The FBI revealed to anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele that Trump adviser George Papadopoulos was a subject of the bureau’s inquiry related to Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new book.
In their book, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, co-founders of the controversial Fusion GPS opposition research outfit, disclose that Steele in turn passed the FBI’s interest in Papadopoulos back to Fusion GPS.
Fusion GPS, which produced the infamous dossier, was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The book by Simpson and Fritsch, Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump, says Papadopoulos’s name was provided to Steele during his 2016 meetings with FBI agents in Rome. Steele’s meetings included Rome-based FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, with whom Steele previously worked on another case.
Simpson and Fritsch relate:
The session yielded an important bit of intelligence for Fusion. FBI agents surprised Steele by asking him what he knew about Trump adviser George Papadopoulos. Nothing, it turned out; none of Steele’s sources had ever reported on him. Steele inferred that Papadopoulos was somehow important within the overall inquiry, but they didn’t say exactly why they thought that, only that they had additional source reporting to back that up.
This was important information in its own right, suggesting that there was an active Bureau investigation that relied on sources other than Steele. It was also a sign of the FBI’s regard for Steele that it would query him regarding such an important lead. Steele passed that important tidbit on to Simpson, who found it reassuring.
The timeline means Simpson and Fusion GPS were aware of the FBI’s interest in Papadopoulos before the former Trump advisor was interviewed by the FBI in January 2017.
Papadopoulos was a foreign policy panel adviser tangentially involved with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The FBI’s initial probe of Trump’s campaign was reportedly sparked in part by a meeting involving Papadopoulos.
The Justice Department’s filing against Papadopoulos documents that he was allegedly told by Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic plagued by allegations of suspicious associations, that on a trip to Moscow “he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton.”
Former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer later transmitted to the U.S. that he was told about the alleged Russian “dirt” on Clinton by Papadopoulos, reportedly leading to the start of the FBI’s controversial probe of Trump’s campaign under Comey’s leadership at the agency.
No evidence has been presented that Papadopoulos spoke about emails at his meeting with Downer or that Misfurd mentioned emails. But 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 Justice Department concluded, “No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.”
Misfurd himself denies mentioning emails during his meeting with Papadopoulos, as per his testimony to the Justice Department: “But Mifsud denied that he had advance knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails damaging to candidate Clinton, stating that he and Papadopoulos had discussed cybersecurity and hacking as a larger issue and that Papadopoulos must have misunderstood their conversation.”
As National Review summarized, Papadopoulos later explained that any reference to emails was to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a subject of international news reportage at the time of his meeting with Downer.
The magazine reports:
Papadopoulos says the emails he claims Mifsud referred to were not the DNC emails; they were Clinton’s own emails. That is, when Papadopoulos claims that Mifsud told him that Russia had “dirt” in the form of “thousands” of “emails of Clinton,” he understood Mifsud to be alluding to the thousands of State Department and Clinton Foundation emails that Clinton had stored on a private server. These, of course, were the emails that were being intensively covered in the media (including speculation that they might have been hacked by hostile foreign intelligence services) at the time Mifsud and Papadopoulos spoke — i.e., April 2016, when neither Mifsud nor Papadopoulos had any basis to know anything about hacked DNC emails.
The Justice Department, meanwhile, documented:
When interviewed, Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials who interacted with him told the Office that they could not recall Papadopoulos sharing the information that Russia had obtained “dirt” on candidate Clinton in the form of emails or that Russia could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information about Clinton.
Papadopoulos stated that he could not clearly recall having told anyone on the Campaign and wavered about whether he accurately remembered an incident in which Clovis had been upset after hearing Papadopoulos tell Clovis that Papadopoulos thought “they have her emails.”
The Campaign officials who interacted or corresponded with Papadopoulos have similarly stated, with varying degrees of certainty, that he did not tell them. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, for example, did not remember hearing anything from Papadopoulos or Clovis about Russia having emails of or dirt on candidate Clinton. Clovis stated that he did not recall anyone, including Papadopoulos, having given him non-public information that a foreign Government might be in possession of material damaging to Hillary Clinton.