For months, Republicans have been claiming that classified documents revealed exculpatory evidence that should have been included in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Carter Page — and now The Hill’s John Solomon has the scoop.
In mid-September of 2016, weeks after the Russia counterintelligence probe was launched, then-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told an FBI informant there was no collusion going on between the campaign and Russia that he knew of, and that such activity would be “treasonous.”
Papadopoulos told Solomon that he made the comments to London-based professor and FBI informant Stefan Halper.
“He was there to probe me on the behest of somebody else,” Papadopoulos said. “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.
Text messages between fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, revealed that Strzok traveled to London in early August of 2016 to meet with intelligence informants (aka “oconus lures”) and conducted secret interviews.
Papadopoulos is expected to testify behind closed doors Thursday before two House panels.
GOP sources told Solomon that there was no mention of Papadopoulos’s denial in the FISA warrant or its three renewals — an omission of exculpatory evidence that congressional Republicans believe 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 truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,” one source told Solomon.
Some in Congress are bracing for the possibility that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might argue in his interview with lawmakers that the FBI did not have an obligation to disclose all exculpatory evidence to the FISA judges. Such an argument is contrary to how the court works, according to officials who prepare FISA warrants. The FBI is required to submit only verified information and to alert the court to any omissions of material fact that cast doubt on the supporting evidence, including any denials, these officials told me.
“I actually have zero Russian contacts or connections whatsoever,” Papadopoulos told Sean Hannity Tuesday night on Fox News. “It seems I was completely set up by Western intelligence masquerading as Russians. Now if that’s true, certain people in our intelligence community knew it the whole time — that these people that I encountered were actually Western intelligence and not Russians — what on earth am I getting in trouble for?”
Solomon said that the spin coming out of the Justice Department Tuesday night was “amazing.”
“I would call it un-American,” he declared. “People are telling me tonight that they don’t think the Justice Department had an obligation to tell the courts about exculpatory information!”
“That is a total lie!” Hannity exclaimed.
“And in the FISA court, where the accused — someone like George — doesn’t have a representative, a lawyer to defend them — it’s all in secret. Can you imagine that sentiment being shared with Congress or to the judges on the FISA court?” Solomon told Hannity. “I’d like to see how long that lasts.”