daphne Caruana Galizia killed in Malta
      15 April, 2018, Russia, Maksim Borodin who wrote about Prigozhin of #TrumpRussia“fell” off a balcony
      29 March, 2018 Kiev Russian Arkady Babchenko shot in his apartment stairwell

      • Michael says:

        “29 March, 2018 Kiev Russian Arkady Babchenko”

        I think you intended “May”, the other “M” month.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Except that he wasn’t, if one believes today’s press conference in Kiev.  It seems the police were trying to find out who was celebrating the reporter’s passing….

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      IC troll op. Hope they got good Metadata.

      One does spend months on this just to generate fake news for no reason.

  3. SteveB says:

    How sure are we that it was as late as July that the Aussies told the US about Papadopolous concerns?

    I appreciate that the prompt for action on their part was awareness of the Wiki release, however Assange gave a TV interview on 12 June which explicitly pre-figured the release of material damaging to HRC. (See NYT 27July2016).

    If this is a foolish point, then I apologise; but this may have some bearing on what info the FBI had in hand when Halper brushed up to Carter Page on 11 July in Cambridge.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Stephen Miller could have taken Ivanka’s gently filtered, perfectly Aryan photograph of Ivanka Trump and her two year-old, which Ivanka tweeted on Sunday.  Or Leni Riefenstahl.

    The simplicity of the I-inherited-millions-from-my-dad pose, the gentle blond locks flowing behind her, the loose teutonic braid, the handsome blond toddler held comfortingly and lovingly in mum’s arms.  No ICE privatized barb-wired prison for him, separated from the mother who “smuggled” him into the country.

    The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi sees the photo as the perfect counterpoint to the critical commentary about ICE “losing” 1500 children – lost somewhere in or out of the system – while Jefferson Beauregard Sessions promises that ICE and his DoJ will separate parents from their children and imprison them all for the “crime” of keeping their family together while entering the US to seek asylum.

    I agree that Ivanka’s timing is unlikely to be coincidence.  She is no ingenue.  She has peddled daddy’s condos to money laundering buyers for a decade.  She is all Trump and an architect – not an innocent bystander – in her father’s government of cruelty and chaos.

    • Trip says:

      Before the move to Washington (and maybe after), her spawn had largely been raised by nannies. One article quoted her as spending maybe a hour or two with them per day at bedtime. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the photo. I wonder if any of the nannies were immigrants.

      • Hobbs says:

        At least one of the nannies is Chinese, as revealed in a NY Times interview shortly after the election.  Grandad was so proud of the grandchild saying Hello in Mandarin.

  5. Mark S says:

    “Papadopoulos told a virtual stranger in May 2016 that someone had recently approached him, a newly-minuted Trump advisor, and told him Russia had damaging material on Hillary that they were thinking of releasing closer to the election.”

    This is false, Downer does not suggest that Papadopoulos affirmed this on any particular ground. Downer insists that what Papadopoulos said was basically empty: “Russians might release damaging material later” It was in fact something anyone might have affirmed as a hypothesis, though Downer was struck by it.

    “The Australians didn’t tell the US, however, until July,…”

    This may be true but is not known – nor is it known whom Downer might have mentioned it to in London. If you look closely at the statements, they say the Australians were in correspondence with US later //to arrange an FBI interview with Downer.// This does not entail that they had not already alerted American authorities, nor even that Downer hadn’t. The cable is of importance in arranging the interview, and tells us nothing about who Downer spoke to.

  6. Mark S says:

    Yes, I’m going by the interview in the Australian. Ross and his motives are of no interest to me. If the interview is correct, and Downer is the blacked out name, then Schiff is wrong to write, on p. 2 :

    George Papadopoulos revealed XXXXX that individuals linked to Russia, who took an interest in Papadopoulos as a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor…

    Papadopoulos did not say anything about his source to Downer, much less that it was linked to Russia. It is especially strange that Schiff says that D. says that P. said there were some //plurality// of “individuals linked to Russia” when he didn’t say anything and there was anyway just Mifsud.

    • Mark S says:

      Note further that there is reason to think that Schiff, who – if I understand – has both the FISA request and the Downer testimony before him, is consciously or unconsciously harmonizing them.

      The actual Downer event was clearly not adequate for a FISA request, and Downer comes close to saying as much in the interview.

      Schiff is perhaps covering for an overwrought, febrile FISA request by harmonizing it as far as possible with the actual statements of Downer. Unlike the FISA request the claims of Downer are after all available to the public by the simple expedient of asking Downer, as the Australian did.

      • SteveB says:

        Sir, you may not want to comment on Chuck Ross’ twisty motives, but posting gishgabble under the guise of analysis won’t make you friends.

        Pointless and pitiful.

        • Mark S says:

          Sorry, I didn’t read Ross, just the Downer interview and Schiff. Downer is clearly intending to correct the record. For example, he makes it plain that no one was drunk or even tipsy, when this is the leading feature of 80% of press accounts. He also makes it plain the Ms. Thompson was present throughout.

  7. Mitch Neher says:

    SteveB said, “Assange gave a TV interview on 12 June which explicitly pre-figured the release of material damaging to HRC.”

    That sounds like the Assange announcement from the balcony of the Ecuadoran Embassy three days after the Trump Tower meeting and two days before the DNC publicly disclosed the hack. That should be one coincidence too many for anyone.

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