FBI ignored exculpatory evidence of Page and Papdopoulos innocence while pursuing Russian collusion hoax
If President Trump declassifies evidence in the Russia investigation, Carter Page’s summer bike ride to a Virginia farm and George Papadopoulos’s hasty academic jaunt to London may emerge as linchpin proof of FBI surveillance abuses during the 2016 election.The FBI either ignored the evidence of innocence or pushed ahead hoping to trap the men with a process crime to further their Russian hoax coup plot. The FBI scandal keeps getting worse.
The two trips have received scant attention. But growing evidence suggests both Trump campaign advisers made exculpatory statements — at the very start of the FBI’s investigation — that undercut the Trump-Russia collusion theory peddled to agents by Democratic sources.
The FBI plowed ahead anyway with an unprecedented intrusion into a presidential campaign, while keeping evidence of the two men’s innocence from the courts.
Page and Papadopoulos, who barely knew each other, met separately in August and September 2016 with Stefan Halper, the American-born Cambridge University professor who, the FBI told Congress, worked as an undercover informer in the Russia case.
Papadopoulos was the young aide that the FBI used to justify opening a probe into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016, after he allegedly told a foreign diplomat that he knew Russia possessed incriminating emails about Hillary Clinton.
Page, a volunteer campaign adviser, was the American the FBI then targeted on Oct. 21, 2016, for secret surveillance while investigating Democratic Party-funded allegations that he secretly might have coordinated Russia’s election efforts with the Trump campaign during a trip to Moscow.
To appreciate the significance of the two men’s interactions with Halper, one must understand the rules governing the FBI when it seeks a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant such as the one secured against Page.
First, the FBI must present evidence to FISA judges that it has verified and that comes from intelligence sources deemed reliable. Second, it must disclose any information that calls into question the credibility of its sources. Finally, it must disclose any evidence suggesting the innocence of its investigative targets.
Thanks to prior releases of information, we know the FBI fell short on the first two counts. Multiple FBI officials have testified that the Christopher Steele dossier had not been verified when its allegations were submitted as primary evidence supporting the FISA warrant against Page.
Likewise, we know the FBI failed to tell the courts that Steele admitted to a federal official that he was desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election and was being paid by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to gather dirt on the GOP candidate. Both pieces of information are the sort of credibility-defining details that should be disclosed about a source.
What remains uncertain in the court of public opinion is whether the FBI possessed evidence suggesting Papadopoulos and Page — and, thus, the larger Trump campaign — were innocent of collusion. Republican lawmakers have suggested for months that such evidence existed and was hidden from the courts, but none has emerged in public.
My reporting from more than two dozen sources, many with access to the FBI’s evidence, suggests one answer to that question lies in Halper’s interactions with the two Trump campaign advisers, some of it documented in FBI records. And interviews with both men reveal just how much they told Halper about their innocence.
Page told me he was incredulous at the suggestions and told everyone he knew, including Halper, that he had not met either Russian intel figure and knew of no Trump-Moscow coordination.
“I’m certain that nothing I said that day at the professor’s farm could be deemed as anything other than exculpatory. And once again, in September, I explained reality to the FBI. Contrary to the DNC’s false reports, I have never met those Russians, and I did not know of any effort to coordinate, collude or conspire with Russia. Period.”
A month later, in London, Papadopoulos was paid $3,000 to present a foreign policy paper to Halper. On the second day of his visit with Halper, Papadopoulos said the conversation turned from academic work to a barrage of questions about Russia, Trump and collusion, including whether the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia on the hacked Clinton emails or changed the GOP platform on Ukraine to appease Vladimir Putin.
Papadopoulos told me he pointedly remembers his response: “I made it clear to Halper that what he was suggesting did not only amount to treason, but that I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and had no information at all about anyone involved with the campaign who might have been involved with a conspiracy because there never was a conspiracy and no one was colluding with a foreign power, especially Russia.
“Furthermore, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should be supported and that Russia will always remain a competitor, even if Trump decided to work with Russia to stabilize Syria and East Ukraine while checking China’s rise.”