No Evidence of Russia Collusion Against Low-level Trump Campaign Volunteer George Papadopoulos
Yet the young man is being prosecuted for false statements about his Russian contacts.
George Papadopoulos was a somewhat low-level, unpaid volunteer in the Trump campaign. Yet Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team started looking into whether he helped the Russians influence the election.
The team has now brought an indictment against him. Its 13-page Statement of the Offense alluded to conversations with Russians. But it contained no criminal evidence of collusion to influence the election. There was nothing about buying the election or influencing it. It merely asserts that Papadopoulos tried to talk to Russian nationals. He wanted to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Putin. Most importantly, the Russians he spoke with do not appear to be official government agents.
Add to this the fact that the lead prosecutor on the case, Jeannie S. Rhee, is hardly a neutral party. She’s represented the Clinton Foundation in the past, and even donated donated $5,400 to the Hillary Clinton campaign. At the very least, the optics of the investigation are bad.
Papadopoulos pled guilty to making false statements in October. He admitted to lying to the FBI about the timing and scope of his contact with the Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud. He said he started the contact before joining the Trump campaign. In fact, the contact started shortly after he had been notified that he would be a foreign policy advisor. It was a small discrepancy.
Mueller says Mifsud approached Papadopoulos and told him Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Mifsud has denied being a Russian agent or suggesting to Papadopoulos that he was. And there is no evidence that he is. He did introduce Papadopoulos to two Russians. But neither had ties to the government.
After meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos met with the Australian diplomat Alexander Downer. He told him about meeting with Mifsud. Downer does not recall Papadopoulos mentioning Clinton’s emails. Downer said the young man merely said Russians may have information damaging to her.
The New York Times reported that the meeting with Downer is what set off the FBI probe into Russian collusion. But Downer gave the information directly to the Obama State Department. Andrew McCarthy of National Review has laid out the case that the probe began earlier, under the Obama administration.
Stefan Halper, a British-American academic, approached Papadopoulos and asked him if he knew about the Russians hacking Clinton’s emails. The young man said no. In an email to the campaign supervisor, Papadopoulos said he spoke with Halper “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” Halper has since been named as a spy for the FBI inside the Trump campaign.
On the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News, Simona Mangiante, Papadopoulos’s wife, said she knew Halper and that he was a “shady character.”
She also said there were a couple other encounters her husband had that seemed suspicious. One contact wanted to pay him $30,000 a month as long as he worked within the Trump administration. Sergei Millian, a Belarus-born businessman who is alleged to be a major source for the infamous Steele dossier, offered him an energy related deal. He turned it down. Millian runs a trade group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce and denies being a source for the dossier.
Papadopoulos has never been to Russia and does not speak Russian. The “Russians” he spoke with don’t appear to be with the government. His efforts to connect with them show no intent by them to influence the election. At most, he minimized the extent of his contacts with people connected to Russia because he was terrified.
Mueller is now taking steps to get him sentenced. Judge Randy Moss ordered the sentencing report prepared by August 1. All for a process crime committed during the investigation that doesn’t involve any collusion with Russian agents. With the sprawling Mueller investigation, this seems to be a pattern.
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