The NYT’s latest Russiagate story on George Papadopoulos is not believable. Here’s why

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Written by Alexander Mercouris; Originally appeared at The Duran

Attempt to distance Russiagate investigation from discredited Trump Dossier fails on Papadopoulos’s inherent unreliability as a witness

As confidence in Robert Mueller’s investigation crumbles there have been the inevitable leaks intended to suggest that the Russiagate investigation is still on track and that despite the increasing appearances to the contrary there is actually some reality to the case it is investigating.

The NYT’s latest Russiagate story on George Papadopoulos is not believable. Here’s why

The leaks take the form of claims that Mueller is planning to issue a “supplemental indictment” of Paul Manafort supposedly fleshing out the tax evasion and money laundering claims he has brought against him, and more information about the strange case of George Papadopoulos.

I will not take up time discussing the ‘supplemental indictment’ against Paul Manafort.  The case against Paul Manafort does not touch on the collusion allegations which are the focus of the Russiagate affair, and by all accounts the new ‘supplemental indictment’ will not change that.

What the fact that Mueller is now preparing a ‘supplemental indictment’ against Manafort shows is that what I and many others have said previously is true: the original indictment against Manafort was rushed and unprepared, probably because it was rushed out to counter criticism of Mueller which was appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

Of much more interest is the new information which has been published about George Papadopoulos.  The information appears in an article in the New York Times which reads in part as follows

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

This information has clearly been published in order to counter the increasingly widely circulating claim that it was the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate investigation.

This is made absolutely clear by the following paragraphs in the New York Times article

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired…..

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

Is this however really so?

The drunken bragging of a twenty eight year old man in a London bar presumably with attractive young women present is not usually considered grounds to initiate a top secret investigation resulting in the secret surveillance of people against whom no other evidence of wrongdoing exists.

The known timeline of the Russiagate inquiry anyway strongly argues against this claim

The DNC emails were published by Wikileaks on 22nd July 2016.  The FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016, probably after the DNC emails were published.

This was however after the FBI had interviewed Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier, in early July 2016.  The Trump Dossier’s first two entries are dated 20th June 2016 and 19th July 2016 – ie. before publication of the DNC emails – and it is likely that before the FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016 it had seen them.

The New York Times says that the FBI received the information about Papadopoulos’s bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner after the DNC emails were published.  However the FBI did not actually interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017.

What seems to have happened is that after the Russiagate inquiry was launched the FBI went through all the information it received which might touch on the inquiry.  At some point the Australian High Commissioner’s report about Papadopoulos’s bragging in May 2016 in the London bar came up and a decision was taken to interview him.

However – contrary to what the New York Times says – the FBI cannot have accorded this any great importance since though the Russiagate inquiry was launched at the end of July 2016 the FBI did not interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017 ie. six months later.

That makes it all but inconceivable that it was – as the New York Times claims – the report from Australia about what Papadopoulos said in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner in the London bar rather than the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate inquiry.

As it happens the rest of the New York Times article, though outlining at fantastic length the nature of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts provides no evidence of collusion illegal or otherwise between the Russians, Papadopoulos or anyone else in the Trump campaign.

What the New York Times article does show is who Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts were.

It turns out that they were senior people in the Valdai Discussion Club, which is not at all surprising given that Professor Mifsud, the Maltese professor who was Papadopoulos’s contact, is known to have participated in a Valdai Discussion Club panel on 19th April 2016.

The Valdai Discussion Club for those who do not know is a Russian NGO which regularly hosts discussions between top level Russian officials and senior people from around the world.  It is sometimes spoken of as the Russian equivalent to Davos.  This page from its website gives an idea of its activities and of the very senior people from around the world who have been involved in it,

In other words when Papadopoulos and Professor Mifsud got to know each other Professor Mifsud simply put Papadopoulos in touch with the Russian organisers of the meeting he was attending.

That does not argue for Professor Mifsud’s “high level contacts” within the Russian government; it argues against it.

As it happens no Russian government official appears to have been directly involved in the discussions between the various members of the Valdai Discussion Group and Papadopoulos.

The New York Times says that Igor Ivanov, who was Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004, was consulted by Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts.  Ivanov is presumably the “Russian MFA Connection” referred to in Papadopoulos’s indictment.  However Ivanov is a retired official not an active one, and his Wikipedia profile suggests that he is now mainly involved in academic work and in the work of various international NGOs. As such he would have been an obvious person for members of the Valdai Discussion Club to consult, and was not in any sense a representative of the Russian government.

As for the subject matter of the discussions between Papadopoulos and his Russian contacts, there is no hint in the New York Times article of any conspiracy between Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign and the Russians concerning the election or any other matter.

Instead we are told – again at inordinate length – about Papadopoulos’s already known but ultimately futile efforts to arrange a summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which Papadopoulos persisted in even after he was told to stop them.

As has by now become typical of the New York Times’s Russiagate coverage, its latest article about Papadopoulos also states as facts things which are in fact strongly disputed.

For example it states as flat facts that it was Professor Mifsud who falsely claimed to Papadopoulos that Olga Polonskaya – one of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts – was President Putin’s niece, and that it was Professor Mifsud who told Papadopoulos during a hotel meeting in London in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Professor Mifsud however has publicly denying telling Papadopoulos either of these things, and the only evidence he did so is that Papadopoulos says he did.

On the subject of the false claim that Polonskaya was Putin’s niece, it is intrinsically far more likely that this is an invention of Papadopoulos’s and not of Professor Mifsud’s.  Why after all would Mifsud  – presumably in cooperation with the Russians – seek to pass off Polonskaya as Putin’s niece when a five minute internet search would establish that Putin has no niece?  What would be the purpose of such a thing?

The only confirmed reference to Polonskaya being Putin’s niece other than Papadopoulos’s statements to the FBI is an email Papadopoulos sent to the Trump campaign describing her as such.

It is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.  Papadopoulos’s behaviour in fact clearly points to him being a young man out of his depth and given to fantasising.  Even the New York Times calls him “brash, boastful and underqualified”.

It turns out that Papadopoulos even publicly reprimanded British Prime Minister David Cameron in a May 2016 interview with The London Times which he was not authorised by the Trump campaign to give, and for which he was subsequently severely reprimanded, and it is also known that he persisted in trying to arrange with the Russians a summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin even when told to stop doing so.

Given that was Papadopoulos is therefore a known loose cannon with a record of bragging and a conviction for lying why assume that on any subject  – eg. the false claims about Polonskaya – it is Papadopoulos who is telling the truth and that it is Professor Mifsud who is lying?  Surely the opposite is far more likely to be true?

In the case of Polonskaya the New York Times has to pretend that it is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who is telling the truth because if it were confirmed that it was Papadopoulos who invented the story about Polonskaya being Putin’s niece then that would expose him as a fantasist, which would discredit the whole elaborate scenario the New York Times is trying to spin around him.

That shows why it is dangerous to assume that Papadopoulos is telling the truth on any point when those who have a vested interest in the Russiagate story say he is.  On the contrary Papadopoulos is an inherently unreliable witness and must always be treated as such.

Does the information in the New York Times article however tell us anything we didn’t previously know about the core issue in the case: the “dirt” Papadopoulos says Professor Mifsud told him that the Russians have on Hillary Clinton?

Firstly, despite the New York Times’s painstaking attempts to link the boasts which Papadopoulos blurted out in a London bar to the DNC and Podesta emails, it seems that Papadopoulos whilst he was bragging in the London bar did not in fact refer to those emails.

The relevant paragraph in the New York Times article on this point needs to be read carefully

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

(bold italics added)

This words “political dirt on Hillary Clinton” are almost certainly copied from the Australian High Commissioner’s report to his government, which was subsequently passed on to the FBI, and which forms the basis of the story in the New York Times.

What these words show is that Papadopoulos was boasting in the London bar that the Russians had “political dirt about Hillary Clinton”, not that they had the DNC or Podesta emails.

What this paragraph also shows is that Papadopoulos in May 2016 was bragging about his high position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians, and was doing so openly in the presence of no less a person than the Australian High Commissioner, whose identity he cannot have been unaware of.

This sort of wild indiscretion all but proves that Papadopoulos was not involved in a secret criminal conspiracy with the Russians.  Of course the rest of the New York Times article and the text of his indictment provides no evidence that he was.

In fact it is possible to make some educated guesses about the Papadopoulos affair based on this new information, which leads to diametrically opposite conclusions to the ones reached by the New York Times.

In May 2016 Papadopoulos was clearly on a high, giving foolish interviews to The London Times and bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar about his high level position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians.

That strongly points to his boast in the London bar that the Russians had ‘political dirt’ on Hillary Clinton being his own invention.

Subsequently, when he was asked about it by the FBI – long after the Russiagate scandal broke out – he panicked and blamed the whole thing on Professor Mifsud who he said told him about it during their meeting in the London hotel in April 2016.

Note that the wording of the indictment shows that Papadopoulos was vague about what precisely Professor Mifsud was supposed to have told him

On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel.  During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials.  The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton.  The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton“; “they have thousands of emails“.

(bold italics added)

The words “the Russians had emails of Clinton” make it clear that the emails and supposedly discussed by Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos were not the DNC and Podesta emails but Hillary Clinton’s own 33,000 emails deleted from her private email server.  Had Papadopoulos referred to the DNC and Podesta emails in his interview with the FBI the indictment would have surely said so.

In May 2016 – the month when Papadopoulos was drunkenly bragging in the London bar – the scandal around Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server for her State Department emails was at its height, with the Inspector General of the State Department publishing an 83 page report and with speculation rife about the progress of the FBI’s investigation into the affair.

Possibly Papadopoulos was thinking about Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails when he was bragging in the London bar.  More likely he referred to these emails when he tried to explain away his comments in the London bar to the FBI.

By the time the FBI interviewed him Papadopoulos would have known that any reference to the DNC and Podesta emails would have exposed him to suspicion of involvement in a far greater conspiracy.  Frightened and searching for ways to get himself out of trouble, and perhaps realising that he would not be believed if he admitted that he had been lying when he had been bragging in the London bar, he brought up the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails instead, and involved Professor Mifsud in the story to give himself cover.

Regardless, the fact that Papadopoulos’s recollection of what Professor Mifsud is supposed to have told him is so vague points to what is almost certainly the truth: Papadopoulos is making it all up.

Not only does this seem to me a far more plausible explanation of the Papadopoulos affair than the one suggested by the New York Times, but there is one obvious point which for me confirms it.

Nothing Papadopoulos says about this episode can be independently confirmed.

His account of his meeting in April with Professor Mifsud is disputed by Professor Mifsud who is the only other witness.

Apart from his bragging in the London bar there is no evidence dating from the time that he had any knowledge that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  None of his very numerous communications to the Trump campaign refer to the fact.

To those who say that Papadopoulos would wish to keep his reports about this secret, all I would say is that Papadopoulos cannot have thought of it so very secret since in May 2016 he was openly bragging about it in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar.

All this taken together makes it highly likely that Papadopoulos is inventing the whole story, just as he is almost certainly the person who invented the story of Polonskaya being Putin’s niece.

In summary the New York Times story, far from lending credence to the Russiagate collusion allegations actually provides further reason to doubt them.  As for Papadopoulos, far from being a star ‘smoking gun’ witness, he comes across as a boastful fantasist who is not telling the truth.

What the article does highlight is the pressure the FBI and the Mueller investigation are under as the doubts about the Trump Dossier grow.

It is the Trump Dossier which remains however the key to the affair.  This latest attempt to deny the fact and to distract from it does not refute it.  On the contrary it confirms it.

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  • George King
  • Lazy Gamer

    Papadopoulos is simply an alibi of the investigators to cover their illegal surveillance and involvement in Russiagate. It is clear that the newspaper serves as the mouthpiece of these officials since if they would just be critical about the facts it is plain that Papadopoulos is simply a manifestation of the investigation working backwards [and picking the ones where they cannot be questioned] after all facts have been taken legally and illegally.
    If it were true that he was the reason, then the surveillance should be with this guy, his contacts, AND the prospect. The tapping was on the other target and different prospect however. Besides, i think the timetable would also prove otherwise.
    What is clear is somebody is now resorting to cover up, this shows desperation and an opportunity to be exploited by the other camp.

    • Ron Ingram

      Surveillance of traitors is not illegal. The traitors exposed themselves in conversations WITH AMERICA’S ENEMY, Russia. The fact that Putin is donnie’s friend does not make him America’s friend. And, the “dossier” has not been discredited. Donnie trump is covering up, otherwise he would not be lying.

      • Lazy Gamer

        As long as the American constitution is in effect, American citizens have rights. Those who willfully disregard this are the true traitors. These people are bringing down the American government.
        Im not saying trump is clean. All sides arent. But an institution which arrogates upon itself to be kingmaker is the greatest traitor of them all.
        There is yet no congressional declaration of open war so there is no public enemy. A president isnt doing his job if he sees it is in the country’s interest to get along and cooperate yet is hampered by internal politics.

  • Brother Ma

    Even if guilty Papadopoulos is only the fallguy for the higher – ups.

    Snitching aussie ambassador should spend more time on stockings than running and telling tales to his Yanqui masters!

  • 888mladen .

    Alexander Mercouris is an excelent political analist based in London. There are not many around like him. You should read carefully this article. However his objectivity might not suit extreme views of some.

  • Starlight

    No-one here believes ANYTHING in the Jew York Times- which is why we visit sites like this- no?

    Why doesn’t Southfront STOP wasting time ‘refuting’ zionist nonsense in the zionist press, and start covering zionist crimes in Palestine- like the story of Ahed Tamimi. I’ve fed up with Southfront follwoing the talking points of zionist extremists- even when it is to say “we don’t agree”.

    Zionists are gonna lie,and lie hard- it’s what they do. WE simply recognise this FACT and ignore everything zionists say- simple, no?

    Before the zionist infiltration here, Southfront used to LEAD the news with stories the zionist press would not report. Now Southfront FOLLOWS the zionist talking points- and ignores the real stories that matter.

    So no coverage of atrocities over Xmas in Palestine. The pretence that the racist jews of Israel only “respond” to “attacks” on them. Never any coverage of the FACT that Israel gave nuclear weapons to the apartheid white power government of South Africa back in the day. No coverage of Putin’s refusal to sell s-400 air defense systems to Iran or Syria.

    Southfront’s editorial choices are now dancing to the tune of one or more zionist infiltrators- people who will hide their alligience to Israel, of course. The self same thing happed at Zero Hedge, when a zionist infiltrator gained a moderator position there,and immeditaely set about banning all long standing members who posted well considered literate criticism on zionism. He was finally unmasked and booted out, but the damage was done.

  • Cheryl Brandon

    2017 was the year Fake News really blossomed in the glare of the world. Thankfully, Independent journalist like Patric Hennisgsen/ UK Column News/ Vanessa Beeley/Eva Bartlett/Adam Garrie of the Duran Report/ Tyrannyunmasked/Jimmy Dore were able to constantly expose the lies of the International Fake media brigade. They were responsible for singlehandedly exposing the LIES of the White Helmets/Washington Henchmen/War Hooligans with their 3200 million criminal enterprise in Syria. Well done Independents. Keep shining the light on the International vermins.

    • GreatMoro

      Fake news: No Russian interference.

      Real news: Trump Jr himself admits he tried to conspire with Russian officials for dirt on Hillary.

  • -Q-

    This is a very poor case, and a more speculative and circumstantial one than the NYT.

    One ‘key’ piece of evidence is that the FBI did not interview Papdopoulos as soon as the ‘bragging’ to the Austalian was reported to them. However if they had done this, the FBI would have immediately tipped their hand, which is not good practice for a counter-intelligence operation.

    He also argues that, because a young and impressionable person made very indiscrete comments under the influence of free-flowing alcohol, the subject matter in question cannot have been particularly secret. Err..it’s one of the oldest tricks in espionage – get ’em drunk and make ’em talk. Not saying that someone was doing this to Papa, but this is the well known effect of excess alcohol.

    His grand denouement, on which his entire case hangs, is his speculation that Papa made everything up and was just lucky, or unlucky, that subsequent events made him look like he wasn’t so full of shit. To say ‘unconvincing’ would be a gross understatement.

  • RichardD

    Trump is right, the Justice Department is heavily compromised by the deep state (Jews).

  • goingbrokes

    Hillary lost because someone said some sh-t about her and Russians somewhere that anyone could have said and that was definitely not worth reporting to anyone in any position of power. Russiagate is nothing burger. People “contributing” to it are nothing burgers too. No nutrients here.

  • GreatMoro

    These Russian propagandists writing the articles should revise their claims. They keep claiming how there’s no evidence etc. But Trump Jr himself admitted of trying to access sensitive information or “dirt” on Clinton from Russian officials. This is “collusion”.