(…) [The Judiciary Committee releases] recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications submitted by the Department of Justice to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a unique judicial body that approves requests for secret warrants used by law enforcement to conduct covert electronic and physical surveillance of U.S. citizens, reveal that the predicate for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into alleged Russian collusion by the Trump campaign was triggered by a May 10, 2016, meeting between Papadopolous and an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer (who at the time was the Australian Ambassador to the United Kingdom) in a London bar.
According to Downer, Papadopolous revealed that, based upon an April 26 conversation with a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, “he [Papadopolous] thought that the Russians may release information, might release information, that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign at some stage before the election.”
Downer and a fellow Australian diplomat who was also at the meeting and witnessed Papadopolous’ statement, drafted a cable back to the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Canberra recording the gist of the conversation. “There was no suggestion from Papadopoulos nor in the record of the meeting that we sent back to Canberra, there was no suggestion that there was collusion between Donald Trump or Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians,” Downer said. “All we did is report what Papadopoulos said.”
After the release by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, of thousands of emails allegedly sourced from the DNC, Downer, concerned that there might be a link between Papadopolous and the DNC emails, provided a copy of his cable to the U.S. Embassy in London, which forwarded it on to the FBI. This cable was used by the FBI to initiate its Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign; a derivative investigation into Papadopolous was given the codename “Crossfire Typhoon.”
As far as predicates for sensitive counterintelligence investigations of presidential campaigns go, the Papadopolous conversation with Misfud is transparently weak. A cursory examination of the emails released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, shows that no in-time reference pre-dates May 25, 2016, more than a month after the alleged “data staging” event that Schiff highlighted as the link between the DNC hack and Papadopolous.
In short, regardless of the content of Papadopolous’s conversation with Mifsud, as relayed by Downer, there was no linkage between any emails alleged to be in the possession of Russia at the time of April 26, 2016, Papadopolous-Misfud meeting and the actual data released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, that the FBI used to justify the opening of both the Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Typhoon investigations. As Mueller notes in his report, the information released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, coincides with a separate, alleged cyber attack on the DNC Microsoft Exchange Service between May 25 and June 1, 2016 — an attack that Mifsud could not have known about when he met with Papadopolous in April.
Moreover, the FBI knew before it interviewed Papadopolous on Jan. 27, 2017, that Papadopolous was not involved in any scheme to acquire purloined Russian emails on behalf of the Trump campaign. In September and October of 2016, the FBI made use of two confidential human sources (CHS) to engage Papadopoulos in conversations designed to elicit corroboration into its now-debunked theory.
In a Sept. 15, 2016, meeting between Papadopolous and an FBI-controlled CHS, Papadopolous was asked outright whether or not the Trump campaign could benefit from third-party intervention from the likes of WikiLeaks or Russia. Papadopolous made it clear in his response that no one in the campaign was advocating for this kind of intervention because it was “illegal,” “compromised national security,” and “set a bad precedent.”
“At the end of the day,” Papadopolous said, “it’s an illegal, it’s illegal activity. Espionage is treason. This is a form of treason.” And when asked by a second FBI-controlled CHS on Oct. 29, 2016, about who he thought was behind the hacking of the DNC, Papadopolous responded that it could be “the Chinese,” “the Iranians,” “Bernie supporters,” or “Anonymous” — but not the Russians. “Dude, Russia doesn’t have any interest in it anyways,” Papadopolous said. “They — dude, no one knows how a president is going to govern anyways. I mean…Congress is very hostile to Russia anyways.” It was a prescient, and telling, exchange — one the FBI chose to ignore.
In the court filing detailing the facts sustaining Papadopolous’s guilty plea, Mueller declared that “defendant PAPADOPOULOS impeded the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
However, any careful examination of the data used by the FBI to link Papadopolous to the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails on July 22, 2016, clearly shows that there was absolutely no connection. As such, Papadopolous’s conversation with Mifsud had zero material bearing on the FBI’s investigation, a fact known to the FBI prior to its interview of Papadopolous on Jan. 27, 2017.” (Read more: Scott Ritter/Consortium News, 5/14/2020) (Archive)