Dan Bongino recently conducted a fascinating interview with George Papadopoulos. The most convenient way to digest the interview is at Jeff Carlson’s blog, which has a link to the interview on Bongino’s radio show as well as a full transcript of the interview. What emerges from the interview is, in my view, convincing evidence that Papadopoulos was, in Chuck Ross’s words, the target of an “FBI sting.”
Actually, that characterization doesn’t even go far enough. What seems clear at this point is that the FBI — representing the US Government and as an agency of the Department of Justice — targeted Papadopoulos and attempted to manipulate him into appearing to be a vehicle for Russian influence in the Trump campaign. The FBI had no reason to believe that Papadopoulos had any connections to Russian officials before they targeted him. The fact is, Papadopoulos’s academic background and previous experience was in what could be broadly termed “Eastern Mediterranean” politics — Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel. Moreover, in his published writings he actually evinced a degree of hostility to Russian influence in that region.
When the FBI’s attempt at framing Papadopoulos in this manner predictably fell flat, Papadopoulos was indicted on trumped up “false statements to the FBI” charges stemming from a harmless misstatement — not a lie. The Russia Hoax: The I... Best Price: $10.95 Buy New $11.40 (as of 01:30 EST - Details)
The entire interview is well worth listening to — to capture Papadopoulos’ personality — and also worth reading closely for the details that emerge. Chuck Ross’s digest is also useful as a summary. Bongino’s tone is remarkable. He’s well prepared for the interview and, as he goes into the details of how Papadopoulos was groomed to be a fall guy in the FBI’s war against Trump, his tone is incredulous to the point of hilarity at times — the FBI’s setup is that transparent. Bongino has difficulty throughout in restraining himself from exclaiming at Papadopoulos’ only too obvious naivete. For his part, Papadopoulos is naturally reluctant to portray himself as a complete dupe, but even he at a certain point ends up quoting his wife, who exclaimed to him:
“What on earth are you pleading guilty for, when this guy [Mifsud] is obviously setting you up?”
Rather than attempt an exhaustive analysis of the many intriguing threads of information that can be found in the interview, what I’d like to focus on are two particular themes in Papadopoulos’s narrative:
1) That he was the subject of a FISA, and
2) that his conversations with FBI intelligence assets such as Halper, Downer, and Mifsud were “recorded.”
Let’s take Papadopoulos’s FISA assertion first. There are two striking aspects to the FISA assertion. The first is Papadopoulos’s claim that the FISA had nothing to do with the Russia Hoax — recall that Papadopoulos had no Russian connections except those that were manufactured by FBI and British intelligence operatives — but instead had to do with his undoubted contacts with Israel. The second aspect is that Papadopoulos claims to have been informed about this FISA by MSM sources. Here’s what Papadopoulos said in the interview:
Bongino: Do you think there was a FISA warrant on you?
Papadopoulos: I do.
I think there was a FISA warrant on me and probably … I think the FISA had to do with my work in the energy business – and in Israel in particular. … I had these contacts – and just to be frank – when the FBI came to my house in January for the first time, they were questioning me about my ties to Israel. And then all of a sudden, when we go into all these other issues – about hacked emails, Russia, there’s a lot more to my story than most people could possibly even imagine.
Bongino: You may have been on the radar prior [to Trump’s foreign policy team announcement].
Papadopoulos: That’s absolutely right.
I was on the target of some intelligence group – and they definitely knew who I was. And just to make it clear to everyone listening, when I met with Mifsud, when I met with Alexander Downer, and when I met with Stefan Halper, do you know what these people all had in common? They all wanted to talk about my business in the Middle East. And what I was doing regarding advising American Oil companies, etc, etc.
It’s public knowledge now that Stefan Halper, himself, paid me $3,000 to write a report about my expertise in the energy business. So, obviously, I had a target on me for that. … And that’s why I think there was a FISA. Recent information I’ve understood is leading me to believe that even more so.
Bongino: If there’s another FISA out there on you, this would be earth-shattering information.
Papadopoulos: Well, let me make something even more clear that supports my contention of this FISA allegation I’m making.
In April of 2017, before everyone probably listening to your show even heard the name Papadopoulos. This is April of 2017, before I was arrested, I had, let’s say, two representatives from, one, the most powerful newspaper in our country and another representative from the largest network tv channel in our country reach out to me on back-to-back days – a couple days after Jim Wolf was leaking information to Ali Watkins of the New York Times about a FISA. They both reached out to me in April of 2017 and told me we have information that you had a FISA on you. (snip) Ship of Fools: How a S... Best Price: $5.99 Buy New $9.44 (as of 04:10 EST - Details)
When they told me this, I laughed it off. I hadn’t been arrested. I hadn’t been embroiled in what I guess I’m in now. So, I was wondering to myself, how could I have a FISA on me when I don’t know any Russians. I don’t know any Russian government officials. What could that possibly be. After that, that’s when this weird guy gives me the $10,000 – a lot of strange things happen after I was told that.
On the face of it, Papadopoulos’s assertions regarding FBI interest in his Israeli connections make perfect sense, but may not bear the interpretation that Papadopoulos is offering. Here’s why. The shadowy Israeli, Charles Tawil — who gave Papadopoulos $10K to take back to the US and be met at the airport by FBI agents — is known from Wikileaks to be a US intelligence asset. As a dual Israeli-US citizen, it’s a good bet that Israeli intelligence was aware of Tawil’s relationship with the US. What this looks like, therefore, is a joint operation — an Israeli assist to the FBI in an operation in which the Israelis probably had little interest beyond maintaining good relations with their US counterparts. Overall, it looks like a classic attempt to get a target jammed up in order to coerce him into serving as an asset. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the FBI didn’t have a FISA on Papadopoulos. As we’ve already noted, unlike Carter Page, Papadopoulos had no Russian connections to hang a Russia Hoax FISA on, but it’s entirely possible that his contacts in the murky politics of the Levant could have been leveraged to obtain a FISA warrant.