(…) The FBI maintains that the years-long Trump-Russia probe was triggered by a single barroom conservation [sic]. Over drinks in London in May 2016, a low-level Trump campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos reportedly told an Australian diplomat that he had been tipped off that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos later told the FBI that the information came from a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud.
The Senate report, however, casts doubt on this origin story, only going so far as to say Papadopoulos “likely learned about the Russian active measures campaign as early as April 2016 from Joseph Mifsud.” (emphasis added.) Nearly 500 pages later, contradicting itself, the report drops the qualifier: “The Committee found Mifsud was aware of an aspect of Russia’s active measures campaign in the 2016 election and that Mifsud told Papadopoulos what he knew.”
The Senate report contradicts the above passage by dropping the qualifier “likely” hundreds of pages later, below.
The report spends dozens of pages on Mifsud, yet adds no new information to support the suspicion that he had advance knowledge of a Russian interference plot. Instead, the report falls back on vague, equivocal language and insinuation. It describes Papadopoulos’ interactions with Mifsud as “highly suspicious,” and claims that Mifsud “exhibited behavior consistent with intelligence tradecraft” while maintaining “significant ties to the Russian government and business circles.” As with its handling of Konstantin Kilimnik, another supposedly Russian agent, the report ignores Mifsud’s far more extensive public contacts with Western diplomats, including the FBI, CIA, and State Department.
(…) The Senate report reveals a similar lack of investigative zeal regarding the other key episode that launched Russiagate: WikiLeaks‘ release of stolen Democratic Party emails.
According to the FBI, Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat whom Papadopoulos supposedly spoke to in London, thought nothing of the conversation until weeks later in July 2016, when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks published the first tranche of stolen emails. Downer suspected that Russia was using the website to publish the dirt Papadopoulos had mentioned.
The Senate committee states in its report simply that it “requested but did not obtain an interview with Julian Assange,” the WikiLeaks founder now fighting extradition from Britain to the U.S. A source close to WikiLeaks told RealClearInvestigations that Assange’s U.S. legal team agreed to an interview but that the Senate committee never followed-up on his response. Attorney Adam Waldman, who had served as an intermediary between Assange and the U.S. government, has claimed that the committee’s ranking Democrat, Warner, told him to cut off talks with Assange in April 2017. According to Waldman, Warner was acting at the behest of then-FBI Director James Comey, who reportedly told the Virginia senator to “stand down.” Comey has never commented on the incident.
The Senate report once again relies on speculative language, contending that WikiLeaks “likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort” when it obtained and released Democratic Party emails during the 2016 campaign. It is unclear how the committee arrived at this conclusion. What is clear is that, just like the Mueller team before it, the committee passed up an opportunity to seek answers from the WikiLeaks publisher himself. (Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 9/21/2020) (Archive)