Fresh-faced innocent Georgie Papadopoulos came over the hill with his belongings wrapped in a bandanna and carried on a stick over his shoulder, and saw beneath him a wonder that made his jaw drop. The Trump circus was here! He spat out the grass stem he had been chewing, adjusted his straw boater on his head of mischievously tousled hair, and ran towards the carnival, shouting huzzahs and nearly tumbling down the hill in his haste. He was going to join the circus this time, by cracky, and he didn’t care what Ma and Pa Papadopoulos said! See the world, Georgie! Meet new and interesting people! Expand your horizons! Have fun!
If you read the horseshit slung like catapult fire from the Trump White House, you might think Papadopoulos was just some gaping idiot whose name was picked by the campaign’s Sorting Hat to be one of their small team of foreign advisors. He had virtually no experience in foreign policy, except for a degree in “security studies” from University College London, a brief stint at the far-right Hudson Institute, and some stridently pro-Israeli op-ed pieces written for Israeli publications. He calls himself an “oil, gas and policy consultant” and says he directs an international energy center at the London Center of International Law Practice. He also seems to have lied about his experience as a Model UN representative on his resume.
(Seriously? I mean, who lies about that level of achievements? Did he lie about being on his high school debate club? Did he lie about being voted Most Likely to Light His Own Farts on a Local Public Access Cable Show?) He served on the foreign policy committee of Ben Carson’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, and left the campaign a month before he joined the Trump circus at the invitation of campaign policy director Sam Clovis, whose main claim to fame is spewing bigotry, homophobia and general filth over the airwaves as a talk radio host. The entire Trump clown brigade seems to be stricken with selective and serial amnesia — what did Trump put in his water, anyway? — so their recollections of Papadopoulos are dim and distant, but they seem to think that he was either their personal barista or just some unpaid slob who volunteered to clean up behind the elephants. Even Josh Marshall thinks Papadopoulos is an idiot.
Papadopoulos may be a “moron,” as Marshall dubbed him, or he may actually have some firing neurons in his prefrontal lobes. Either way, Papadopoulos played a far more extensive and important role in the campaign than is readily acknowledged by his fellow campaign clods.
School Days, School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days
Papadopoulos is brought on board by Clovis for the simple reason that they want him to help implement the campaign’s policy of better relations with Russia. It isn’t clear how they knew Papadopoulos was their boy for their covert Russian outreach program, but boy howdy, did they get that one right. (Stopped clocks and blind pigs…) About five minutes after he is issued his campaign laminate and a stack of coupons for free refills at Shoney’s, he meets with a shady Maltese academic while on rumspringa in Italy. The “professor,” Joseph Mifsud, who looks nothing like Snidely Whiplash, has no interest in the callow youth until Papadopoulos stops sucking on his chocolate malted and confides that he is a Big Cheese in the Trump campaign. If Mifsud had had a handlebar moustache, the ends would have stuck straight out. Why? Because it would seem that Mifsud is a Russian intelligence asset with extensive connections to Kremlin officials. What a recruitment opportunity! Papadopoulos is apparently panting with glee to meet some Big Cheese Straws from the Kremlin, as Mifsud promises to make happen. (It is unlikely that Mifsud let on he was an intelligence asset, and it is not confirmed that he is a witting accomplice to a specific Russian intelligence agency.)
Soon after their chance (?) encounter in Italy, Mifsud and Papadopoulos meet in London, where they both currently reside. There, Mifsud introduces him to a lovely young woman he says is Vladimir Putin’s niece. He is lying, of course. Her name is Olga Polonskaya, a young former legislative aide to the Russian government. (Both Mifsud and her brother Sergei Vinogradov later try to downplay Polonskaya’s role and abilities, with Mifsud describing her as “a simple student, very beautiful,” and Vinogradov saying she barely understood the conversation between Papadopoulos and Mifsud because of her poor English, and will say: “She’s not interested in politics. She can barely tell the difference between Lenin and Stalin.” Howling liars, the both of them.) Mifsud tells Papadopoulos that the young woman playing with her fingertips has a great many Kremlin connections, and she is more than willing to facilitate some meetings. Papadopoulos is thrilled.
Oh yeah, Mifsud also introduces him to the Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Not bad for the coffee boy.
So Papadopoulos runs to his laptop and emails Clovis and possibly Stephen Miller, another Big Cheesy Enchilada in the Trump campaign, letting them know that he’s made some Important Contacts with Russians and he can’t wait to set up a meeting between Kremlin and Trump campaign officials. The Russians, he tells Clovis, want “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.” Clovis gives him an attaboy — “Great work!” — and says for Papadopoulos not to make any commitments just yet, that he will “work it through the campaign.”
Sound like reluctance to you? Me neither.
Seven days later, a giddy Papadopoulos, now entering the Sanctum Sanctorum of Trump Tower Manhattan, meets with the Biggest and Most Aged of Cheeses, Donald Trump and his senior staff. He introduces himself, presumably after not pouring the coffee for everyone, and tells the gathering that he intends to set up a meeting between Trump and Vlad the Impaler. Trump is so outraged and offended by the very idea of reaching out to a US adversary that he commemorates the meeting with a photo of the entire gang on Instagram. Papadopoulos sends lots and lots of emails to the senior staff over the next week or so (“Do you want to meet with Vlad and get his autograph? OMG! Check the box for Yes or No”) before hearing from Polonskaya, who despite her apparent linguistic and cognitive defects, writes that she “would be very pleased to support your initiatives between our two countries.” Fanboi George sends a reply asking about setting up a “possible foreign policy trip to Russia.” Mifsud, apparently cc’d on the correspondance, replies that such a trip “has already been agreed,” implying that his contacts in the Kremlin have approved of such a meeting), and talks about hooking up with Putin groupies at an upcoming meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club. Polonskaya replies that she has “alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request,” and adds, “As mentioned, we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.” Presumably she means that her buddies would love to “welcome” Trump after he secured the GOP nomination.
Life rolls on in Trumpland. Kremlin hackers breach DNC servers. The CIA begins investigating the Trump campaign to determine whether Russian money is being channeled into its coffers. Russian media outlets attack Clinton and extoll the virtues of Donald Trumpinov. Trump ally and Russian confrere Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) meets with Russian operatives to discuss repealing the Magnitsky Act, one of Uncle Vlad’s most cherished goals. And Georgie meets with Mifsud again, only to be introduced to another teen idol, a member of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The MFA official may be Ivan Timofeev of the Russian International Affairs Council. Over the next several weeks, Papadopoulos and the MFA official light up Skype and the email channels, discussing the possibility of setting up the meetings Papadopoulos so desires. He even emailed Miller and campaign chair Corey Lewandowski to tell them, “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready.” Either Papadopoulos or the Russians suggest the meeting should take place in London (coincidentally the home of both Papadopoulos and Mifsud) because “these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ‘neutral’ cities.”
Digging the Dirt
Things get really fun now. On April 26, Papadopoulos meets with Mifsud at a London hotel. Over gimlets and Frazzles, Mifsud tells Papadopoulos that the Russians have “dirt” on Clinton. Huzzah! “They have dirt on her,” Papadopoulos later quotes Mifsud as saying, during questioning by the FBI. “[T]he Russians had emails on Clinton,” he later says the professor tells him. “They have thousands of emails.” Undoubtedly everyone at the pub could feel the energy crackling in the room. (It isn’t clear whether Mifsud is referring to the emails previously hacked from the DNC and the Clinton campaign or the El Dorado of campaign hacking, the emails Clinton had on her demonspawn private server while she was Secretary of Being Mean to Russia. How dare she protect her emails from Russian hackers! It’s so unAmerican…) After meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos runs stumbling to his laptop to email Miller, saying that he has “some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”
At this point, Papadopoulos and presumably others in the campaign know, or are about to learn within hours, that the Russians have hacked Democratic emails. Let me restate that.
The campaign knows that the Russians have hacked Democratic emails. And they know that the Russians are implicitly offering to share that information with the Trump campaign.
Does Clovis, or Miller, or Jeff Sessions, or Trump, or any of them, run to the FBI squealing: “Gosh and golly, ossifers, those Russkies done hacked our esteemed opponent’s emails! It’s a breach of security! Attack on America! Cyber freaking warfare! You gotta do something!” No, they do not. What they do is set up a meeting between senior campaign officials and Russian operatives to receive that hacked information.
But let’s put a pin in that for now.
In May, just weeks before Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner meet in the far reaches of the Trumpcave with Russian operatives to get bucketfuls of that sweet, sweet dirt on Clinton, Papadopoulos coordinates with Manafort to set up a meeting where either Trump or Papadopoulos will fly to Moscow at the behest of Timofeev to meet at the MFA’s North American Desk. Manafort tells his campaign and business colleague Rick Gates: “We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” Apparently that means Manafort is calling Papadopoulos’s number and not the Big Orange Taco Bowl’s. Because they don’t want to send any signals, or more importantly, let anyone in the FBI or CIA twig to their under-the-sheets outreach to the Russians. In June, Clovis agrees that Papadopoulos and another unnamed foreign policy advisor, likely Carter Page, should fly to Moscow on behalf of the campaign.
Out with a Whimper, Not a Bang
Sadly for Papadopoulos, he doesn’t get to do much more for the campaign’s Russia outreach program, at least as far as we know now. Other campaign officials go on to meet with Russian operatives, Russian ambassadors, and the like. Instead, he gets to, among other things: represent the campaign in a panel held during the Republican National Convention by the American Jewish Committee; give interviews to Russian news outlets on behalf of the media, and, after the inauguration, meet as a representative of the Trump administration with Israeli leaders as well as speak on behalf of the administration to the Israeli press.
He also gets investigated by the FBI, lies under oath, gets arrested, pleads guilty to lying, and cooperates with the Mueller investigation, causing a great gnashing of teeth and a rush to perform damage control among the White House staff. Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly makes a powerful argument that Papadopoulos is a witting or unwitting asset for Russian intelligence.
My guess? George ain’t the only one. I think there are a lot more rats in this woodpile besides Georgie. And, I don’t think we have learned all that is to be learned about Papadopoulos and his adventures with the Trump circus.
As for Mifsud? Well, he’s disappeared.
A lot of the links in this article connect to my Collusion and Control website. The entire thrust of that site is to present a metric fuckton ofinformation and then use it to, well, connect the dots to determine just what kind of collusion took place among Trump’s campaign officials and the various governmental and non-governmental Russianswho have an interest in installing useful, catastrophic idiots like Trump in the White House and other leadership positions in the US. Then we can decide what we want to do about it. And do it.