messycupcakes / Flickr sydney blu at beta nightclub...
messycupcakes / Flickr

In his endless effort to demean the FBI and delegitimize the Trump–Russia investigation, Donald Trump has been pushing the idea that the investigation was started by Clinton partisans who ‘funded the Steele dossier.’ But the New York Times is reporting a very different origin for the FBI’s involvement.

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. …

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.

The FBI opened its investigation long before the election, not on the basis of the dossier or any other opposition research. The investigation began because a member of Trump’s own campaign blabbed to foreign officials that the Trump campaign had knowledge about Russia’s role in stealing information from Democratic officials.

[Papadopoulos’] saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

The FBI began investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, because a member of the Trump campaign bragged about colluding with Russia … which seems like a pretty good reason to investigate.

What Papadopoulos provided was little less than a confession.

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.

A confession that was later reinforced by actions of multiple campaign officials, including Manafort, Donald Trump Jr, and Jared Kushner. 

Papadopoulos was one of the first to learn that Russia had hacked into the emails of both the DNC and Democratic officials, and was quick to share that information with the Trump campaign.

In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee’s computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.

But that was hardly the end of discussion of this information within the Trump campaign.

  • The Trump campaign knew, months before it was public knowledge, that Russia had stolen the Democratic information.
  • Not only did Russia reach out to members of the Trump campaign, multiple representatives of the Trump campaign actively sought to connect with Russia, to learn about the information being offered, and to determine the best way to use it to advantage Trump.
  • Trump repeatedly used the information stolen by Russia in his rallies and statements, playing up the importance of the emails, lauding those who stole them, and publicly requesting more such activity.

That’s the essence of conspiracy. Any claims that the information Russia provided was “disappointing” are the equivalent of saying it wasn’t grand theft auto because the car turned out to be a lemon. 

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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