The House Memo noted the FBI’s claimed use of George Papadopoulos to open the July 2016 Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump-Russia:
The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Away from the fact that Papadopoulos appears to have been set up by multiple participants, we’ve always had some questions regarding the FBI’s stated excuse.
- The FBI didn’t bother to interview Papadopoulos until January 27, 2017. The conversation in question took place in May 2016. The FBI knew of this conversation no later than July 2016. If the Papadopoulos information was enough to open a FBI counterintelligence investigation in July 2016, why did the FBI wait until January 2017 to even speak with Papadopoulos.
- If the Papadopoulos information was so critical, why was there no mention of either the information or Papadopoulos in any of the three Intelligence Community Reports on Russian Election Interference.
- Why is there no mention of Papadopoulos in the Steele Dossier. Particularly when this document was so vital to obtaining the October 21, 2016 FISA Warrant. Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and Corey Lewandowski are all listed in the Steele Dossier. But no George Papadopoulos.
The last question is a good one. It may provide some answers as well.
The Steele Dossier notes in the opening summary – first page, fourth bullet point – the following:
A dossier of compromising information on Hillary Clinton has been collated by the Russian Intelligence Services over many years and mainly compromises bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls rather than any embarrassing conduct.
Alexander Downer’s version of his May 10, 2016 meeting with Papadopoulos noted that Papadopoulos told Downer the “Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton”. Court documents stated Papadopoulos got this information at an April 26, 2016 meeting with Joseph Mifsud:
Papadopoulos acknowledged that the professor had told him about the Russians possessing “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.
Why was this information not at least referenced in the Steel Dossier. It would seem an obvious verification of claims made by Steele.
I find it implausible to believe that Steele didn’t know of this information. We already know that Steele had long-standing ties to the FBI, Alexander Downer, Stefan Halper, Hakluyt and Sir Richard Dearlove.
We know the FBI was officially told of the Papadopoulos information on July 22, 2016. It was almost certainly earlier.
Even so, Steele’s memos were written from June 2016 through December of 2016. There was ample time for the Papadopoulos information to make its way into the Dossier.
FBI Counterintelligence Head Bill Priestap was in London at exactly the same time the Downer-Papadopoulos meeting was taking place:
EXCLUSIVE: BILL PRIESTAP, the FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, (fmr. boss of PETER STRZOK) visited LONDON 🇬🇧 in the middle of May 2016
This previously undisclosed visit may have taken place the same week that ALEXANDER DOWNER met with GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS
— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) May 25, 2018
It’s not unrealistic to expect that Priestap would have been informed of the Downer-Papadopoulos meeting. Downer appeared to have established the Papadopoulos meeting through intermediaries. This may have been one of the reasons for Priestap’s visit.
So why does it appear as if any reference to Papadopoulos has been intentionally omitted from the Steele Dossier.
To my knowledge, the Guardian was the first major news organization to report on Summer 2016 FISA Applications in a January 11, 2017 article:
The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.
The FISA court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.
On January 12, 2017, a BBC News article, reported more specific details:
Lawyers from the National Security Division in the Department of Justice then drew up an application. They took it to the secret US court that deals with intelligence, the FISA Court, named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They wanted permission to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks.
Their first application, in June, was rejected outright by the judge. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on 15 October, three weeks before election day.
I can’t verify with certainty existence or non-existence of June/July 2016 FISA Applications.
But it’s worth noting that Senator Chuck Grassley requested information regarding June/July 2016 FISA Applications in a June 28, 2017 letter:
Media reports and the FISC’s 2016 annual report provide reason to believe that, in the course of these investigations, the FBI and Justice Department may have submitted proposed FISA applications that the FISC preliminarily evaluated and stated it would reject, which the FBI and Justice Department then modified and resubmitted.
The 2016 FISC Report…states that in 2016 the FISC denied nine applications or certifications, and denied in part or modified 365 orders.
The FBI’s inability to obtain a FISA Warrant in June and July 2016 would explain why the FBI opened its July 2016 Counterintelligence Investigation with no official evidence.
As we shall see, a June/July 2016 FISA Warrant denial explains a fair amount – and has some ramifications.
We know that both Papadopoulos and Page were targeted for meetings to create perceived associations with Russia
- March 14, 2016 – Papadopoulos first meets Mifsud in Italy – approximately one week after officially joining the Trump team.
- March 24, 2016 – Papadopoulos, Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya and unknown fourth party met in a London cafe.
- April 18, 2016 – Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, an official at a state-sponsored think tank called Russian International Affairs Council.
- April 26, 2016 – Mifsud claims to have met with high-level Russian government officials who have “dirt” on Clinton. Papadopoulos told the FBI that Mifsud said “the Russians had emails of Clinton” and “they have thousands of emails.”
- May 4, 2016 – Papadopoulos gives his interview to the London Times. It is not well-received in London.
- May 9-13, 2016 – FBI Counterintelligence Head Bill Priestap is in London. h/t @JohnWHuber.
- May 10, 2016 – Papadopoulos meets with Australian Diplomat Alexander Downer. It is Downer who seeks out the meeting.
- May/June 2016 – Halper invites Carter Page to July 2016 Cambridge symposium regarding the upcoming election.
- July 11, 2016 – Carter Page attends symposium with Halper just four days after his July 2016 Moscow trip.
- July 22, 2016 – Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, tells his American counterparts about Downer’s claims regarding the Papadopoulos conversation.
- July 31, 2016 – FBI opens Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump-Russia connections.
- August 2-3, 2016 – Strzok travels to London to meet unknown party at Australian Embassy.
- September 13, 2016 – Papadopoulos accepts a meeting with Stefan Halper. Halper, who has connections to CIA & UK Intelligence, asked Papadopoulos: “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?”
Per Chuck Ross: Halper and Page stayed in regular contact for the next 14 months. Contact between Halper and Page ended in September 2017, around the time a surveillance warrant that had been taken out against Page was set to expire.
We know that UK Intelligence was passed to CIA Director Brennan in early summer 2016:
In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with then-CIA Head John Brennan regarding alleged communications between the Trump Campaign and Moscow.
That summer, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, flew to the US to personally brief CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so important that it was handled at “director level”, face-to-face between the two agency chiefs.
We know that FBI Agent Michael Gaeta met with Steele in London on July 5, 2016. Per Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the State Department received a summary of Steele’s Dossier sometime in July 2016:
In the middle of July, when he was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI.
Nuland, who had known Steel since 2014 through Jonathan Winer, gave permission for Gaeta to meet with Steele:
The FBI checked with Victoria Nuland’s office at the State Department: Do you support this meeting? Nuland, having found Steele’s reports on Ukraine to have been generally credible, gave the green light.
It’s entirely possible that Nuland saw a summary of the Steele Dossier before FBI leadership. See, New Details of Victoria Nuland’s Role in the Steele Dossier.
But here’s the thing. Up until July 11, 2016, all direct contact was with George Papadopoulos through Mifsud and Downer. Carter Page did not personally meet Halper until July 11, 2016 at the July 2016 Cambridge symposium.
If there was a June and/or July 2016 FISA Application, it’s pretty certain that Papadopoulos was in it.
For the sake of argument, assume the FBI tried to obtain two FISA warrants in the summer of 2016.
The first was a hodgepodge of unofficial foreign intelligence with Papadopoulos information mixed in. It was denied by the FISA Judge.
The FISA Judge asked the FBI to narrow their focus and present a second FISA Application. The FBI presented another FISA Application centered around Papadopoulos but their “evidence” was so weak the FISA Judge denied them a second time.
Two strikes in a legal game that’s usually statistically reminiscent of T-ball. FISA Applications are overwhelmingly granted.
What would you do if you’re the FBI.
We know what happened next. The FBI turned to Christopher Steel and his Dossier. A Dossier whose first Memo is dated June 20, 2016.
Given prior failures to obtain a FISA Warrant using Papadopoulos, the FBI wouldn’t want Papadopoulos’ name anywhere near their next attempt. Which would explain why Papadopoulos appears nowhere in the Steele Dossier.
We know Brennan was leaning on Comey pretty hard:
I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign was shared with the bureau [FBI].
… and we were uncovering information intelligence about interactions and contacts between U.S. persons and the Russians. And as we came upon that, we would share it with the bureau.
A FISA Warrant on Papadopoulos was now off the table. The FBI couldn’t risk bringing Papadopoulos before the FISA Court a third time.
But the FBI could use Papadopoulos as a temporary excuse to start their Counterintelligence Investigation while Steele continued his work on the Dossier.
They FBI conveniently received “verified” Papadopoulos comments through Australian Embassy counterparts on July 22, 2016.
The FBI opened their Counterintelligence Investigation on July 31, 2016.
It appears that FBI Agent Strzok met with Downer at Australia’s London Embassy on August 2, 2016. Strzok was likely interviewing Downer – formalizing Papadopoulos’ comments after the FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigation had already begun.
As there was no official intelligence used in opening the July 2016 Counterintelligence Investigation – only the Papadopoulos comments to Downer – the FBI needed more. They needed a FISA Warrant.
Papadopoulos didn’t fix the problem. He merely bought the FBI some time.
Carter Page was the pathway to fixing that problem.
Halper met with Carter Page for the first time on July 11, 2016, just four days after Page’s July 2016 Moscow trip.
Halper stayed in contact with Page for the next fourteen months. Halper stopped contact exactly as the Final FISA Warrant on Page expired.
Page presented a unique opportunity for the FBI to obtain their needed FISA Warrant.
Page had previously worked with the FBI after being contacted by Russian spies in 2013. His true role appears somewhat different than media portrayals.
During testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, the following exchange occurred between Trey Gowdy and Page (transcript):
GOWDY: I’m just wondering if you can recall whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have interviewed you in 2016?
PAGE: During that case related to Mr. Podobnyy, where – which was also illegally leaked, that I was indeed Male No. 1, someone leaked that to Politico and ABC News in April – I had a meeting in the U.S. District Court, Southern District in New York – or the U.S. Attorney’s Office there on the criminal side – and I spoke with them about that then.
Page is referring to a March 2016 meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding the Evgeny Buryakov case. Page was providing testimony against Podobnyy in the Buryakov case.
Interestingly, that case involved both Preet Bharara and NSD Head John Carlin.
Bharara was fired by President Trump. John Carlin abruptly resigned just prior to the Page FISA Application and held a pivotal role in FISA Abuse committed by the FBI & NSD. We’ll be hearing more on both men.
An attachment to Page’s transcript is a September 25, 2016 letter to FBI Director Comey from Page, who was requesting an end to the FBI Inquiry. He closes with this:
Having interacted with members of the U.S. Intelligence Committee including the FBI and CIA for many decades, I appreciate the limitations on your staff’s time and resources. Although I have not been contacted by any member of your team in recent months, I would eagerly await their call to discuss any final questions they might have.
Page was never contacted.
Despite Page’s documented assistance to the FBI, his interactions with Russian spies coupled with his July 2016 Moscow trip proved the winning ticket for the FBI.
On October 21, 2016, the FBI obtained a FISA Title I Warrant listing Page as an “agent of a foreign power”.
Page has never been charged with anything. It’s unlikely he ever will be charged.
Ironically, Papadopoulos has been charged for lying to the FBI regarding timing of his meetings with Mifsud.
Halper, who maintained contact with Carter Page for fourteen months, initiated contact with Papadopoulos in September of 2016. The contact lasted approximately one month. My guess is Halper did this for one simple reason. Option value. Halper was testing the waters to see if there might be anything missed by Mifsud – and quickly moved on when nothing materialized.
Papadopoulos ultimately proved useless to the FBI in obtaining a FISA Warrant. But he served perfectly as a stop-gap measure allowing the FBI to open their Counterintelligence Investigation while they set their sights on Carter Page.
The FBI has been trying to minimize use of the Steele Dossier. Schiff’s Democrat Memo states the Steele Dossier was not seen by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigative Team until September 2016 – despite being in the FBI’s possession since July 2016.
Lee Smith put out a great article, How The Code Name ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ Undermines The FBI’s Russia Story, detailing – and challenging – this whole premise.’
If Papadopoulos was used in two failed FISA Applications, that pretty much shatters the FBI’s assertions.
Consider the implications of a FISA Court denying FISA Applications related to Papadopoulos – not just once – but twice.
This indicates the FBI used flawed evidence – twice denied by a FISA Court – as the means to initiate a full-blown Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump-Russia.
The FBI initiated a Counter Intelligence Investigation before they actually had a rationale to open one.
This means the FBI turned to Carter Page – and the Steele Dossier – precisely because efforts using Papadopoulos failed. One event led seamlessly to the other.
A Counterintelligence Investigation in search of a rationale.
Note: I’ve been pondering this for a bit, but was prompted to write after an exchange with someone who’s asked some good questions.
Was considering if it might be tied into Papa-D’s stated use for opening FBI Counterintel – if he’s even in there. Didn’t want to replicate.
They may have tried to use Papa-D for early FISA attempts – if so explains.
Page is significantly more convenient w/past spy contact/use.
— Jeff @ themarketswork (@themarketswork) May 23, 2018
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