Image via George Papadopoulos’s LinkedIn account

Sources “familiar” with the investigation have told Fox News that the DOJ’s internal probe is focusing on transcripts of recordings of meetings between one or more government sources and former Trump campaign foreign advisor George Papadopoulos in various foreign locations. They are especially interested in “why certain exculpatory material from them was not presented in subsequent applications for surveillance warrants.”

It is common practice for government sources to record discussions with their targets. One source told Fox that “Barr and Durham are reviewing why the material was left out of applications to surveil another former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.”

The source also said, “I think it’s the smoking gun.”

The second source said, “These recordings have exculpatory evidence. It is standard tradecraft to record conversations with someone like Papadopoulos—especially when they are overseas and there are no restrictions.” The source said the specific exculpatory evidence is: “Papadopoulos denying having any contact with the Russians to obtain the supposed “dirt” on Clinton.”

It is well-known that Link University professor Joseph Mifsud “met” with Papadopoulos at the Link campus in Rome in March 2016. The next month, they met a second time in London. Mifsud told him that the Russians had thousands of emails that would be very harmful to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In May, Papadopoulos famously told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer over drinks at a London bar that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. He did not tell Downer that it was in the form of emails. In July, Downer notified embassy officials who passed the information to the FBI.

The DOJ is also trying to determine the exact start date of the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation into Trump/Russia collusion. The FBI claims that it began on July 31, 2016 when they learned of Downer’s conversation with Papadopoulos.

However, there are indications that it began earlier.

Papadopoulos was pleased with this latest news. His mention of Mifsud in the tweet below is in reference to investigative reporter John Solomon’s scoop earlier this week that Mifsud’s Swiss attorney, Stefan Roh, is said to be cooperating with prosecutor John Durham’s team. Roh agreed to provide them with a “deposition Mifsud gave in the summer of 2018 about his role in the drama involving Donald Trump, Russia and the 2016 election.” I posted about this story here.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller about precisely when the FBI’s investigation began during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Nunes said:

The FBI claims the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began on July 31, 2016, but in fact, it began before that. In June 2016, before the investigation was officially opened, Trump campaign associates Carter Page and Stephen Miller were invited to attend a symposium at Cambridge University in July 2016. Your office, however, did not investigate who was responsible for inviting these Trump associates to the symposium.

Naturally, Mueller replied, “Those areas…I’m going to stay away from.”

Papadopoulos also met with other “informants” while overseas. According to Fox:

He met with Cambridge professor and longtime FBI informant Stefan Halper and his female associate, who went under the alias Azra Turk. Papadopoulos told Fox News that he saw Turk three times in London: once over drinks, once over dinner and once with Halper. He also told Fox News back in May that he always suspected he was being recorded. Further, he tweeted during the Mueller testimony about “recordings” of his meeting with Downer.

It is unclear, at this point, which of these individuals may have recorded conversations with Papadopoulos.

Fox News contributor and former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) had access to the transcripts of the “secretly recorded conversations between FBI informants and Papadopoulos” in his capacity as the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

He mentioned the existence and the significance of these transcripts earlier this year, but because this material is classified, he could not discuss the details.

In May, Gowdy appeared on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” and said, “If the bureau’s going to send in an informant, the informant’s going to be wired, and if the bureau is monitoring telephone calls, there’s going to be a transcript of that.” He also said they contained exculpatory information. He added:

Some of us have been fortunate enough to know whether or not those transcripts exist. But they haven’t been made public, and I think one, in particular … has the potential to actually persuade people. Very little in this Russia probe I’m afraid is going to persuade people who hate Trump or love Trump. But there is some information in these transcripts that has the potential to be a game-changer if it’s ever made public.

While we know that Durham’s team is busy trying to arrive at the truth of what happened and who was involved, it’s become frustrating receiving only the dribs and drabs of information which get leaked to well-connected reporters. The DOJ Inspector General’s report on the FISA application process, expected in May or June, has now been pushed out to September.

Unfortunately, we have no choice other than to be patient. I, for one, feel confident in Attorney General William Barr, prosecutor John Durham and DOJ IG Michael Horowitz to get the job done.