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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, reacting to Special Counsel John Durham’s latest filing, told Fox News in an exclusive interview that the original Trump-Russia probe was about “manufacturing a situation” around Donald Trump and his associates in an effort to tie them to the Kremlin, calling activities surrounding the origins of the investigation a “masterclass in deception.”
Durham, in a Feb. 11 court filing, first reported by Fox News, alleged “Tech Executive-1,” now identified as Rodney Joffe, and his associates, including a lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Michael Sussmann, “exploited” internet traffic pertaining to a “particular healthcare provider,” Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President of the United States in order to “establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’” to then bring to federal government agencies tying Trump to Russia.
“This was literally about manufacturing a situation around Trump and his people that made it seem as if all of them, including the president and his family, were somehow colluding or in the works with the Russians,” Papadopoulos told Fox News Wednesday.
“What we’re witnessing was a masterclass in deception, propaganda and trade craft,” Papadopoulos said. “In this case, I think there were so many vested interests in a Hillary Clinton presidency—that’s why you see all of these actors activated the way they were.”
Papadopoulos was referring to Durham’s latest filing, as well as the unverified anti-Trump dossier which was authored by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign through law firm Perkins Coie.
The now-discredited anti-Trump dossier contained claims about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia that served as the basis for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
“This wasn’t just about collecting dirt. It was about planting dirt,” Papadopoulos said of the steps leading up to the opening of the FBI’s original Trump-Russia probe. “This is what people have to understand.”
“I was set up,” Papadopoulos told Fox News.
Papadopoulos was referring to events leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
In March 2016, as an aide to the Trump campaign focusing on foreign policy, Papadopoulos met with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud in London, who told him that the Russians had dirt in the form of emails that could damage Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Papadopoulos then told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer of the new information. Downer reported Papadopoulos’ comments to him to the FBI.
Papadopoulos was charged in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with making a false statement to the FBI. The charging document said the false statement was about the timing of his meeting with Mifsud, and about his knowledge of Mifsud’s connections to Russia. The charging document also claimed he “impeded” the investigation by making his false statement.
“When the FBI came to talk to me, they asked if I ever heard anything about the Russians. I told them Mifsud came to me, and they said I messed up the dates of the meeting,” Papadopoulos recalled during the interview with Fox News Wednesday.
Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
But Papadopoulos did not only meet with Mifsud and Downer while overseas. He met with Cambridge professor and longtime FBI informant Stefan Halper and his female associate, who went under the alias Azra Turk. Papadopoulos told Fox News that he saw Turk three times in London: once over drinks, once over dinner and once with Halper.
Papadopoulos, in 2019, told Fox News he always suspected he was being recorded.
It is unclear which of these individuals, if any, may have recorded conversations with Papadopoulos.
But Papadopoulos’s meetings overseas resurfaced in 2019 as part of Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, sources told Fox News at the time.
Fox News reported in 2019 that Durham’s review was zeroing in on transcripts of recordings made by at least one FBI confidential human source who met with Papadopoulos overseas in 2016, specifically looking at why certain “exculpatory” material from them was not presented in subsequent applications for FISA warrants against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
A source, in 2019, told Fox News that the “exculpatory evidence” that could be included in those transcripts, which were declassified and released in April 2020, was Papadopoulos denying having any contact with the Russians to obtain the supposed “dirt” on Clinton.
Fox News obtained the declassified transcript of the secretly recorded meeting in April 2020. The transcript revealed the confidential human source pressed Papadopoulos on whether the Trump campaign was involved in Russian election meddling—something, the transcript shows, Papadopoulos emphatically denied.
The transcript is of a more than 4-hour long conversation between Papadopoulos and a confidential human source for the FBI on Oct. 31, 2016. According to the obtained transcripts, the confidential human source (CHS) met with Papadopoulos and asked whether he thought Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ahead of the Democratic National Convention.
“No,” Papadopoulos replied.
The comments made by Papadopoulos were noteworthy because, according to officials, they were never provided or included in evidence to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) when seeking warrants and warrant renewals to surveil Page over suspicion of Trump campaign ties to Russia.
A Justice Department official in April 2020 confirmed the authenticity of the transcripts. The official, at the time, told Fox News the transcript was just one of a series of productions that the Justice Department made in the wake of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on his review of misconduct of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Horowitz wrote in his report, released in December 2019, that “the FBI did not inform of these conversations at the time they occurred” and the “FISA renewal applications on Carter Page did not include these statements.”
The transcripts had been classified, but were declassified under former President Trump’s May 2019 move to approve declassification of documents related to the surveillance of his campaign during the 2016 election.
Trump, during an exclusive interview with Fox News this week, demanded that the Justice Department release any remaining records related to the original Trump-Russia probe.
“We all know now it was all fake, and nonsense, and it all makes sense now,” Papadopoulos said in the interview with Fox News Wednesday. “This entire thing was manipulated with two goals in mind—to prevent Trump from winning, and 2, if he won, to handcuff him from being able to govern the country properly.”
Papadopoulos said he believes “there are no coincidences in this entire saga,” and said it will be “important” for Durham to present his findings to the American public at the completion of his investigation.
At this point, Durham has indicted three people as part of his investigation: Michael Sussmann in September 2021, Igor Danchenko on Nov. 4, 2021 and Kevin Clinesmith in August 2020.
The indictment against Sussmann, says he told then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016, less than two months before the 2016 presidential election, that he was not doing work “for any client” when he requested and held a meeting in which he presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.
Danchenko was charged with making a false statement and is accused of lying to the FBI about the source of information that he provided to Christopher Steele for the anti-Trump dossier.
Kevin Clinesmith was also charged with making a false statement. Clinesmith had been referred for potential prosecution by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which conducted its own review of the Russia investigation.
Specifically, the inspector general accused Clinesmith, though not by name, of altering an email about Page to say that he was “not a source” for another government agency. Page has said he was a source for the CIA. The DOJ relied on that assertion as it submitted a third and final renewal application in 2017 to eavesdrop on Trump campaign aide Carter Page under FISA.
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.