Just weeks after the FBI opened a dramatic counterintelligence probe into President Trumpand Russia, one of his presidential campaign advisers emphatically told an undercover bureau source there was no election collusion occurring because such activity would be treasonous.
George Papadopoulos says his spontaneous admission to London-based professor Stefan Halper occurred in mid-September 2016 — well before FBI agents and the Obama Justice Department sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to collect Trump campaign communications in the final days before the election.
“He was there to probe me on the behest of somebody else,” Papadopoulos told me in an interview this week, recalling the Halper meeting. “He said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?’ ”
Papadopoulos said Halper also suggested the Trump campaign was involved in the hacking and release of Hillary Clinton’s emails that summer. “I think I told him something along the lines of, ‘I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. What you are talking about is treason. And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it,’ ” Papadopoulos recalled.
The former campaign aide is set to testify behind closed doors Thursday before two House panels.
Sources who saw the FISA warrant and its three renewals tell me there is no mention of Papadopoulos’s denial, an omission of exculpatory evidence that GOP critics in Congress are likely to cite as having misled the court.
A source directly familiar with the Russia probe declined to discuss specifics of the Papadopoulos-Halper conversations but acknowledged the FBI possessed one or more transcripts that called into question the Trump campaign’s — and specifically Papadopoulos’s — alleged complicity with Russia.
The FBI officially opened the Trump-Russia case on July 31, 2016, based on suspicions that Papadopoulos had prior knowledge that Russia hacked Clinton’s emails, but it quickly pivoted by early fall 2016 to evidence such as the Democratic-funded dossier produced by Christopher Steele, and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page’s trips to Moscow.