(Read this thread by CAP Senior fellow Ken Gude, or keep reading below)
In a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board on March 21, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump named a team of foreign-policy advisors to be chaired by Jeff Sessions. The team, notable for its small size and many connections to Russia, included both Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. At the time, Papadopoulos had very little foreign-policy experience, yet he was one of only five members Trump named. Also notable: Paul Manafort was not yet on the campaign.
Papadopoulos had multiple direct contacts with officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to coordinate meetings. From the indictment:
- “Over the next several weeks, defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Russian MFA Connection had multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting “the groundwork” for a “potential” meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.
- “On or about April 22, 2016, the Russian MF A Connection sent defendant PAPADOPOULOS an email thanking him “for an extensive talk” and proposing “to meet in London or in Moscow.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS replied by suggesting that “we set one up here in London with the Ambassador as well to discuss a process moving forward.”
Papadopoulos distributed information on those contacts with the MFA widely within the (small) Trump campaign team — a fact we now know because the FBI has his emails.
From mid-June through mid-August 2016, Papadopoulos pursued an “off the record” meeting between one or more Campaign representatives and “members of President Putin’s office and the MFA.”
The top MFA official in the US at the time was then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak … with whom Sessions met at least twice during the same period, then again in early September.
The top Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser meets with the top Russian official in the US, while the campaign is working on setting up a meeting with Russian officials. In what world are these independent activities?
- It’s nearly impossible to believe that Sessions was unaware of Papadopoulos’ contacts with the Russians — including his contacts within Kislyak’s own Ministry.
- It’s also impossible to believe that none of the Sessions-Kislyak meetings were part of the effort to connect the Trump campaign and Russian government.
If Papadopoulos is a cooperating witness, then the FBI has more information from his emails and what he’s told them.
Session denied any knowledge of Trump campaign contacts with Russians, then later said he’d never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. But FBI revelations render these untrue based off of what they’ve already made public in the Papadopoulos indictment. What else is Sessions hiding?
At a minimum, Sessions has already lied to Congress. But we still don’t know his true knowledge of Trump-Russia connections … or his involvement in them.