Sentence on Papadopoulos in GOP memo may undercut efforts to discredit Russia probe
By Karen Tumulty and and Rosalind S. Helderman
Feb 02, 2018 | 3:40 PM
Though President Donald Trump and his allies hope that the controversial release of a GOP-written memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI will tarnish the legitimacy of the entire Russia probe, that argument may be undercut by a single sentence buried near the end of the four-page document.
It confirms for the first time that the event that set the FBI's counterintelligence investigation in motion was not the surveillance of Trump adviser Carter Page - a subject upon which most of the memo dwells - but rather that it was opened as the result of information the bureau had received about another person connected to the Trump campaign.
That other individual is George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy consultant who in October became the first person associated with the campaign to plead guilty in the special counsel's investigation. He is now reported to be a cooperating witness.
"The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok," the memo noted in its final paragraph.
Democrats quickly seized on that sentence to assert that the Republicans' own memo shows that the Russia investigation would be underway with or without the surveillance of Page, and - more critically - even if the government had never seen a dossier of information about Trump that was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy.
That dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, fueling GOP claims that some underlying evidence used by the FBI was politically motivated and therefore illegitimate.
Claiming vindication, President Donald Trump declassified a top secret congressional memo Friday. Democrats said the document did nothing to clear him.
By By Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick and Chad Day
Feb 03, 2018 | 7:44 PM
"The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians' interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference," Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee wrote in response to the memo, which was put together by the committee's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, Calif.
"This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture," the Democrats added.
Papadopoulos appears nowhere in the 16 reports that Steele wrote between June and December 2016 that are now known collectively as the Steele dossier.
Read Rep. Devin Nunes' FISA court memo, released Friday after being declassified by President Donald Trump. Nunes is a Republican from central California.
Feb 02, 2018 | 12:38 PM
Instead, people familiar with the matter have told The Washington Post that the FBI was first alerted to Papadopoulos from the Australian government in late July 2016, around the time that WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC emails online.
According to the Australians, Papadopoulos bragged to one of their diplomats during a boozy night at a London bar in May 2016 that he had been told that the Russians had emails that would be damaging to Clinton. The Australian connection was first reported by the New York Times.
The FBI ultimately interviewed Papadopoulos in January 2017 and then arrested him in June. He pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts and acknowledged that he had been told by a London based professor in March 2016 that the Russians had Clinton-related emails.