House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who authored the controversial GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Department of Justice, defended one of the memo’s key points Monday by claiming Donald Trump never even met with his campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But a photo tweeted in 2016 by Trump himself shows he did.
In an interview with “Fox & Friends,” Nunes was asked about assertions that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016 based on suspicions about Papadopoulos’s connections to Russia. That point, conceded in the memo, tends to undercut claims by Trump that the FBI warrant to wiretap another Trump adviser, Carter Page, was based on an unverified dossier funded by Democrats.
“If Papadopoulos was such a major figure, why didn’t you get a warrant on him?” Nunes argued on the morning show. “As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos never even knew who — never even had met with the president.”
Yet in March 2016, Papadopoulos attended what was labeled a “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., with Trump and other campaign officials, including future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after which Trump posted a photo of the meeting to his Twitter feed.
“Yes, there’s a photo of more than a dozen people sitting around a conference table, including Papadopoulos and Trump,” Jack Langer, Nunes’s communications director, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “But that does not make clear whether the two men knew each other at all.”
Last October, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced that Papadopoulos admitted lying to the FBI about his outreach to Russia during the campaign. Papadopoulos was arrested in July and cooperated with federal officials in their investigation. According to the charges unsealed by Mueller’s office, Papadopoulos introduced himself to Trump and the group at the March 2016 meeting and said he could “help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.” (In an interview that month, Trump praised Papadopoulos as an “excellent guy.“) A week before the meeting, Papadopoulos had met with a London professor and a Russian national who was introduced to him as a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Look, getting drunk in London and talking to diplomats, saying that you don’t like Hillary Clinton — I think it’s kind of scary that our intelligence agencies would take that and use it against an American citizen,” Nunes said.
Following the news of Papadopoulos plea deal, Trump dismissed him as “low-level volunteer” and “proven” liar.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the controversial Republican memo, which was declassified by Trump and released by the committee the day before, “totally vindicates” his claim that Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt.”
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2018
Nunes echoed that charge in his appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
“For the last year we’ve been chasing Russian ghosts around that were colluding with the Trump campaign,” he said. “We haven’t found any yet but they could be there. We’re still looking.”
After Nunes’s appearance Monday, Trump praised Nunes as “a man of tremendous courage and grit” who “may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed.”
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