Won’t Doubling Down on Paul Manafort Being a Traitor Make Him More Likely To Flip?

Here is the full substance of what Steve Bannon said about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Don Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.

“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” said an astonished and derisive Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed.

“The three senior guys in the campaign,” an incredulous Bannon went on, “thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor—with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately. Even if you didn’t think to do that, and you’re totally amoral, and you wanted that information, you do it in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people and go through everything and then they verbally come and tell another lawyer in a cut-out, and if you’ve got something, then you figure out how to dump it down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication. You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to. . . . But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

I’ll return, at some point, to this formulation, which complains more about how Don Jr took this meeting with Russian figures than that they didn’t involve cut-outs to maintain plausible deniability.

But for the moment, I want to look at the substance of Bannon’s non-apology apology.

Threatened with being cut off from the Mercer family wingnut welfare, Bannon has offered this peace offering (you can click through to see how he boasts of his own importance in his obsequious comments on Trump):

  • “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”

[snip]

  • “My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.”
  • “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
  • “Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
  • “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

The statement is notable for the utter silence on Jared Kushner, a rivalry with whom is the chief source of animus for Bannon. Bannon appears willing only to suck up to Trump Senior and Junior, not the “globalist” son-in-law.

Bannon pretends that the reporting about his comments on Jr were inaccurate. Lordy, that sounds like an invitation to Michael Wolff to release the tapes he claims he has of his Bannon interviews.

Bannon nods to his 60 Minutes interview, which he did in fact say was a waste of time. But he also allegedly said firing Comey was the stupidest decision in modern politics, because it led to the Mueller investigation, with its expanded scope. That suggests he thinks Mueller will find things, which is consistent with the other Bannon statements reported by Wolff, that he believes Mueller will find evidence of money laundering, that the path to Trump “goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner stuff.”

Bannon invokes his Navy experience as a way, I guess, to explain why he used the word treasonous — to suggest he was speaking like a jingoist rather than someone with awareness of what a treason charge requires.

Which leaves us with his comments about Manafort. Given his walk-back of his comments about Jr and his stubborn silence on Kushner, Bannon suggests that Manafort should have known better. While, here, Bannon suggests Manafort should have told the neophyte global businessmen who also attended the meeting how duplicitous the Russians are (which is curious, because the Trump and Russian participants in the meeting keep pretending they’re all telling the same true story about the meeting, evidence that this is a cover story notwithstanding).

Savvy Paul Manafort, who got hired to work for the campaign for free and who took that position, apparently, to pay off a favor if not $19 million to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Paul Manafort whose reputation of working with such thuggish types goes back years, Steven Bannon blames Manafort (who didn’t set up the meeting) for not carrying out the meeting with more plausible deniability.

It doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense, given the known events surrounding the meeting.

But it also doesn’t make sense, if Bannon’s goal is to fix the damage his comments have done. Because, by issuing a statement that you believe will be acceptable to Trump that effectively calls Manafort a traitor — those other young men aren’t traitors but that savvy businessman we had working for free is — you make it more likely he’ll flip on Trump. You make it more likely that Manafort does precisely the thing that will bring down the whole scheme.

Maybe that’s actually Bannon’s intent?

Stephen Miller Spends 12 Minutes Refusing to Answer Whether Trump Met with Russians Offering Dirt

36 seconds into his 12:34 minute interview with Stephen Miller, Jake Tapper asked Miller, “Did President Trump meet with any of the so-called ‘jumos’ who were in that Trump Tower meeting?”

Miller spent the remaining 12 minutes of the meeting repeating the talking points, “grotesque work of fiction” and “political genius” over and over: Grotesque work of fiction political genius grotesque work of fiction political genius grotesque work of fiction political genius grotesque work of fiction political genius grotesque work of fiction political genius grotesque work of fiction political genius.

Tapper asked whether Trump had met the Russians again, “Can you just settle that for us?”

Miller responded, “I have no knowledge of anything to do with that meeting.” His response actually answers a different question, not whether Trump ever met with the Russians in it.

As a reminder, on April 25, 2016, 45 days before the Trump Tower meeting, George Papadopoulos told Miller “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready []. The advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ‘neutral’ cities.” Two days later, the day after Papadopoulos learned the Russians had political dirt in the form of thousands of Hillary emails, Papadopoulos emailed Miller again. “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.

Miller may have no knowledge of the June 9 meeting itself. But it is almost certainly the case that he knows about negotiations regarding dirt in the form of emails, because he appears to have been the first person on the campaign that Papadopoulos spoke to after learning of them.

And yet, in the 12 minutes of this interview, Miller never managed a denial that Trump had met with the Russians involved in the Trump Tower meeting.

Did The Most Senior White House Official Lie to the NYT about the Content of the Comey Firing Letter?

One week after conducting a “surprise” interview set up by Trump ally Christopher Ruddy (for which he was widely criticized), Mike Schmidt has a widely hailed story describing the evidence supporting an obstruction charges against Donald Trump.

Or maybe against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Most interestingly, it suggests that several days after Trump attacked Jeff Sessions while watching Jim Comey’s May 3 testimony to Congress, Sessions sent an aide to Congress to try to gin up a series of damning stories about Comey.

White House aides gave updates to Mr. Trump throughout, informing him of Mr. Comey’s refusal to publicly clear him. Mr. Trump unloaded on Mr. Sessions, who was at the White House that day. He criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, questioned his loyalty, and said he wanted to get rid of Mr. Comey.

[snip]

Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the F.B.I. director. The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the incident did not occur. “This did not happen and would not happen,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores. “Plain and simple.”

Hmmm. I don’t think Sessions has honored his recusal.

He may have also ordered up Rod Rosenstein to suggest Comey needed firing.

Earlier that day, Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, had pulled one of Mr. McGahn’s deputies aside after a meeting at the Justice Department. Mr. Rosenstein told the aide that top White House and Justice Department lawyers needed to discuss Mr. Comey’s future. It is unclear whether this conversation was related to the effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Comey.

The following weekend, Trump went to Bedminster to have Stephen Miller write up a letter firing Comey. It’s this detail I’m most interested in.

In interviews with The Times, White House officials have said the letter contained no references to Russia or the F.B.I.’s investigation. According to two people who have read it, however, the letter’s first sentence said the Russia investigation had been “fabricated and politically motivated.” [my emphasis]

Remember, Schmidt has just had a rather celebrated interview with one particular White House official. Er, The White House Official. Half of the off-the-record comments omitted from the NYT transcript of the interview clearly pertain to the Russian investigation.

TRUMP: Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever.

_________

TRUMP: Maybe I’ll just say a little bit of a [inaudible]. I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very nice man. And I found him to be an honorable person. Paul only worked for me for a few months. Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you’re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months?

[snip]

TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

_________

TRUMP: For purposes of the Justice Department, I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, who by the way, says I, says this is a ridiculous —

SCHMIDT: He’s been very good to you.

TRUMP: He’s been amazing. And he’s a liberal Democrat. I don’t know him. He’s a liberal Democrat. I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. And he has studied this thing very closely. I’ve seen him a number of times. There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime. But there’s no collusion. I don’t even say [inaudible]. I don’t even go that far.

_________

TRUMP: So for the purposes of what’s going on with this phony Russian deal, which, by the way, you’ve heard me say it, is only an excuse for losing an election that they should have won, because it’s very hard for a Republican to win the Electoral College. O.K.?

This last break in the transcript picks up right where the information these White House officials lying to the NYT leave off: with the claim that this is a “fabricated and politically motivated” investigation.

Particularly given that Schmidt has been working this aspect of the story for months, what are the chances that the most senior White House official lied to Schmidt about what he had written to justify firing Jim Comey?

Paul Manafort Has Conducted His Oleg Deripaska Dalliance on PRISM Provider Google’s Servers

The government just docketed this declaration pertaining to its accusation that Paul Manafort contributed to an op-ed defending his actions in violation of the judge’s prohibition on trying his case in public.

The substance of the declaration (and another copy of the op-ed showing track changes) is interesting enough. But I’m most interested in this:

While Manafort is using a company email (DMP International, LLC), his interlocutor, Konstantin Kilimnik, the guy through whom Manafort was offering to provide private briefings on the Trump campaign to Russian oligarch (and former Manafort client to whom he still owed millions) Oleg Deripaska, is using GMail.

Particularly once the government developed counterintelligence concerns about Paul Manafort (but probably his ties to powerful Russians are sufficient in any case), Kilimnik is easily targetable under Section 702. While I’m sure they’ve got Deripaska wired up in a slew of other ways, NSA can collect this email just by asking Google nicely. And once it opened a full investigation into Manafort, the FBI has been able to get whatever NSA gets in raw form.

That means, among other things, that Kilimnik (and, I assume, Deripaska) want this to be discovered. Perhaps that’s arrogance, a belief that somehow Manafort will remain untouchable by Mueller for the more substantive coordination between him and Russia. Or perhaps Deripaska is just happy to let Manafort be exposed for what he is.

Whatever it is, when obvious Russian targets use PRISM providers, they’re just inviting easy scrutiny.

Reminder: The Guy Killing the HPSCI Investigation Was Part of Trump’s Troubled Transition Team

Over the weekend, the WaPo had an article on all the things Devin Nunes is doing to kill the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Trump’s cooperation with Russia during the election. It started like this:

Rep. Devin Nunes, once sidelined by an ethics inquiry from leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, is reasserting the full authority of his position as chairman just as the GOP appears poised to challenge special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The California Republican was cleared in December of allegations he improperly disclosed classified information while accusing the Obama administration of exposing the identities of Trump affiliates on surveillance reports. Since clearing his name, Nunes has stepped up his attacks on Mueller’s team and the law enforcement agencies around it, including convening a group of Intelligence Committee Republicans to draft a likely report on “corruption” among the investigators working for the special counsel.

And ended like this:

Nunes, meanwhile, appears to have made up his mind about the House Intelligence Committee probe into the allegations surrounding Trump and Russia, expressing his convictions in an interview with Fox News.

“We have no evidence of Russia collusion between the Trump campaign” and Russia, Nunes said.

I’ll save you the click and answer the question you should be asking: did this 1400 word article on Nunes’ attempts to kill his committee’s investigation make any mention of the fact that Nunes served on Trump’s Transition Team?

The answer, as it so routinely has been when people treat Nunes’ opinion about whether there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia as a credible opinion, is no. No, the WaPo didn’t think it relevant to mention that Nunes was a key figure in the transition process that has since become a close focus of the Mueller investigation. Indeed, Nunes was involved in both efforts to shield members of Congress and Transition officials when they do Bibi Netanyahu’s bidding. And if he didn’t use his Congressional email address during the transition (in which case Mueller would probably give it great deference), he might well be among the 13 officials whose emails Mueller’s team obtained from GSA, which has been the latest panic that Nunes has fed.

In short, Nunes was in the thick of things, and he should no more be treated as a credible judge of whether there was collusion going on in the casino than Mike Flynn Jr or Don Jr or Trump himself. While I don’t imagine Nunes is in any legal difficulty, he was nevertheless part of efforts to hijack US policy before Trump became President and some of his obstruction since then has served to distract attention that the Transition Team did so.

And it’s not just WaPo’s news page that seems to have ignored this detail. So has Greg Sargent, in a piece assessing the likelihood HPSCI Democrats would do their own report laying out all the ways Nunes obstructed a legitimate inquiry. You’d think you’d point those two points together: that Nunes obstructed the inquiry because he’s tangentially a subject of it.

This should be a really basic thing: Nunes may have been cleared of leaking. But he is still making key decisions on an investigation into actions targeting an organization he participated in. Naming HPSCI Chair Nunes to his Transition Team might be the most competent aspect of Trump’s cover-up, by far.

That’s the story here.

Two Months After Papadopoulos Plea Revealed, Mifsud’s Past Still Being Scrubbed

It was back on October 30 of 2017 that George Papadopoulos’ plea deal arising from Robert Mueller’s investigation was unsealed. The plea agreement indicated a central role for Joseph Mifsud. Mifsud apparently was the first to inform Papadopoulos that Russia had dirt, in the form of emails, on Hillary Clinton and then participated in ongoing efforts by Papadapoulos to arrange senior-level meetings between Russia and the Trump campaign.

I noted on November 2 that although the earliest reports described Mifsud as associated with the now-closed London Academy of Diplomacy, he had an additional affiliation that mapped to the same organization, the London Centre of International Law Practice, claimed by Papadopoulos at the time he joined the Trump campaign. Just under a week later, reports began to surface that Mifsud had disappeared. As recently as December 20, NPR reported that he still could not be found.

Yesterday, BuzzFeed News reported that Mifsud’s biography had been deleted from the website of Link Campus in Rome:

References to Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who court documents say told Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, have been removed from the website of the university in Italy where he’s worked for years.

When he was unmasked as the unnamed “overseas professor” cited in the documents filed in October by Trump–Russia special counsel Robert Mueller, Mifsud led a three-year degree course in political science and international relations, according to a bio then on the website of the Link Campus University in Rome. The Maltese academic was also listed as an overseas professor on the LCU’s faculty pages, archived versions of the website show.

The bio now leads to a 404 error page, while Mifsud’s name no longer appears on the LCU’s faculty pages.

Interestingly, this report from November 6 indicates that Link Campus is “a private university established as a
subsidiary of the University of Malta.” That seems quite significant since Mifsud is from Malta.

The BuzzFeed piece concludes with this paragraph:

Also now missing from the LCU faculty pages is Nagi Idris, director of the London Centre of International Law Practice, an organization with which both Mifsud and Papadopoulos claimed to have been affiliated in the past. Idris was previously listed as an overseas professor on the faculty pages, according to archived versions of the website. And in an online bio he describes himself as a visiting professor at the university.

So Link is now removing any online association with both Mifsud and Idris, who are both connected to the London Centre of International Law Practice. It appears to me that Nagi Idris may be more than just another bit player who claimed association with these two quasi-academic operations. The Medium piece referenced above that pointed out the Maltese connection for Link Campus provided a deep dive into corporate records associated with the London Centre of International Law Practice:

LCILP began as an offshoot from another company — EN Education Group Limited — which describes itself as “a global education consultancy, facilitating links between students, education providers and organisations with an interest in education worldwide”.

/snip/

EN Education is owned and run by Nagi Khalid Idris, a 48-year-old British citizen of Sudanese origin. A biographical note about Idris describes him as “a senior international lawyer and Fellow of the International Bar Association, with over 19 years of legal consultancy experience”.

Because he is the owner of the company that gave rise to the London Centre for International Law Practice, Idris could well lie at the heart of the biggest mystery we have yet to unravel: how and why Mifsud and Papadopoulos were put into their various roles and then brought into contact with one another. With Mifsud references now scrubbed from the LCILP website and Idris  (as well as Mifsud) scrubbed from the Link Campus website, Idris does not seem to want that information to come to light.  Idris appears to be just as unqualified for his role in founding LCILP as both Papadopoulos and Mifsud are for the positions they held there and elsewhere. With Idris, though, we are likely starting to get very close to those who are pulling the strings.

As Marcy noted here, the timeline of contacts between Papadopoulos and Mifsud are damning in their concentration on arranging meetings between the Trump and Putin camps. So, to me, when we find out who helped Idris to set up the London Centre for International Law Practice as a vehicle for bringing together Papadopoulos and Mifsud, we are likely to find out who wanted the Trump Campaign to have high level contacts in Russia. Whoever that is seems to be putting a lot of continuing effort into obscuring the puppetmaster while hiding a puppet or two. After all, it’s not like we’ve ever seen spies hanging around quasi-academic programs in international relations or anything.

Speech and Email Release: The Three Public Statement Signals Tied to Russia’s Dirt-as-Emails

In this post I did a timeline of all the known George Papadopoulos communications. The timeline made something clear: on two occasions, Papadopoulos alerted Ivan Timofeev to something in a Trump speech. On each occasion, something happened with emails. And there may actually be a third instance of Papadopoulos signaling to his handler.

April 26 notice of emails precedes Trump’s April 27 speech including a “signal to meet”

First, on April 26, 2016, over breakfast London time, he learned the Russians had thousands of email as dirt on Hillary Clinton.

On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel. During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that hehadjust returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high level Russian government officials. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he(the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”

The next day he discusses his outreach to Russians with both Stephen Miller and Corey Lewandowski. He emails Miller to say he “Ha[s] some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.” And he emails Lewandowski, apparently asking to speak by phone, “to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump. Have been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host him and the team when the time is right.”

That all happened while Papadopoulos was helping draft Trump’s first speech, in which Trump said,

We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests.

Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries.

Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.

As the NYT revealed the other day, Papadopoulos helped draft that speech, and he told Timofeev that it was the “signal to meet.”

Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump’s first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

So the Russians mentioned emails, and the next day Papadopoulos delivered a speech that signaled (at least according to Papadopoulos, who at times oversold these things) Trump’s interest in meeting.

July 21 RNC speech precedes the WikiLeaks dump

A second coincidence comes in July. On July 21, a week after Papadopoulos informed Timofeev that a ““meeting for August or September in the UK (London) with me and my national chairman” had been approved, he then messages Timofeev the day of Trump’s RNC speech, saying, “How are things [Timofeev]? Keep an eye on the speech tonight. Should be good.” This message is one of the ones he tried to destroy by nuking his Facebook account after his second interview with the FBI last February.

Trump’s RNC speech included no mention of Russia. But it did include an indictment of Hillary’s actions as Secretary of State, focusing on a number of the issues that lay behind Putin’s loathing of Hillary.

Another humiliation came when president Obama drew a red line in Syria – and the whole world knew it meant nothing.

In Libya, our consulate – the symbol of American prestige around the globe – was brought down in flames. America is far less safe – and the world is far less stable – than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy.

I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets. Her bad instincts and her bad judgment – something pointed out by Bernie Sanders – are what caused the disasters unfolding today. Let’s review the record. In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map.

Libya was cooperating. Egypt was peaceful. Iraq was seeing a reduction in violence. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos.

Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West. After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.

[snip]

We must abandon the failed policy of nation building and regime change that Hillary Clinton pushed in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria. Instead, we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terror.

The focus on Syria is key: remember that Jared Kushner explained his request to Sergei Kislyak for a Russian-run secure back challenge as an effort to cooperate on Syria.

The Ambassador expressed similar sentiments about relations, and then said he especially wanted to address U.S. policy in Syria, and that he wanted to convey information from what he called his “generals.” He said he wanted to provide information that would help inform the new administration. He said the generals could not easily come to the U.S. to convey this information and he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation. General Flynn or I explained that there were no such lines. I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.

So it’s possible the attacks on Hillary’s Syria policy were a signal — as the earlier speech’s call for engagement with Russia apparently was — to Timofeev.

In any case, the next day, WikiLeaks started releasing the DNC emails, just in time to bollox the DNC (though I maintain that forcing the Democrats to finally fire Debbie Wasserman Schultz was a necessary move).

A possible third message?

Which brings us to a possible third signal. Another of the Facebook messages that Papadopoulos attempted to destroy was a link he shared with Timofeev to this interview. Among the other things Papadopoulos says in the interview is that sanctions on Russia have hurt the US.

Q.: Do you agree that the U.S. sanctions against Russia did not help to resolve the crisis in Ukraine?

A.: Sanctions have done little more than to turn Russia towards China as a primary market for Russian goods, services and energy. It is not in the interest of the West to align China and Russia in a geopolitical alliance that can have unpredictable consequences for U.S. interests in the South China Sea, Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

[snip]

Q.: Your professional background is related to global energy. Do you agree that European countries should reduce their dependence on Russian energy?

A.: The U.S. and Russia will compete over both the European and Pacific gas markets. This is inevitable. Unfortunately for the U.S., sanctions on Russia have resulted in massive energy deals between Russia and China.

Papadopoulos also poo poos the idea of expanding NATO.

Q.: How do you see the future of NATO? Do you support a further expansion of the alliance? If so, do you think that NATO should take into the account Russia’s concerns regarding this issue?

A.: If NATO is to expand, all new members must spend the required 2% of GDP on defense expenditure. Currently only five members do. Without a common mission that all countries subscribe to, or the pledge that all members spend 2% of GDP on defense, the alliance in its current form is likely not sustainable. The three largest threats NATO will have to combat over the next couple decades will be a rising and belligerent China, radical Islam and a nuclear Iran. Russia can be helpful in mitigating the dangerous consequences of these three forces colliding simultaneously.

Q.: You did not answer the question on whether you would support a possible NATO extension or not. Russia has repeatedly expressed its concerns about NATO’s military infrastructure moving toward Russia’s borders…

A.: We should look at the circumstances. If mutual confidence between our countries exists, then we will better understand the expectations of each other, and we can more accurately define the ‘red lines‘ which cannot be crossed. However, what is happening today between Russia and NATO, and between Russia and the West in general, creates an extremely dangerous and unstable situation in which every incident could become fatal.

An interview with a policy advisor is nowhere near as momentous as a speech from Trump. But by this point — the NYT informs us — Papadopoulos’ interventions were being reviewed closely by the campaign. So it’s likely this was closely vetted.

Papadopoulos shared that link on October 1. Later that week, the John Podesta emails started coming out.

The timing wasn’t dictated by these speeches

Let me make something clear: I’m not saying that the timing of these email releases were dictated by the speeches. Of course they weren’t. They were timed to do maximal damage to the Hillary campaign (not incidentally, in a way that coincided with the “later in the summer” timing Don Jr asked for in his communications with Rob Goldstone).

Rather, I’m saying that Papadopoulos seems to have been signaling Timofeev, and those signals closely mapped to email releases.

And those signals are among the things he tried to destroy.

The Papadopoulos Delay

We now know that sometime after July 22, 2016, Australian Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, told the FBI that George Papadopoulos got drunk with Australia’s Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Downer, two months earlier and told him he had learned the Russians had dirt, emails, on Hillary Clinton.

That revelation has led a lot of people to ask why it took so long — January 27, 2017 — for the FBI to interview Papadopoulos.

I don’t have an answer for that. But I want to point to some dates from his arrest affidavit and information that are newly of interest giving that timing.

As numerous people have pointed out, those documents provide the outlines of the dates when FBI first interviewed Papadopoulos, on January 27, when they had a follow-up interview, on February 16, and when, the day after, he deleted his Facebook account. The follow-up would have happened in the wake of FBI interviewing Joseph Mifsud while he was in the US for the Global Ties conference on February 8. They didn’t arrest Papadopoulos until July 27, roughly a year after the Australians first informed the FBI that he had foreknowledge of what may have been the hacked emails.

But I’m at least as interested in how the other dates from the documents on Papadopoulos relate to that timeline as laid out in the two timelines below.

Note that every Facebook message is to Ivan Timofeev — a legal target under 702. Even in the July arrest affidavit, some emails between Americans are cited. Thus, the need for the warrant.

Importantly, there are no texts cited, at all. In the arrest affidavit, just Papadopoulos’ shutdown of his Facebook account is mentioned. The information explains that, “On or about February 23, 2017, defendant PAPADOPOULOS ceased using his cell phone number and began using anew number.” Whatever texts he might have had on his phone (including more secure Signal texts) would have been destroyed. While Papadopoulos wasn’t using particularly good operational security (particularly in that he was communicating with Timofeev over a PRISM provider), it is possible that the most sensitive communications with the Trump campaign involved texts that got destroyed after his first interview with the FBI.

My guess is that the FBI didn’t start pursuing warrants against Papaopoulos until after that first interview (remember, he remained involved with Trump up until he wasn’t given the energy portfolio on the National Security Council). It’s possible, too, they used FISA orders at first (which would take some time to obtain, unless they got emergency ones), then obtained search warrants to parallel construct the evidence.

“Emails obtained through a judicially authorized search warrant”

March 24, Papadopoulos to campaign

Papadopoulos: “just finished a very productive lunch with a good friend of mine, [Mifsud] . . . ‐ who introduced me to both Putin’s niece and the Russian Ambassador in London who also acts as the Deputy Foreign Minister.”

“The topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump. They are keen to host us in a ‘neutral’ city, or directly in Moscow. They said the leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us and Mr. Trump should there be interest. Waiting for everyone’s thoughts on moving forward with this very important issue.”

Early April: Papadopoulos writes multiple emails about his “outreach to Russia.”

April 10, Papadopoulos to Olga Vinogradova

“We met with [Mifsud] in London. The reason for my message is because [Mifsud] sent an email that you tried contacting me.”

“it would be a pleasure to meet again. If not, we should have a call and discuss some things.”

April 11:

Vinogradova: “now back in St. Petersburg” but would be “very pleased to support your initiatives between our two countries and of course I would be very pleased to meet you again.”

Papadopoulos, cc’ing Mifsud: “I think good step would be for me to meet with the Russian Ambassador in London sometime this month” would “like to discuss with him, or anyone else you recommend, about potential foreign policy trip to Russia.”

Mifsud: “This is already been agreed. I am flying to Moscow on the 18th for a Valdai meeting, plus other meetings at the Duma.”

Vinogradova: “I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request. . . . As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”

April 12, Vinogradova to Papadopoulos:

I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request. The Embassy in London is very much aware of this. As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”

April 18, Mifsud to Papadopoulos, cc’ed to Ivan Timofeev

“long conversation in Moscow with my dear friend [Timofeev] . . . about a possible meeting between the two of you. [Timofeev] is ready to meet with you in London (orUSA or Moscow). I am putting the two of you in touch to discuss when and where this potential meeting can actually take place.”

April 18, Papadopoulos to Timofeev

“try and come to Moscow,” sets up Skype call for 3PM Moscow time 

April 22, Timofeev to Papadopoulos

Thanks him “for an extensive talk!” and proposing “to meet in London or Moscow”

April 22, Papadopoulos to Timofeev:

Suggests “we set one up here in London with the Ambassador as well to discuss process moving forward.”

April 25, Papapopoulos to Stephen Miller

“The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready []. The advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ‘neutral’ cities.”

April 26: Papadopoulos learns of the “dirt” in the form of emails

April 27, Papadopoulos to Miller

“Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”

April 27: Papadopoulos to Corey Lewandowski

“to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump. Have been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host him and the team when the time is right.”

April 27: Papadopoulos authored speech that he tells Timofeev is “the signal to meet

April 29:

Papadopoulos “I am now in the process of  seeing if we will come to Russia. Do you recommend I get in touch with a minister or embassy person in Washington or London to begin organizing the trip?”

Vinogradova: “I think it would be better to discuss this question with [Mifsud].” 

Papadopoulos:  “0k. called him.”

April 30, Papadopoulos to Mifsud:

Thanks for the “critical help” in arranging a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government

“It’s history making if it happens.”

May 4 [this gets forwarded to Lewandowski, Clovis, and Manafort by May 21]:

Timofeev to Papadopolous “just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. [They are] open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.”

Papadopolous to Timofeev: “Glad the MFA is interested.”

May 4, Papadopoulos to Lewandowski (forwarding Timofeev email):

“What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?”

May 5: Papadopoulos has a conversation with Sam Clovis, then forwards Timofeev email, with header “Russia updates.”

May 8, Timofeev to Papadopoulos:

Emails about setting Papadopoulos up with the “MFA head of the US desk.”

May 13, Mifsud to Papadopoulos:

“an update” of what they had discussed in their “recent conversations,” including: “We will continue to liaise through you with the Russian counterparts in terms of what is needed for a high level meeting of Mr. Trump with the Russian Federation.”

May 14, Papadopoulos to Lewandowski:

“Russian govemment[] ha[s] also relayed to me that they are interested in hostingMr. Trump.”

May 21, Papadopoulos to Paul Manafort, forwarding May 4 email:

“Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump”

“Regarding the forwarded message, Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss.”

May 21, Manafort forwards Papadopoulos email to Rick Gates:

“Lets discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

June 1: Papadopoulos to Clovis, after having been told Clovis was “running point” by Lewandowski

“Re: Messages from Russia”: “I have the Russian MFA asking me if Mr. Trump is interested in visiting Russia at some point. Wanted to pass this info along to you for you to decide what’s best to do with it and what message I should send (or to ignore).”

June 9: Trump Tower meeting

June 15: Guccifer 2.0 starts releasing emails

June 19: Papadopoulos to Lewandowski

“New message from Russia”: “The Russian ministry of foreign affairs messaged and said that if Mr. Trump is unable to make it to Russia, if a campaign rep (me or someone else) can make it for meetings? I am willing to make the trip off the record if it’s in the interest of Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people.”

July 14, 2016, Papadopoulos to Timofeev:

Proposes “meeting for August or September in the UK (London) with me and my national chairman, and maybe one other foreign policy advisor and you, members of president putin’s office and the mfa to hold a day of consultations and to meet one another. It has been approved from our side.”

August 15, Clovis to Papadopoulos

“I would encourage you” and another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign to “make the trip[], if it is feasible.”

Facebook messages “obtained through a judicially authorized search warrant”

July 15:

Papadopoulos: “We can chat on this, this weekend if you can’t tonight.”

Timofeev: 

July 21, Papadopoulos to Timofeev:

“How are things [Timofeev]? Keep an eye on the speech tonight. Should be good.”

July 22: Wikileaks starts releasing DNC emails

July 22, Papadopoulos to Timofeev [Particularly given NYT’s confirmation they spent a lot of time together, I wonder if this is about Sergei Millian?]:

“If you know any background of him that is noteworthy before I see him, kindly send my way.”

October 1, Papadopoulos sends a link to this Interfax article.

Oz on Papadopoulos

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

NYT’s sources cannot be exclusively FBI

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

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

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

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

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

This admits the possibility they said something off the record.

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

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aussie sources narrowing in on which emails were discussed?

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

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

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

Delayed reporting

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

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

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

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

 

NYT Does Not Have the Smoking Gun on Trump Campaign Email Knowledge

The NYT had a complex story today, reporting three things:

  1. The counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign followed from a drunken conversation George Papadopoulos had in May 2016 with Aussie Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Downer
  2. Papadopoulos was more influential than Trump’s team has made out
  3. Papadopoulos pitched an April 2016 Trump foreign policy speech as a signal to Russia that Trump would be willing to meet

It’s the first detail that has attracted all the attention. NYT reported it this way:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

[snip]

Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

NYT’s story does pose a good question: why the Australians didn’t tell the US about this conversation until July, after Wikileaks started releasing DNC emails.

But the few GOPers who have responded to this news raise another question: did the Aussies even know what emails Papadopoulos was talking about?

As I noted in October, we actually don’t know what emails Joseph Misfud was talking about when he told Papadopoulos the Russians had dirt on Hillary. Trumpsters are now suggesting these emails might be those Guccifer 1.0 stole from Hillary, but they could be a range of other emails.

This story would be far more damning if the NYT knew for sure that the emails were ones freshly stolen from DNC, John Podesta, or the Hillary campaign itself, but they don’t.

The uncertainty about what emails Papadopoulos learned about — and revealed to Downer — might explain why the Aussies didn’t tell the US right away. If the Australians didn’t know what emails the Russians had, it might explain their lack of urgency. If the emails were known Guccifer 1.0 emails, it wouldn’t be news. But it doesn’t explain why the Aussies didn’t tell the US in June, when Guccifer 2.0 started releasing documents, but instead waited until their own citizen, Julian Assange, started releasing some on July 22.

All this could be a lot more easily explained if we knew the one detail the NYT admits it didn’t confirm: whether and when Papadopoulos told the campaign that the Russians had emails (and whether he knew which emails the Russians had).

In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee’s computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.

Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud’s revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. [Stephen] Miller in an email only that he had “interesting messages coming in from Moscow” about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.

NYT makes clear Papadopoulos (who was, after all, remote and traveling a lot) primarily communicated via emails. But the emails they obtained (but didn’t share) don’t include any evidence of him telling the campaign about the emails (much less which ones they were).

Which brings us to a point I made in November: when the FBI arrested Papadopoulos in July, they believed he lied to hide whether he told the campaign about the emails, but they de-emphasized that detail in the October plea deal.

[T]he description of the false statements makes the import of them far more clear (import that the Special Counsel seems to want to obscure for now). Papadopoulos lied about the circumstances of his conversations with Mifsud — the FBI appears to have believed when they arrested him in July — as part of a story to explain why, after having heard about dirt in the form of thousands of emails from Hillary, he didn’t tell anyone else on the campaign about them. Laid out like this, it’s clear Papadopoulos was trying to hide both when he learned about the emails (just three days before the DNC did, as it turns out, not much earlier as he seems to have suggested in January), but also how important he took those emails to be (which in his false story, he tied to to a false story about how credible he found Mifsud to be).

FBI found those lies to be significant enough to arrest him over because they obscured whether he had told anyone on the campaign that the Russians had dirt in the form of Hillary emails.

To be sure, nothing in any of the documents released so far answer the questions that Papadopoulos surely spent two months explaining to the FBI: whether he told the campaign (almost certainly yes, or he wouldn’t have lied in the first place) and when (with the big import being on whether that information trickled up to Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner before they attended a meeting on June 9, 2016 in hopes of obtaining such dirt).

I’m sure that’s intentional. You gotta keep everyone else guessing about what Mueller knows.

The NYT’s sources are described as “four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role,” though this statement — and a past willingness on behalf of Papadopoulos’ fiancée to provide details and emails — suggests that people close to Papadopoulos cooperated as well: ” Papadopoulos’s lawyers declined to provide a statement.”

The point being, we still don’t have the most important detail of this story: whether Papadopoulos told the campaign about the emails, but more importantly, what the emails were.

Thus far, everyone seems intent on withholding that detail.

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