The Game of Telephone that Has Attorney General William Barr in a Lather

When, close to the end of a day-long interview with Congress last October, Mark Meadows asked George Papadopoulos what he wanted to tell the American people about himself, the President’s former foreign policy advisor insisted he had had “no Russia connection whatsoever.” Instead, he insisted, the things that happened to him in 2016 and 2017 were just a conspiracy spun by Western diplomats and spies, not Russian ones.

Mr. Papadopoulos. George Papadopoulos has no Russia connection whatsoever, never did. He found himself mired in a Russia conspiracy, which makes no sense to him and I assume probably everyone in this room, and probably half the American public. I had many contacts with western intelligence and western diplomats. Some might have been masquerading as something they were not, like I assume Joseph Mifsud was, if his lawyer is to be believed. Stefan Halper, Alexander Downer. And I just really want to get to the bottom of why I was targeted by these very seasoned diplomats and intelligence officials, and what I was used for. And I think everybody really wants to figure that out, because I think figuring that out will unlock many mysteries in this entire investigation. And that’s why I think — that’s really what I’m at the core of, not the core of a Russia conspiracy.

But when he described what he was thinking when he pled guilty in October 2017 to one false statements charge instead of multiple false statements charges, an obstruction charge, and possibly serving as a unregistered Agent of Israel, Papadopoulos described believing that he was “in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy.”

And just going back in my memory, I guess the logic behind my guilty plea was that I thought I was really in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy, that this was all real, and that I had to plead out or face life in prison, the way they were making it seem.

Over the course of an interview where he frequently contradicted himself, Papadopoulos provided ample evidence that he did — almost certainly correctly — think he was being cultivated by people with ties to Russia during and after the election. There’s the description — the timeline of which Papadopoulos significantly distorts — of how he balked at an offer Sergei Millian made to be paid $30,000 a month so long as he worked in the Administration, but then still spent the night of the inauguration drinking with Millian in DC.

A Mostly talking about the potential that if I had formally left the campaign, which I had considered around certain months, that we would engage in some legitimate business that he might have. And then I made it clear to him that any business that we would be talking about would be completely illegal. I wouldn’t be part of the Trump campaign organization or have absolutely nothing to do with Trump himself if I’m going to work with you, or anybody else, by the way. And then he decided to present some sort of ambiguous business proposal to me. One day, in October or November in Chicago, where I felt that he was wearing a wire or he was setting me up for something about this proposal that he was talking about. He came to Chicago, we met at Trump Tower. He was very nervous, and he started telling me yet this deal that I think is for $30,000 a month, it’s a PR gig for a contact of mine in Russia.

Q Contact of his?

A His. Something — I never, to this day, I never really understood what this was. And but you have to understand, George, that if we do this you still have to work for Trump. And he was looking at me with his eyes really bogged out, very nervous. And I just looked at him, like this guy is on an operation against me right now trying to set me up for something. And I flatly told him, as far as I remember, No, I’m not taking this offer, because it’s illegal what you’re talking about, at least I thought it was illegal.

And there’s the way he moves from his false description that he stopped communicating with Joseph Mifsud in summer 2016 (on October 1, 2016, he sent Mifsud a link over Facebook to the Interfax column that got him fired from the campaign) to describing how Mifsud was actually still reaching out after the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos in January 2017, trying to set him up in business with his Swiss lawyer Stephan Roh.

Q Yes. So you stated earlier that as of summer 2016, you stopped communicating with Mr. Mifsud?

A That’s what I re — I believe that’s when I stopped talking to him, yes.

Q So after you stopped talking to Mr. Mifsud, did he ever attempt to reach out to contact you?

A What I remember is — I don’t know the months, okay? So I’m just letting you know what he was trying to accomplish, after it seems that I kicked him to the side about the campaign involvement, he introduced me over email to his current lawyer, Stephan Roh, as somebody that I might be interested in working with or on a project with. I — then I had a couple of Skype calls with Stephan Roh, and then, I believe, Mifsud was actually reaching out to me at the same time the FBI came to my house.

In both cases, Papadopoulos now dismisses that outreach claiming it came from Western, not Russian, intelligence because the people making the outreach made the claim. Thus the narrative: George has no Russia connection whatsoever, it was all a big Western intelligence trap for Donald Trump.

At the time he did this interview, Papadopoulos had gotten a new lawyer, Caroline Polisi, who was prepping a challenge to his incarceration. The whole interview — which was done without having any documentation that might have forced Papadopoulos to stick to the actual written record — was designed to feed that effort. Polisi repeatedly prevented Democrats from asking legitimate questions about what Papadopoulos actually did — including why he deactivated his Facebook account the day after his second FBI interview and why he called Trump’s then defense attorney, Marc Kasowitz, after he had been asked to wear a wire by the FBI.

But the interview is a significant part of the basis for the current effort to discredit the Russian investigation by declassifying materials that — proponents of the effort, including Trump, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Attorney General Barr claim — will show that Trump was spied on in inappropriate ways.

Of course, then, as in Barr’s May 1 testimony to Congress, a significant part of the “evidence” that something untoward happened is actually the absence of evidence: because the FBI — having been directed not to do anything overt on this investigation during the campaign precisely to avoid affecting the election — did not interview Papadopoulos until January 2017, Republican staffer Ryan Breitenbach suggests that’s proof of something illegal.

Q We understand now that — I believe, previously, Congressman Ratcliffe was indicating that you are generally considered the predication for the entire Trump-Russia investigation, which we now understand to have started at the end of July of 2016. So between July of 2016 and January 2017, you are the predicate of the investigation, but you’re not interviewed until January of 2017. Is that correct?

A That’s correct.

Q And throughout that intervening period, from July of 2016 through January of 2017, you don’t recall any instances where the FBI or anyone in the U.S. Government was attempting to contact you or interview you?


Mr. Papadopoulos. No, no, absolutely not. I don’t have — I don’t recall any U.S. Government official or intelligence official openly reaching out to me to talk about this —

The other pieces of “proof” that something untoward came out of this hearing are even more crazy.

First, there’s Papadopoulos’ suspicion, generated after a year of mostly ignorant claims in the press about Carter Page’s FISA application, suggesting there must have been a FISA order targeting him because the FBI knew, when they first interviewed him in January 2017, that he had significant ties to Israel.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I– the reason I’m suggesting that there was a FISA was because there was tremendous scrutiny on — with my ties to Israel, to the point where I had apparently a formal charge of acting as an agent of Israel, which I don’t know how that’s even possible really, but there was a charge. And by the time I had my first interview with the FBI, they led me to believe that they knew about certain meetings I was having, who I knew in the Israeli Government domestically and abroad. That’s how I remember it. And that they were very angry almost about my ties to Israel, to the extent, as I mentioned, during my second encounter I remember the agent, Curtis Heide, telling me, oh, you don’t want to wear a wire, just know that you’re lucky Israel is an ally or else we would be going after you, something incredibly bizarre.

Mr. Meadows. So what you’re saying is, they had knowledge of private conversations and communications that you had with other individuals that would have taken extraordinary measures to find out. They couldn’t have found it on Facebook or read it in The Hill or someplace.

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s — that’s what I believe, yes.

To be absolutely clear: I think it quite possible the FBI, later, got a FISA order targeting Papadopoulos (perhaps around April 2017, once they discovered that he had lied at this interview). But it’s unlikely they had one in January 2017, in part because they were unaware of his conversations with Ivan Timofeev. A deep knowledge of his ties to Israel but not his ties to Russian-linked individuals is what you might expect from FISA orders (and 12333 collection and HUMINT) targeting others, not Papadopoulos.

And Mark Meadows, whose job it is to oversee FISA, is supposed to know that. Papadopoulos is not. Nevertheless, Meadows allows a guy who has an ulterior motive but no actual knowledge to convince him of something that Meadows, at least, should have the knowledge to be skeptical of.

Then there’s what Republicans believe will be exculpatory information from a suspected recording taken by Stefan Halper in his FBI-arranged meeting with Papadopoulos in September 2016. The belief there’s a transcript (which may be true) comes not from actual knowledge, but from the fact that Papadopoulos’ original lawyers (who have said publicly there was nothing untoward about his treatment by the FBI) also knew that when Halper met with him, Papadopoulos used the word “treason” to deny any ties to the Russian hack-and-leak operation.

Mr. Meadows. About recordings or transcripts of Mr. Halper?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I never saw anything, but my lawyers, to be clear, they had made a passing remark about something that I said about treason —

Meadows leads Papadopoulos to describe the Halper interview. Because of the cues Meadows uses, which describe “benefitting from Hillary Clinton emails” as “collusion,” in the exchange he gets Papadopoulos describing simply benefitting from the emails (something that the Mueller Report describes Roger Stone to have done, on the orders of then candidate Trump) to be treason.

Mr. Papadopoulos. And after he was throwing these allegations at me, I —

Mr. Meadows. And by allegations, allegations that the Trump campaign was benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Something along those lines, sir. And I think I pushed back and I told him, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. What you’re talking about is something along the lines of treason. I’m not involved. I don’t know anyone in the campaign who’s involved. And, you know, I really have nothing to do with Russia. That’s — something along those lines is how I think I responded to this person.

Mr. Meadows. So essentially at this point, he was suggesting that there was collusion and you pushed back very firmly is what it sounds like.

I actually think that if there is a transcript, it would show that what Halper asked more specifically about — and so what Papadopoulos called “treason” — was whether the campaign was involved in or knew of the Russian hacking, not just whether they had worked hard to benefit from the emails after they had been hacked, as Papadopoulos describes here.

And all of a sudden he pulls out his phone — remember, this phone element again — and he puts it in front of him and he begins to start talking about Russia and hacking and if I’m involved, if the campaign is involved, if it’s benefiting the campaign. Something along those lines. I’m sure the transcript exists and you’ve probably read it, so I don’t want to be wrong on exactly what he said.

But Meadows, either because he’s a frightfully stupid man or bad at playing his designated hoaxster role, instead defines “collusion” to be simply benefitting from the emails — something that the campaign did and was still doing at the time of the Halper interview — he sets up that the key point of Papadopoulos’ interview to be that he denied, in strong terms, something that, in fact, the campaign (though Papadopoulos was too junior to be involved) was doing, with the knowledge of Trump himself.

Still, a transcript showing Papadopoulos denying that he knew of any campaign involvement in the emails, even while he labeled some form of it to be treason, would not be exculpatory. Rather, it would explain why, when asked directly about such things the following year, Papadopoulos lied and tried to hide evidence. That is, declassifying a transcript that showed Papadopoulos treated what the campaign was doing as treason would actually be inculpatory because it would explain why he lied: because he thought he might be on the hook for treason.

But Meadows (again, perhaps because he’s a frightfully stupid man) instead believes that if the transcript shows that Papadopoulos pushed back aggressively on a topic that the FBI later showed him to be (and he pled guilty to have) lying about, it would be proof that the investigation should never have started.

Mr. Meadows. So on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most aggressive in terms of your pushback, what number would you categorize your pushback from Mr. Halper when he was asking you about your involvement with Russia?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Ten.

Mr. Meadows. It’s a ten?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yeah.

Mr. Meadows. So what you’re telling me is that colluding with the Russians was the last thing on anybody’s mind at that particular point?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Last thing on my mind, certainly, I can only speak for myself.

This thread of questioning is all the more problematic because Papadopoulos answers some questions about what he was doing at the time inconsistently in the hearing, and they’re questions he has obstructed on in the past.

For example, in response to a question from Democratic staffer Susanne Sachsman Grooms, Papadopoulos claims he doesn’t know whether Walid Phares was part of a discussion about setting up a meeting in London with Putin’s office in September 2016, the same month Papadopoulos met Halper.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

Papadopoulos admits Republican staffer Art Baker precisely the details he denies to Sachsman Grooms.

And who did you discuss with at the campaign the idea of campaign officials going to go meet with Russian officials abroad? A I believe that there was a short period in which Sam Clovis, myself, and Walid Phares were discussing this potential trip. There could have been others copied on an email, something like that. But that’s what I remember at this moment.

More importantly, as the Mueller Report makes clear, this is a topic that Papapdopoulos refused to cooperate on during his proffers with the FBI. Here are Papadopoulos’ notes planning that “lot of risk meeting,” which the report notes he, “declined to assist in deciphering … telling investigators that he could not read his own handwriting from the journal.”

Similarly, Papadopoulos claims to remember stopping communicating with Mifsud in summer 2016.

Q When was the last time you remember communicating with Professor Misfud?

A Off the top of my memory I think it was the summer of 2016.

Q Do you remember why you stopped communicating with him?

A I can’t remember exactly, I just didn’t really think he was a man of real substance at some point.

Not only did he appear to still be communicating with him in 2017, but an October 1, 2016 Facebook message to Mifsud was among the things the FBI said Papadopoulos was trying to hide when he tried to delete his Facebook account the day after his second FBI interview.

The Facebook account that PAPADOPOULOS shut down the day after his interview with the FBI contained information about communications he had with Russian nationals and other foreign contacts during the Campaign, including communications that contradicted his statements to the FBI. More specifically, the following communications, among others, were contained in that Facebook account, which the FBI obtained through a judicially authorized search warrant.


On or about October 1, 2016, PAPADOPOULOS sent [Mifsud] a private Facebook message with a link to an article from, a Russian news website. This evidence contradicts PAPADOPOULOS’s statement to the Agents when interviewed on or about January 27, 2017, that he had not been “messaging” with [Mifsud] during the campaign while “with Trump.”

In other words, at precisely the time he was interviewed by Halper, Papadopoulos was still in touch with Mifsud, and after being arrested for hiding that fact in 2017, he continued to obscure that detail when asked what his mindset was in 2016 when asked about it in 2018.

By all means, let’s see that transcript discussing what Papadopoulos thought amounted to treason. But I doubt it’s going to be exculpatory.

Finally, the craziest aspect of this game of chicken is how the Republicans on the committee repeatedly get him to reveal his beliefs about what happened to him actually come from press reporting on his case.

To explain his belief that Mifsud actually worked for Western intelligence, Papadopoulos cited Chuck Ross.

Papadopoulos continues to tell tales. When giving testimony to Congress, Papadopoulos cited a Daily Caller article to claim that Joseph Mifsud worked with Western intelligence. “I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from his own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

To explain his belief that there was a transcript of his conversations with Stefan Halper, he cites John Solomon.

And all of a sudden he pulls out his phone — remember, this phone element again — and he puts it in front of him and he begins to start talking about Russia and hacking and if I’m involved, if the campaign is involved, if it’s benefiting the campaign. Something along those lines. I’m sure the transcript exists and you’ve probably read it, so I don’t want to be wrong on exactly what he said. But —

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago. Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean —

Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

And to explain his opinions about “Azra Turk” being a honey pot, he says he has no independent memory, but is relying on what the NYT reported (though I’m not sure which story).

She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

Much of the current investigation into the investigation, then, stems from a hearing where:

  • Mark Meadows and other Republicans let Papadopoulos testify about what he read in the news, but not key details about his first hand knowledge of events
  • Papadopoulos’ inconsistent testimony replicated his past obstruction
  • Meadows let someone who should know less than Meadows himself does about FISA misrepresent how it works as testimony
  • Once again, FBI’s conservative approach with this investigation is instead cited as proof of spying

This is what has Attorney General in a lather right now: claims originating in this hearing.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

69 replies
  1. Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

    Meadows is our representative here in Western North Carolina. He is, indeed, a very stupid man.

    • Americana says:

      Meadows is a man who’s dazzled by Trump’s political success as a first timer who won the presidency and Trump’s seeming control over the masses who support him. What Meadows is NOT willing to acknowledge though is Trump makes a point of keeping himself at an obvious distance from the actual point of collusion. As seen in the Papadopoulos notes, it’s clear Trump doesn’t wish to have himself be connected w/the outreach to the Russians and instead is appointing Papadopoulos as his sacrificial lamb cut-out. That line in the Papadopoulos note about “no note from Trump” is a dead giveaway Trump is trying to keep himself safe from the taint of making contact himself. Why that caution on Trump’s part wouldn’t be obvious to Papadopoulos is anyone’s guess.. Even more so, it’s anyone’s guess why Trump chose Ivanka and Don Jr. to be the Trump Tower NYC cut-outs. The one thing that’s true for the Trump Tower meeting is that meeting was arranged by Rob Goldstone and that singer friend of Don Jr’s. Emin Agalarov so there might have been less fear it was a dangerous venture into espionage and collusion.

  2. Bay State Librul says:

    Barr has landed the plane and is now in for a “close shave”
    Lather up, boys, Barr will use Occam’s Razor to explain Papa away.
    Never underestimate a Republican’s guile.

    • punaise says:

      someone has to go there (sorry Jefferson Airplane):

      But wait, oh Lather’s productive you know
      He produces the finest of sound
      Putting drumsticks on either side of his nose
      Snorting the best redactions in town
      But that’s all over…

      Lather with dirty fears, old today
      And Lather came foam from his mandible
      He looked at me eyes wide and plainly said
      Is it true that I’m no longer credible?

      And the old men call him famous
      What the children know is insane
      And most times he’s so full of shite
      That his guile is such a stain …

              • punaise says:

                I’ve probably recounted this here before: In the early 1970s, during an early iteration of Hot Tuna, Jorma K and Jack Cassady came to my grandparents condo in a gated California retirement community – “Security!” – to buy some acoustic guitars. Grandpa Fred was a bit of a troubadour and collected / sold various stringed instruments as a retirement hobby. This was eons before CraigsList etc. so it must have been via classified ads or some six degrees of separation personal connection.

                    • bmaz says:

                      This is really in response to Earl, but because of the margins, it looks like me responding to myself, but is not…

                      We have lost some of the critical long time fantastic commenters over the years. It is great to have Punaise back in full again. And to still have so many of the people from all the many years still here, it is impossible to convey just how much it all really means to us. Thank you to one and all.

                    • punaise says:

                      Hey bmaz, thx for the shout-out. Speaking for myself, the ex-post-redacto (a new term of art?) environment has been so demoralizing that there has been little to inspire any frivolous word-smithing (my one-trick-pony schtick here). This country is rotting from the inside.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Okay, this one is in response to Punaise – Yeah, I know the feeling. But we deal with the macro things here so much that it is easy to think it is all going to shit. But when I talk to and work with local people in my own little state legislative district, things are much more positive. And this is in kook land Arizona, and it really is getting better, even here of all places. Things are changing. It may take longer than optimal (okay, a huge understatement) on the bigger stage, but it seems to be happening. Hang in. And that is also what this blog, and its comment section, are for.

                    • punaise says:

                      @bmaz: funny to be “at the end of the line”, nesting comment-wise.

                      Good to hear. That seems to be James (and Deb) Fallow’s thesis these days: good things are happening under the radar, making progress in often non-ideological ways.


                      On a local note, daughter punaisette is thriving at Berkeley Law (just finished year 1) and will be going on to do great things… So all is not Eeyore-ish.

                    • bmaz says:

                      That is fantastic. Wish her the best. There are (John Yoo aside) some fantastic people there. Including Dean Chemerinsky, who while very not much of an internet guy, has been a good friend to this blog going back quite a few years. He is fantastic, and I am sure your daughter will thrive there.

    • Americana says:

      I’m curious if someone from Trump’s legal team has been in touch w/Papadopoulos or if Papadopoulos has simply read enough on line to see a glimmer of hope that he’ll get out from under this legal snafu if he returns to sticking by Trump and the campaign’s denials of collusion.

      Surely, Papadopoulos must recognize the things he has admitted to are damning and there is no withdrawing that previous testimony? But it seems from everything Mark Meadows is hinting at to Papadopoulos, that Meadows is leading Papadopoulos on toward what they both think is safer ground for his testimony. But it’s NOT.

  3. Anvil Leucippus says:

    I don’t know how you get through reading that transcript without then bleaching your eyeballs. The only thing missing was Pap asking Meadows what the answer should be.

    I have a question: if I sandbag a testimony, is there then no recourse? Is it assumed that if I am in the room, then I can steer testimony into whatever contortions I wish? I am miffed that Meadows wasn’t called out.

    • Americana says:

      Yes, that is the one flaw in much of Congressional testimony. The interlocutors can semi-obstruct and plant testimony in plain sight and are very rarely called out for that behavior. In fact, they can plant seeds of disinformation and unless another Senator or House member wishes to focus on clarifying the previous congressional member’s lies rather than pushing the points s/he considers essential in his/her limited time for questioning, a lot can go unchallenged and under the radar and leaving piles of misleading goo throughout a transcript. It’s a shame really there is no means of challenging a congressional member in real time to achieve a factually correct record.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    That Papadopoulos – despite his postgraduate degree from the University of London – uses the word “treason” as a distraction rather than in its correct sense does not surprise me. No one in Trump’s orbit uses it correctly. As a former staffer for a leading presidential candidate, though, that he uses it at all says more about his guilty knowledge than his knowledge of the law.

    I suspect Papa does know that the Russians did not spin a conspiracy, they participated in one. Weaving a counter-conspiracy propaganda effort is not the work of Western diplomats. It is the work of his former boss.

    Papa’s participation in that propaganda effort suggests he is still worried that Trump and his would be handlers are concerned about what he might have said to the Feds, which suggests he still has something to say. The manner in which he doesn’t say it suggests that Trump would have been smarter if he had only used Papadopoulos as a coffee boy.

    • Americana says:

      Someone connected to Trump has likely gotten to Papadopoulos to suggest that if he hangs tough and pretends to have been misled and lied to by the FBI investigators that his status might legally improve if he insists there were illegal approaches made to him by FBI agents/plants, etc. Or perhaps Papadopoulos is merely reading the news extensively and seeing all this frantic Republican disinformation campaign about the FISA warrants being procured via unsubstantiated information. Papadopoulos could certainly feel there’s a chance he’ll be pardoned or exonerated by a judge. Certainly, there’s been a huge push to achieve three things essential to Trump’s defense from here on out since the Mueller report was delivered: First, the unverified raw intelligence of the Steele Trump Dossier must be shown to have been improperly delivered to the FBI by former MI6 Moscow desk chief Christopher Steele so that the grounds of the surveillance was established from the get-go as either a British intelligence interference operation or a criminal effort by Hillary Clinton to undermine Donald Trump; second, the use of the unverified raw intelligence of the Steele Trump Dossier to procure FISA warrant(s) must be established as the principal basis for the most critical FISA warrant(s); third, any surveillance of individuals like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos must be shown to be without basis.

      However, given what Papadopoulos has already admitted to Special Counsel Mueller and his investigators, he’s going to have a hard time walking back his private testimony to Mueller even w/all this coaching by House Republicans during testimony in the House.

  5. Rita says:

    Nice work! Thanks for slogging through the cesspool of the Papadopolous convenient story du jour.

    The Republicans seem to think it odd that George was not interviewed by the FBI until January 17, 2017. But they apparently don’t count as important the fact that the FBI had earlier sent Stefan Halper to meet with George to find out what was going on???

    Let’s assume Mifsud was a Western intelligence asset. He did have contacts in Russia who seemed to have connections to the Russian government. And Papadopolous eagerly communicated with them. How does this fit into the conspiracy narrative.

    The Mueller Report makes pretty clear that George is a liar and an opportunist. George even lied to his bosses at the Trump Campaign about having met the Russian ambassador.

    I suppose if you have to come up with a crazy conspiracy theory, you might as well have George the Liar as your star witness.

    • Avattoir says:

      As to Pap, I’m torn among, on the one tentacle, that any exercises in light treason in which he indulged appear likely to have proved in the end too small to make any reasonable bag limit; on another, that in common with Richard Rich, Pap is a man perfectly willing to aid in a smear of any and all season; or both.

  6. PSWebster says:

    This is all of the Minority running their gaslighting BS which Pap signed up for. Guy is a real sweatheart. Anyone reading the transcript should see this. Excellent analysis by EW.

    Hang in there everyone: this will spool out slowly but it will spool out. It’s gonna git hot for those shites by this summer.

  7. OldTulsaDude says:

    What do you call gaslighting on a grand scale? Orwell chose Newspeak but it is 31 years early for that. Perhaps Orwell was a prophet, and the current version of gaslighting precedes Newspeak and should be called Barrump. Although it is not funny: rim-shot: Barrump-ump-ump

    • Vicks says:

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from Greek δημαγωγός, a popular leader, a leader of a mob, from δῆμος, people, populace, the commons + ἀγωγός leading, leader)[1] or rabble-rouser[2][3] is a leader who gains popularity in a democracy by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.[1][4] Demagogues overturn established norms of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so.[5]

      Historian Reinhard Luthin defined demagogue thus: “What is a demagogue? He is a politician skilled in oratory, flattery and invective; evasive in discussing vital issues; promising everything to everybody; appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public; and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices—a man whose lust for power without recourse to principle leads him to seek to become a master of the masses. He has for centuries practiced his profession of ‘man of the people’. He is a product of a political tradition nearly as old as western civilization itself.”[6]

      Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, it is possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.[7] Demagogues usually advocate immediate, forceful action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty.

  8. viget says:

    Still not quite sure what to think of George. I mean the guy is a classic blowhard, thinks he knows more than he does, inflates his self-worth, etc. However, I’m not sure if he’s either really super savvy (or is handled by some super savvy folks) and appears incompetent, or if he’s just that much of a useful idiot. Sorta like Carter Page, though we seem to know a lot more about Papadopoulos than Page.

    I would not be surprised if there were multiple intelligence services running ops on the guy, and not necessarily knowing the others were doing it.

    • orionATL says:

      george papadopoulis has become quite expert in telling the public a big lie about who he is and what he did with respect to his work as a go-between for the trump presidential campaign and the government of russia. it will be interesting to see how long he chooses to sustain this big lie.

      when papadopoulis first started commenting publicly on his campaign work, to the effect that he was just an innocent lad, i assumed he was merely embarrassed at having been cooperative with the osc investigation and was trying to get back into republican good graces. fortunately for p., apparently republicans recognized his story as one that had good counter-osc potential and have since encouraged its retelling. fortunately, there is a record of what papadopoulis said and did the counters his current big lie. but it is going to take some work to use that to bury that big lie.

      i think papadopoulos rapidly became very adept at recognizing what he had done that was improper and in constructing a tale that would present him as a victim (of fbi antipathy) and free him of suspicion of the russian collaboration he had in fact engaged in. the transcripts show him as quite cognizant of areas of questioning dangerous for him and of what he should say in response to those questions. it seems clear that by the time he came to deal with the fbi and the osc he understood very well what he needed to lie about, what he had done that might land him in legal trouble. i’d say he knew from the beginning of his spying capers that he was engaging in risky business.

      right now i’d rate him as a sort of skilled self-promoter promoting his victimhood.

  9. dwfreeman says:

    So, in Putin’s Game of Thrones, Papadopoulous played the role of useful idiot coffee boy messenger, while Meadows treats the same guy as some wronged political operative who was inappropriately questioned by the FBI even after bragging to superiors about making high-ranking connections to Kremlin-linked contacts, including the niece of the Mayor of Moscow.

    So, Papadopoulos got a two-week trip to Palookaville for lying to the FBI, and now he wants to turn his existential Lifetime Network narrative into the Bridgegate saga. And the Republicans think this makes sense as investigative cover… because Nunes.

    Whenever I read about Papadopolous, I just think how well the Russians played him. They used their Sidney Greenstreet Italian professor character, Joseph Mifsud, an actual Maltese falcon, to pass along Trumpian messages through George’s diplomatic pouch, keeping him close, but Trump closer to their Impossible Mission project.

    This wasn’t Spy Game, but for Papa it was Dinner Out. And he got taken for a fool just like he is now acting as if he’s doing Trump’s bidding.

    Meadows and his fellow Republicans are part of that ongoing IMF team, keeping stupidity and lawlessness alive as an excuse for their last hurrah for this administration, an illegitimate party of Individual 1.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      “…eating chocolate malted falcon and giving away free high schools!”

      I think from now on we should call him Poppy Rococco.

    • Avattoir says:

      So Meadows as Bizarro World Sam Spade? “When I slap you, you’ll take it and like it”.
      ‘Congressman, you may take, say, a percentage of my remaining personal dignity’
      ‘No, sir, I will take, say, every last shred of it’

      • Avattoir says:

        I owe the thread an apology for all this punning off puny Pap. It’s just that I can’t choose between him as a particularly gutless Joel Cairo or as the Maltese Pigeon.

  10. Jenny says:

    Marcy thank you. Excellent post.

    I have laughed and laughed reading the line: “But Meadows, either because he’s a frightfully stupid man or bad at playing his designated hoaxster role…”

    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the stupidest, is Mr. Meadows a 10?
    Mr. Papadopoulos agrees, yeah a ten.

    Only 14 days in prison. George certainly created a felony record for himself with all the lies he told.

  11. orionATL says:

    no one should doubt the power of the type of argument papadopoulis, meadows, and barr are putting together. i have seen this sophistry work quite well among true believers.

    the only protection from an argument like this, one based on calculated ommission of some key details and misrepresentation of other key details, becoming widely accepted is a strong, noisey challenge based on point-by-point analysis by individuals who know the details with great specificity, e.g., emptywheel here. i can almost guarantee that media folk will not take the time to understand the fine level of detail necessary to make the sophistry clear. in addition, there is the matter of the apparent reasonableness of the larger argument (that the fbi had it in for trump) papadoupalis’ lying and carter page’s years-long footsy aside.

    what needs to happen is for the current house leadership to rehold that hearing and set the record straight on papadopoulis’ actual record of behavior vis-a-vis russian influence moves over the course of a year or so. this will require making clear why papadopoulis has refused the current committee’s subpoena (as he most certainly will). meadow’s deceit needs also to be highlighted.

    the key overarching counterarguments contesting the trump argument “the fbi was after trump” are:

    – trump became a russian puppet after the election and remains so endangering economic and national security.

    – the current russian government has every intention of interfering in the 2020 federal elections with the republican party’s and the trump administration’s blessings.

    • P J Evans says:

      Tr*mp was willing to help the Russians even before the election – that was the point of that platform plank, and the whole meeting-with-Russians stuff. He’d been doing business with them (AKA laundering their money) for years before that, so he damned well should have known better – and so should his associates in this entire mess.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Laugh out loud funny! Larry and Curly laud Joe’s outstanding performance in telling the world about Donald J. Trump’s White House:

    The insane rants against [Maggie Haberman] underscore how irrational the conversation can be. She has done more to expose this president’s actions than any other person, yet with exacting fairness. The left should be thanking her for her toughness. The right should welcome her objectivity.

    That was NYT White House correspondent Michael D. Shear, citing this earlier twtr comment from his NYT colleague and national political reporter, Jonathan Martin: “[Haberman] is the most indispensable journalist of the Trump era. She’s relentless, tough and thoroughly fair. And she’s a big part of why you know so much about of what you do about this WH.”

    I think that’s the NYT’s owners and editors doubling down on their new Judy Miller. I suppose next will come the new Jason Blair.


    This New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait is just as spine tinglingly funny – and just as bad at analyzing the left. []

    The left has, for example, no “pathological hatred” for Maggie Habs. It just thinks her work is often atrocious stenography for an indictable president.

    • harpie says:

      Marcy, earlier:
      1:02 PM – 28 May 2019

      For those who missed it over the weekend or who just heard me on @MSignorile’s show, here’s my rant from Sunday about the NYT Maggiography of Hope Hicks.

      Later, she wrote:
      1:58 PM – 28 May 2019

      Reupping this thread bc the journalists who are defending Maggie (and her editor) don’t seem interested in the factual errors and exclusions in the piece.

      In that rant, Marcy masterfully dissects the problems with Maggie’s story, from
      “On top of being a constitutionally offensive story, that Hope Hicks story is also factually wrong.”
      “If you answered, ‘Oh my goodness! In a bid to make Hope look totally innocent, Maggie left out the bit where Hope suggested they were going to withhold evidence,” you would have better command of the Mueller Report than the NYT’s journalist.”
      “The irony here is that this is a story by a journalist about a woman who played an utterly central role in lying to the press, over and over and over, and who on multiple occasions was working harder at the cover-up than even her boss. / Okay. It’s not ironic at all. // It is a journalist doing an unbelievably favorable piece on a former source who played a central role in routinely lying to the American people.”
      and then
      “Anyway: Here’s a dare for @maggieNYT, since she wants to write about what happens when women defy a subpoena. // Write a similar story about @xychelsea, who is in jail for defying a subpoena.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Maggie’s colleagues are largely defending access journalism. Necessarily, the access part overwhelms the journalism bit.

      The NYT has chosen not only to curry favor with the high and mighty, but always to portray them in the best possible light. Presumably, that’s the price for the access; it leads to scoops, but not news. Haberman does that well. But that’s not journalism.

      By so programatically defending Haberman, the NYT is admitting that its job is to promote the high and mighty and to normalize their behavior. Journalism is an afterthought.

        • harpie says:

          And this observation is from The Intercept’s Peter Maass:

          7:24 AM – 28 May 2019

          […] While working on a profile of Lachlan Murdoch recently, I came across a comment from Murdoch that might explain the NYT’s kindness to Hicks.
          At a conference in November, Lachlan Murdoch was asked about hiring Hope Hicks as Fox Corp.’s comms chief. […]
          Murdoch was speaking at the DealBook conference in 2018:
          “I had an advisor of mine call people she would have worked with and universally, and I should mention that many people from the New York Times, universally said she was a fantastic choice.” [link] […]

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Murdoch is saying that hiring a former WH and Trump Org employee that Trump still likes – giving her a soft landing and helping her choose to keep schtum about what goes on in the WH – would be good for him and for Faux Noise. He is not assessing Hicks’ performance and probably doesn’t give a shit whether anybody at Fox would like to work with or for her.

            He was just saying that Hicks would help Fox and the NYT maintain their access to Trump’s WH. Murdoch doesn’t care if that gets in the way of doing journalism because FN doesn’t do journalism, and the NYT doesn’t do journalism when it calls it access journalism.

            • Rayne says:

              I think you’re missing something rather important about Hicks’ presence at Fox News, given her past work to obstruct justice on behalf of Trump while in the White House.

              She’s not providing access as much as she’s helping Fox News extend the obstruction. Fox management only needs to ask her if Story A or Story B will help/hurt Trump with regard to Trump-Russia and the ongoing Congressional investigations. She can even use her access if she can’t make the call by herself but it’s not her access which is most valuable. It’s her ability to help shape Fox News’ output on behalf of Trump.

              By the way the Trump campaign is now a sponsor Laura Ingraham’s monstrous white nationalist programming on Fox. What a coincidence.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Hannity and the entire band at FN already did that. It’s not as if many of Trump’s likes and dislikes are hard to read or predict. Adding another guitar player I don’t think changes the overall sound and popularity of the band. It might help keep Trump cordial, but that would last only as long as FN’s daily coverage smiles on Trump.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The idea is laughable. It’s a targeted insult to the ombudsperson, to readers, and to every hardworking reporter who wants to do it right.

        The twtrverse has little practical leverage over the publisher and editor. It can be ignored at a whim. It has no leverage at all compared to the presence and writing ability of a senior reporter with a front-page column, who has decades of relationships in the newsroom and elsewhere at a large paper, whose beat is how well that paper abides by its self-declared standards.

        Doing away with the ombudsperson is intentionally eliminating an avenue of accountability visible to the average reader. It helps eliminate the idea of accountability, something neoliberals consider a prerequisite for and a benchmark of true power.

        • P J Evans says:

          There’s some kind of assumption there, that Important People have Twitter, and no one else does. (Have they actually noticed how much cr*p is on Twitter?)

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I’m pretty sure the NYT publisher and editor didn’t give a shit about the twtrverse five years ago. They were probably more interested in cutting costs and cutting out a thorn in their side. Nor did they want their up and comers to think that anyone’s opinion mattered but upper management’s.

            • Rayne says:

              Mm. No. Almost every single journalist and editor has a Twitter account and has had one for far more than five years. I know I had to get a Twitter account back in 2007-2008 because so many outlets already had them at the time.

              They take note of what each other says about each other. It’s a bit of a circle jerk of groupthink as it was before the Scooter Libby trial. The problem is that they only care about what other outlets/journalists are saying, not what the impact is on the public.

              And unfortunately because the mega orange narcissist-in-chief is on Twitter, they really feel they must continue to concentrate their effort there.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Agreed as to the necessity for a journalist to use twtr. But that seems unconnected to the role of the ombudsperson in keeping journalists and editors honest, in part by knowing their jobs and the pressures on them as well as they do. Twtr is no substitute for that.

              • Americana says:

                Twitter is just another battleground for journalism. It’s possible to land a few facts on the twitterverse that have some public impact but the fact Trump makes it a titterverse is the sad reality. It’s easy for the facts to be subsumed on ANY of the media platforms if there are persistent trolling operations that flag posts for removal. I’ve had to repost the letter from the DOJ alumni on Breitbart many times already but that is such an important cadre of people voicing their opinion that the existence of that letter has to be known by one and all. There are certain factual aspects of this that should never be forgotten and the best and most detailed Trump-Russia timelines should be repeatedly shared on all the platforms so there’s no evading the facts.

              • BobCon says:

                The NY Times political bureau is massively ticked off that liberal twitter doesn’t bow before them.

                Running the April 10 front page article on how liberal twitter isn’t a full representation of Democrats was about as snitty as it gets. You could easily imagine the back slapping in the Politics Bureau internal messaging about how they sure showed their tormenters.

                Of course, they also sucked the oxygen out of the work of their colleagues in Investigations. The Pullitzer Prize winning reporters who broke the Trump tax fraud story scored a major coup that same day by forcing Trump’s sister, a federal judge, to retire rather than face further inquiries. But the whining Twitter story that day pushed the legitimate breaking news off the front page. But since when has the Politics Bureau really cared about that story? It wasn’t reported out of their offices.

                • bmaz says:

                  “The NY Times political bureau is massively ticked off that liberal twitter doesn’t bow before them.”

                  That statement, and really the whole comment in general, are so true. It is kind of pathetic how thin skinned and petty they are.

                  • BobCon says:

                    I think the snideness and insularity at the NY Times DC/Elections group is very similar to the one that Elizabeth Warren described in her meeting with Larry Summers:


                    “[Summers] teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.

                    I had been warned.”

                • Rayne says:

                  NYT needs to catch a cluestick. It’s becoming harder to find an NYT story I want to share each day.

                  The papers I find myself reading the most are WaPo, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, McClatchy-Sacramento Bee, Detroit Free Press. I wish Chicago Tribune hadn’t been borked by Tronc, and now New Orleans is all jacked up with the impending demise of the Times-Picayune.

                  • bmaz says:

                    The LA Times is, by early appearances, making a real comeback under Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. It is early, but they have retained, and have obtained, some good people.

                    • Rayne says:

                      Wonder if they have subscriptions through Amazon yet? That’s how I buy WaPo now. As much as I read LAT I really need to spend some money on them.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Had Donald Trump led a blameless life as a father, husband, bidnessman and president, his current scorched earth posture of refusing to comply with any congressional request or subpoena – in furtherance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated duty to oversee the executive branch – would itself be impeachable behavior.

  14. mospeck says:

    punaise says:May 28, 2019 at 10:07 pm
    Speaking for myself, the ex-post-redacto (a new term of art?) environment has been so demoralizing that there has been little to inspire any frivolous word-smithing (my one-trick-pony schtick here). This country is rotting from the inside.
    concerning your ex post redacto
    The Kinks – Better Things

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