Sorting Out The Russia Mess

Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

The U.S. mainstream media finally has its 'smoking gun' on Russia-gate - incriminating information from a junior Trump campaign adviser - but a closer look reveals serious problems with the 'evidence'...

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)

Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller has turned up the heat on President Trump with the indictment of Trump’s former campaign manager for unrelated financial crimes and the disclosure of a guilty plea from a low-level foreign policy adviser for lying to the FBI.

While longtime Republican fixer Paul Manafort, who helped guide Trump’s campaign to the GOP nomination in summer 2016, was the big name in the news on Monday, the mainstream media focused more on court documents related to George Papadopoulos, a 30-year-old campaign aide who claims to have heard about Russia possessing Hillary Clinton’s emails before they became public on the Internet, mostly via WikiLeaks.

While that would seem to bolster the Russia-gate narrative – that Russian intelligence “hacked” Democratic emails and President Vladimir Putin ordered the emails be made public to undermine Clinton’s campaign – the evidentiary thread that runs through Papadopoulos’s account remains tenuous.

That’s in part because his credibility has already been undermined by his guilty plea for lying to the FBI and by the fact that he now has a motive to provide something the prosecutors might want in exchange for leniency. Plus, there is the hearsay and contested quality of Papadopoulos’s supposed information, some of which already has turned out to be false.

According to the court documents, Papadopoulos got to know a professor of international relations who claimed to have “substantial connections with Russian government officials,” with the professor identified in press reports as Joseph Mifsud, a little-known academic associated with the University of Stirling in Scotland.

The first contact supposedly occurred in mid-March 2016 in Italy, with a second meeting in London on March 24 when the professor purportedly introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman whom the young campaign aide believed to be Putin’s niece, an assertion that Mueller’s investigators determined wasn’t true.

Trump, who then was under pressure for not having a foreign policy team, included Papadopoulos as part of a list drawn up to fill that gap, and Papadopoulos participated in a campaign meeting on March 31 in Washington at which he suggested a meeting between Trump and Putin, a prospect that other senior aides reportedly slapped down.

The ‘Email’ Breakfast

But Papadopoulos continued his outreach to Russia, according to the court documents, which depict the most explosive meeting as an April 26 breakfast in London with the professor (Mifsud) supposedly saying he had been in Moscow and “learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton” and possessed “thousands of emails.” Mainstream press accounts concluded that Mifsud must have been referring to the later-released emails.

Former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

However, Mifsud told The Washington Post in an email last August that he had “absolutely no contact with the Russian government” and described his ties to Russia as strictly in academic fields.

In an interview with the U.K. Daily Telegraph after Monday’s disclosures, Mifsud acknowledged meeting with Papadopoulos but disputed the contents of the conversations as cited in the court papers. Specifically, he denied knowing anything about emails containing “dirt” on Clinton and called the claim that he introduced Papadopoulos to a “female Russian national” as a “laughingstock.”

According to the Telegraph interview, Mifsud said he tried to put Papadopoulos in touch with experts on the European Union and introduced him to the director of a Russian think tank, the Russian International Affairs Council.

It was the latter contact that the court papers presumably referred to in saying that on May 4, the Russian contact with ties to the foreign ministry wrote to Papadopoulos and Mifsud, reporting that ministry officials were “open for cooperation,” a message that Papadopoulos forwarded to a senior campaign official, asking whether the contacts were “something we want to move forward with.”

However, even an article in The New York Times, which has aggressively pushed the Russia-gate “scandal” from the beginning, noted the evidentiary holes that followed from that point.

The Times’ Scott Shane wrote: “A crucial detail is still missing: Whether and when Mr. Papadopoulos told senior Trump campaign officials about Russia’s possession of hacked emails. And it appears that the young aide’s quest for a deeper connection with Russian officials, while he aggressively pursued it, led nowhere.”

Shane added, “the court documents describe in detail how Mr. Papadopoulos continued to report to senior campaign officials on his efforts to arrange meetings with Russian officials, … the documents do not say explicitly whether, and to whom, he passed on his most explosive discovery – that the Russians had what they considered compromising emails on Mr. Trump’s opponent.

“J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official who worked for the Trump campaign as a national security adviser and helped arrange the March 31 foreign policy meeting, said he had known nothing about Mr. Papadopoulos’ discovery that Russia had obtained Democratic emails or of his prolonged pursuit of meetings with Russians.”

Reasons to Doubt

If prosecutor Mueller had direct evidence that Papadopoulos had informed the Trump campaign about the Clinton emails, you would assume that the proof would have been included in Monday’s disclosures. Further, since Papadopoulos was flooding the campaign with news about his Russian outreach, you might have expected that he would say something about how helpful the Russians had been in publicizing the Democratic emails.

Hillary Clinton at the Code 2017 conference on May 31, 2017.

The absence of supporting evidence that Papadopoulos conveyed his hot news on the emails to campaign officials and Mifsud’s insistence that he knew nothing about the emails would normally raise serious questions about Papadopoulos’s credibility on this most crucial point.

At least for now, those gaps represent major holes in the storyline. But Official Washington has been so desperate for “proof” about the alleged Russian “election meddling” for so long, that professional skepticism has been unwelcome in most media outlets.

There is also another side of the story that rarely gets mentioned in the U.S. mainstream media: that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that he received the two batches of purloined Democratic emails – one about the Democratic National Committee and one about Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta – from the Russians. While it is surely possible that the Russians might have used cutouts to pass on the emails, Assange and associates have suggested that at least the DNC emails came from a disgruntled insider.

Also, former U.S. intelligence experts have questioned whether at least one batch of disclosed emails could have come from an overseas “hack” because the rapid download speed is more typical of copying files locally onto a memory stick or thumb drive.

What I was told by an intelligence source several months ago was that Russian intelligence did engage in hacking efforts to uncover sensitive information, much as U.S. and other nations’ intelligence services do, and that Democratic targets were included in the Russian effort.

But the source said the more perplexing question was whether the Kremlin then ordered release of the data, something that Russian intelligence is usually loath to do and something that in this case would have risked retaliation from the expected winner of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton.

But such questions and doubts are clearly not welcome in the U.S. mainstream media, most of which has embraced Mueller’s acceptance of Papadopoulos’s story as the long-awaited “smoking gun” of Russia-gate.

Comments

chunga Fri, 11/03/2017 - 00:23 Permalink

His name was Seth Rich.// Furthermore, why is the maverick outsider ignoring Julian Assange who has offered proof of this in exchange for a pardon? //

DirtySanchez Fri, 11/03/2017 - 00:28 Permalink

This little prick was a DNC/Hillary plant from the start.He was likely wearing a wire from the moment he joined the Trump campaign. This nation is under attack.The Cliton crime family is butt fucking American citizens on a daily basis. The sooner this horrific, bourbon swilling devil, takes an ax blade to the face, the better we will be as a nation.

jeff montanye ClickNLook Fri, 11/03/2017 - 01:19 Permalink

treason by an australian against the u.s.a.  revelation of u.s. war crimes.  spying for the russians.  not taking no for an answer.  making a travesty of his de facto house arrest.  doing something of a sexual nature with some swedish people.  running rings around the cia while locked in a tiny piece of ecuador inside of the second pair of eyes, the uk.like that. 

In reply to by ClickNLook

thebigunit Fri, 11/03/2017 - 01:08 Permalink

So, where does Papadopoulos go from here?He has already plead guilty to lying to the FBI, and I haven't heard that he has been charged with anything else.One talk radio legal expert suggested that, by itself, a single count of lying to the FBI would likely not result in jail time.So, pay a fine and get out of jail.Says Wikipedia: "Following his indictment, he was described by the Huffington Post as "a little-known, little-qualified 30-year-old."Papa sounds like a flaky political groupie and wannabe, and definitely NOT a "player".  Just a very small fish.  I think he shows how weak a case Mueller really has.

haruspicio Fri, 11/03/2017 - 01:12 Permalink

This campaign is full of weasel words like 'Russia-linked", "ties to Russian Foreign Ministry" and the like. Meaningless terms specifically chosen to breate a misleading impression. Papa would have had an immunity deal if he had an real contrete incriminating evidence tying the Trump campagin to senior Russiam government officials....as it is the key witness is really the professor who has already disavowed Papa's assertions. If it ever came to a court case a proven liar (Papa) would not make a credible witness. Overall the media are trying to create some smoke with misleading headlines conflating Russia/Putin/oligarchs with Manafort/Gates. Clearly Manafort/Gates are involved in Ukraine, but there is zero evidence they were involved with Russia/Putin during the campaign. A giant nothingburger.

FoggyWorld Fri, 11/03/2017 - 02:01 Permalink

And do read the article in the upper left here entitled "13 Shocking Facts about Special Prosector Robert Mueller."  Smacks a bit of Inspector Javert.

Shibumi2 Fri, 11/03/2017 - 03:03 Permalink

The Klinton cartel should give their operatives like the mob does...

Tommy "The pimp" Podesta

Or

Robbie "The muck" Kook and of course Hillary "CANKLES" Cliton

Cockoo Fri, 11/03/2017 - 03:37 Permalink

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Putin had the Clintons both ways under either bribery/treason or blackmail for the Uranium One deal to prevent a war a thin veiled threat to use against HRC.  Instead, Russia got a deal for the uranium while Trump and Co have to deal with drama unfolding as Special Counsel Mueller investigation drags on against him. Meanwhile the deplorables await indictments for Clinton Inc and Kushner throws his in-law President Trump under the bus.Appears all kosher is that what family is good for.   

ezkappdo Fri, 11/03/2017 - 04:03 Permalink

The evidence of Russian communications is highly likely real and we have not seen it all yet but, eventually Mueller will release it all. Just a poorly run campaign and White House by a bunch of amateurs who feed off what you call the deplorables but are really the poor used to be working or better employed people who somehow got fooled into thinking the very rich have their best interests in mind instead of only their own wealth. Trump never did anything except for himself, was never a good business man except in building and land/branding deals, otherwise he was a screw up in every other venture he did. Now he is sinking into mild dementia and Alzheimers just like his father and it will only get worse and his malignant narcissism only makes it worse.There is nothing to the Uranium One story just like the 8 wasteful Benghzi investigations and wasting time on Hilary wont get anywhere. This world has had any years of corporate malfesance (US and Globally) and now huge tech based monopolies that control too much. None of it will end well but the Republicans never get it right and only screw this country more in the end. Too many bots and foreign plants and idiots who still think mentioning Pizzagate means something other than revealing how truly stupid, lost or their corrupt they are.... Zero Hedge used to be better but now well see for yourself the nonsense above.  

Demologos ezkappdo Fri, 11/03/2017 - 09:46 Permalink

The Republicans never get it right on purpose because they are in on it. For example, they can't do a real investigation on the DNC election rigging because of the RNC rigging against Ron Paul.

The Republicans can't expose Benghazi because shipping Qadaffi's weapons to Syria was mutually agreed upon to overthrow Assad and build the pipeline.

Look at the National Endowment for Democracy. Each party has their own NED wing to muck about with other countries' politics using taxpayer money. Neither wing ever questions what the other is getting away with.

It's a big swamp and they are all in it.

In reply to by ezkappdo

Last of the Mi… Fri, 11/03/2017 - 06:45 Permalink

Sorting Out The Russia Mess Listen to conservative Mark Levin and you'll find out the FACTS! Russia collusion was a coup attempt, nothing more and the fact that Mueller is still allowed to go to his office and further the cause every day is a testament ot how filthy the swamp has become. 

DarthVaderMentor Fri, 11/03/2017 - 06:47 Permalink

This is eventually going to blow up in the Democrats faces. Since the Papadopoulos thread was a loss, they are now going after the idiot Kushner, which may yield results.Meanwhile, the FBI is becoming less and less effective or even viable as a law enforcement entity. Case in point: La Vegas.

Karl Marxist mr1963 Fri, 11/03/2017 - 09:01 Permalink

Oh, God! Dear yes, God! How is that event swept under the rug? What was with the 20 or so ambulances hauling bodies out of the Hooters which was a good block or so away? This is about a high value target which can only be a Paddock. Guy's brother gets pinched for child porn. David Hawkins believes this event was over a hedge bet like 9/11 was a hedge bet where many stocks were shorted. Same as Manchester, same as Titanic where Astor was the target. Follow the money and that isn't being followed. Israel, Israel, Israel and the Jews. It's them. It's always been them.

In reply to by mr1963