In response to Special Counsel John Durham’s latest filing, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos said in an exclusive interview that the original Trump-Russia investigation was about “manufacturing a situation” around Donald Trump and his associates in order to tie them to the Kremlin, calling the activities surrounding the investigation’s origins a “master class in deception.”
Durham claimed in a Feb. 11 court filing that “Tech Executive-1,” now identified as Rodney Joffe, and his associates, including a lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Michael Sussmann, “exploited” internet traffic pertaining to a “specific healthcare provider,” Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President of the United States in order to “establish a ‘narrative'” to then bring to federation.
Papadopoulos was referring to Durham’s most recent filing, as well as the unverified anti-Trump dossier authored by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign via law firm Perkins Coie.
The now-discredited anti-Trump dossier contained allegations about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia, which served as the basis for FISA warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
As a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud in London, who told him that the Russians had dirt in the form of emails that could harm Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The new information was then relayed to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer by Papadopoulos. Downer informed the FBI about Papadopoulos’ comments to him.
In former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Papadopoulos was charged with making a false statement to the FBI. According to the charging document, the false statement concerned the timing of his meeting with Mifsud as well as his knowledge of Mifsud’s ties to Russia. The charging document also stated that by making the false statement, he “hampered” the investigation.
During the 2016 presidential election, there was no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, according to Mueller’s investigation.
However, while abroad, Papadopoulos did not only meet with Mifsud and Downer. He met with Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor and longtime FBI informant, and his female associate, Azra Turk. According to Papadopoulos, he saw Turk three times in London: once over drinks, once over dinner, and once with Halper.
According to reports in 2019, Durham’s investigation was focusing on transcripts of recordings made by at least one FBI confidential human source who met with Papadopoulos overseas in 2016, specifically looking into why certain “exculpatory” material from them was not presented in subsequent FISA warrant applications against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
According to a source in 2019, the “exculpatory evidence” that could be included in those transcripts, which were declassified and released in April 2020, was Papadopoulos denying any contact with the Russians in order to obtain the alleged “dirt” on Clinton.
The comments made by Papadopoulos were notable because they were never provided or included in evidence to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) when seeking warrants and warrant renewals to surveil Page on suspicion of Trump campaign ties to Russia, according to officials.
According to the indictment, Sussmann told then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016, less than two months before the 2016 presidential election, that he was not working “for any client” when he requested and held a meeting in which he presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.
In addition, Kevin Clinesmith was charged with making a false statement. The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which conducted its own review of the Russia investigation, had referred Clinesmith for possible prosecution.
The inspector general specifically accused Clinesmith, though not by name, of changing an email about Page to state that he was “not a source” for another government agency. Page has stated that he was a CIA source. The DOJ relied on that claim when it submitted a third and final renewal application under FISA in 2017 to eavesdrop on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.