Listening to George Papadopoulos elaborate on the timeline of his apparently set-up encounters with “counterintelligence agents” (SPIES) in far-flung parts of the world made me think, “Wow, this sounds like something right out of a novel!
Then I remembered: The beginning of this story really is right out of a novel. If you haven’t read THE FIRM, by John Grisham, perhaps you’ve seen the hit movie with Tom Cruise from 1993. Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, a fresh young Harvard grad with a promising future. Before he’s even taken the bar exam, he’s aggressively recruited by a small boutique law firm that seduces him with gifts and a whopping salary to take a job in far-flung Memphis, Tennessee. Though at first this seems to be a dream job, with all kinds of perks, his gut tells him that something isn’t right, and he soon finds out that “the firm” isn’t what it had seemed to be –- that it’s essentially a cover for the Mob and that he had been recruited from the start to be a part of it.
Of course, this being a movie, the story takes off from there to include deep Mafia corruption and even murders. Ironically, the FBI characters in THE FIRM are the good guys, out to take down the corrupt law firm and the mobsters it represents. But it was just the idea of a green young man being so actively set up from the beginning and wooed by “the firm” that seemed eerily similar to the scenario Papadopoulos is recounting today.
But in the Papadopoulos story –- the REAL story –- the intelligence people are not the good guys. Even Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, back in January of 2017, characterized them this way: “You mess with the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.” (If that doesn’t sound like the Mafia, I don’t know what does.) We already know that the Obama Justice Department spied on members of the Trump campaign; now we have to find out if that was warranted or if they created the “evidence” all by themselves, by using foreign intelligence agents (SPIES) to plant information with targets such as Papadopoulos. If they did have legitimate suspicions that Russians had infiltrated the Trump campaign, I don’t know how they can defend their decision not to tell Trump, or at least a trusted member of his campaign such as former U.S. attorney Chris Christie, to name one. And if they didn’t have legitimate suspicions, I don’t know how they can defend any of their actions, at all.
Anyway, Papadopoulos appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo over the weekend, and together they ran through the timeline of his, um, adventure. It’s easy to get the impression from his numerous contacts that the spying operation going on during 2016-17 was much larger and deeper –- and earlier –- than we’ve been able to nail down so far.
The story Papadopoulos tells started in “June or July of 2015,” when he called Corey Lewandowski, then head of the Trump campaign, and asked about possibly working for Trump, “because I just thought that Trump was going to be the President,” but that Trump’s people had told him they weren’t hiring yet and would get back to him. So he went to work for the Ben Carson campaign but stayed in touch with the Trump people. In January of 2016, Carson dropped out of the race. Papadopoulos then was living in London and seeking another job.
In February, he was contacted out of the blue, on Linked-In, by a company called the London Centre of International Law Practice, with an offer to come and work for them. Once he got there, he saw that all the officials with whom he was working had ties to Western intelligence and some of the top law firms in the world. (There were no Russians, though.) Within 48 hours of taking the job, he was made a director, “which didn’t make sense to me,” he said. “It seemed like it was a fabricated type of position there, just to get me in the room and to meet various people and for them to introduce me to various officials around Europe and even the United States. So it seemed like it was some kind of ‘front’ company and ‘front’ job.”
In March, Papadopoulos decided to leave the Centre to join the Trump campaign after all. His colleagues seemed to be furious about this and told him, Well, as long as you’re leaving, we want you to go to Rome with us because we have some people there who are going to help you on the campaign. (At the time, he didn’t realize how little sense that makes.) He went with them to a university in Rome, where he was greeted by the Italian foreign minister and introduced by him to many high-level Italian officials and also to a professor named Joseph Mifsud, who in the Mueller report was later characterized (or mischaracterized, as Papadouplos claims) as someone working for Russian intelligence.
Papadopoulos suspects that many of the people he met were FBI/CIA people, because the CIA and FBI actually conducted training at this university.
“Obviously, there were some kind of eyes on me even before my name was public [in the Washington Post],” he told Bartiromo, because intelligence people were already introducing him to Mifsud. He said he and Mifsud had some “bizarre conversations” over the next few weeks about a potential meeting between Trump and Putin. It was on April 26 that Mifsud dropped a bombshell, something like, hey, George, did you know the Russians have Hillary Clinton’s emails? By this time, Papadopoulos felt he was in the middle of some incredible weirdness.
Looking back, he thinks Mifsud was a plant, that this was a set-up to feed him the Hillary email story. Mifsud, he said, is currently living right next to the U.S. embassy in Rome, “protected by Italian agents right now.” (Papadopoulos has said that he’s getting a lot of his news on this from Italian sources, as his wife is Italian.)
At the time, he took Mifsud’s story as bizarre gossip and so did not talk about it to the Trump campaign, as he thought it might be illegal to involve them.
From mid-April to mid-May of 2016, he was contacted by numerous foreign and U.S. intel officials. The Australian government reached out to him on April 15. The #2 official at the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted him on May 2 to have a conversation and get to know him a bit. On May 10, he met Australian diplomat (and big-time Hillary supporter) Alexander Downer; Papadopoulos later testified under oath to Congress and told the FBI and the special counsel that he felt Downer was spying on him and recording their conversation. In fact, the FBI didn’t bring up Joseph Mifsud --- he did. And then he got caught in what he characterized as a perjury trap, for “lying” about the date he met Mifsud. He got the date wrong, saying it was March when it was actually April.
“I went to jail for 11 nights,” he told Bartiromo, “because of this, after I had honeypots, money thrown my way, wiretaps, surveillance by foreign countries, and then I finally get caught in some perjury trap...It was ridiculous.”
All of these strange contacts, meetings and conversations happened long before the FBI got its FISA warrant to spy. A lot of material needs to be declassified so we can see who Joseph Mifsud really was working for, and also the full extent of the spying, including the foreign nations involved. The New York Times also needs to know this, so it can desperately start trying to defend the indefensible. We already know that Papadopoulos was only one of numerous people drawn into this story; Michael Flynn was another.
Papadopoulos has his own book out, called DEEP STATE TARGET, in which he outlines all this in detail. I haven’t read it yet but am about to order it. It promises to be a very different book from THE FIRM, in that only in Grisham’s novel –- the fictional story –- do the government officials wear the white hats. Not here. In this case, truth is stranger, and sadder, than fiction.