The New York Times reports that the impetus for the FBI’s investigation of suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was not the anti-Trump dossier, but rather statements made by George Papadopoulos. He was the young Trump campaign staffer who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
According to the Times, after a heavy night of drinking, Papadopoulos told Australia’s top diplomat in Britain that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online (none of which, by the way, rose to the level of “dirt” on Hillary), Australian officials passed the information about Papadopoulos to their American officials. This information supposedly led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.
I assume the Times’ report was fed to it by current and/or former FBI officials and/or others in the Obama administration with an interest in dismissing the role of the dossier. This doesn’t mean the story is false. It may well be true.
However, Byron York raises some important questions:
(1) If Papadopoulos actions drove FBI probe, why wait til nearly Feb 2017 to interview him? If done to keep probe quiet before election, why wait more than two months after vote?
(2) When did officials brief Congress about Papadopoulos? They briefed Congress about Carter Page in late summer 2016.
(3) Did officials seek a surveillance warrant on Papadopoulos? They reportedly got one on Carter Page in summer 2016. Did they try to get one on Papadopoulos? If not, why not?
Byron adds that he’s not saying Papadopoulos played no role in the FBI’s decision to investigate. However, he questions whether the aide’s role was as central in starting FBI probe in July 2016 as the Times and its sources want us to believe.
It’s also important to remember that the question of whether the dossier prompted, or helped lead to, the FBI investigation is separate from the question of what role the dossier played when the Justice Department obtained a warrant from the FISA court to engage in electronic surveillance of members of Trump’s team.