Was a Drunken Conversation Really All the Probable Cause the FBI Needed to Investigate a Presidential Campaign?
Today the New York Times ran a piece that could best be described as either “alternative history” or “propaganda” that appears sourced from inside the FBI. The gist of the story is that George Papadopoulos, a guy no one had heard of before his indictment by Robert Mueller on some chickensh** charges of lying to federal investigators (essentially this means you gave them answers they didn’t like) started the whole investigation.
You can believe this story if you wish but there is no more reason to believe it than anything more substantial than the email Brian Ross talked about a couple of weeks ago.
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.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.
Let’s clear one bit of underbrush away. If Papadopoulos is a “cooperating witness” he is probably not going to be cooperating against anyone else. You don’t indict someone you want to use as a witness for lying to the FBI. A known and indicted liar on the witness stand is not going to help you get a conviction.
The key problem with the story is that Papadopoulos told the Australian source (here we have to question why someone in the intelligence community would burn a source when there is actually no need to do so) something that was common gossip by May 2016.
3/4/15 WHY CLINTON’S PRIVATE EMAIL SERVER WAS SUCH A SECURITY FAIL
9/30/15 Hackers linked to Russia tried to infiltrate Hillary Clinton’s emails
10/13/15 AP Exclusive: Clinton email server setup risked intrusions
2/24/16 Ex-NSA chief backs Apple on iPhone ‘back doors’
3/2/16 Justice Dept. grants immunity to staffer who set up Clinton email server
The article about the iPhone is sort of the clincher. Former NSA director Michael Hayden describes Hillary Clinton’s smartphone use:
Hayden also is caustic when asked about potential security breaches from the decision by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to exclusively use of a private email server when she was secretary of State.
“Once you’ve set it up this way, nobody has to be stupid, lazy, unintelligent — it’s gone bad,” he says. “You’ve going to end up with information on this private server that just shouldn’t be there, let alone all the questions about preserving government records.” Those concerns aren’t allayed even if no classified material was sent or received at her private address, he says.
“How much energy would I expend if I were still director of the National Security Agency and someone told me I could get access to the unclassified email server of [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov? I’d move heaven and Earth to do that. And here you’ve got these private, intimate conversations by a senior official of the U.S. government sitting out there in what I would call an unprotected environment.”
The disclosure that Clinton had used the private server was a surprise last year to reporters and others. Does he assume that foreign intelligence agencies long had known about it and targeted it?
“I would lose all respect for a whole bunch of foreign intelligence agencies if they weren’t sitting back, paging through the emails,” he replied.
Not only that, but there had been an arrest for hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails before this famous alcohol-fueled session of truth telling.
So there would have been absolutely nothing unusual at all for someone involved in the Trump campaign to be chortling about the Russians having Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The second huge problem with the story is that it runs 180-degrees out from every other story we’ve heard about the genesis of the investigation. And by every other source I mean 100% of all sources. Devin Nunes hasn’t mentioned this. Charles Grassley hasn’t mentioned it. Adam Schiff hasn’t mentioned it. James Clapper hasn’t mentioned it. James Comey hasn’t mentioned it. Donald effing Trump hasn’t tweeted about it. Do you really think all of these people, people with very disparate motives, would have kept their mouths shut? I don’t. Do you really think the FBI and Justice would have not disclosed this to the House and Senate were it true? I don’t. Do you really think the members of the various committees and their staffs are capable of not talking about this? Me neither.
Back to the NYT story for a bit:
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.
This comes from the Papadopoulos indictment. Where the NYT jumps the shark here is that it states that the emails Mr.
Mxyzptlk Misfud was referring to were from the DNC email hack. That is not stated at any point in any document. At the time it was known that over 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails were unaccounted for.
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.
I think we can hazard a guess on that. Two months after the conversation was after Trump had received the nomination AND after the first whiffs of the Trump dossier began to be talked about. A semi-drunken converstation (c’mon Papadopoulos was talking to an Australian and as P. J. O’Rourke told us in the epic Foreigners Around the World essay in National Lampoon, Australians are: “Violently loud alcoholic roughnecks whose idea of fun is to throw up on your car. The national sport is breaking furniture and the average daily consumption of beer in Sydney is ten and three quarters Imperial gallons for children under the age of nine. “Making a Shambles” is required study in the primary schools and all Australians are bilingual, speaking both English and Sheep. Possibly as a result of their country’s being upside down, the local dialect has over 400 terms for vomit. These include “technicolor yawn” “talking to the toilet,” “round-trip meal ticket,” and “singing lunch.”)
Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.
You should call bullsh** on this for all the above reasons. Unless the FBI kept this secret from Congress and from Jeff Sessions, this would have been revealed by now because it would bolster the case that the Trump dossier is a fraud. (Spoiler alert: it is.)
That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.
Note the links here. Two months after the May booze-up is some time in July. Three months before “early October” is “early July.” The linkage between the Trump dossier and the current investigation by Mueller is incontrovertible.
The finals piece is this:
Mr. Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.
Mr. Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr. Trump — boasts that the president’s advisers have said are overstated. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign, although he has said he is unfairly being scrutinized only because of his support for Mr. Trump.
Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”
Do you know what else Mr. Millian was? Millian was “Source D” and “Source E” in the Trump Dossier.
Absolutely nothing about this current story jives with what we currently hold to be reality. We are all but certain that the Trump Dossier was used to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page and, shortly after the election, another FISA warrant on Paul Manafort. What is absurd is that the conversation that Papadopoulos had with this Australian guy served as the impetus of opening an investigation by the FBI. At the time, Hillary Clinton’s lost emails were well known, her server issues were discussed in those papers that chose to care about them, there was widespread speculation that she’d been hacked while in Russia as well as in the US, plus she had 30,000 emails she’d refused to turn over to State.
If the FBI did open an investigation based on this report, then it is even more hyper-partisan than the actions of several of its senior personnel would lead us to believe. In fact, we should be terrified if this story has any vague connection to the truth and we should insist upon FBI heads piled (figuratively) in a neat little pyramid in front of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Because launching a full-blown investigation of a presidential campaign based on a months old conversation in which alcohol and a bullsh**-artist were involved is not the way we want men with badges and guns to operate. And, trust me, neither will Congress.
I may very well eat crow on this at some point in the future but, in short, this is a smokescreen. It signifies that the half-life of the fraudulent Trump Dossier has expired and now a new reason for pushing the investigation must be found to give credence to what Mueller is doing under the color of official authority.