Ever since Monday morning’s big unsealing of indictments against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his protege Rick Gates, followed by the revelation that former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos struck a cooperation deal on a guilty plea weeks ago with Robert Mueller’s special counsel, all the news outlets have been anxious to interpret what it all could mean. Is it the beginning of the end? Could it just be the tip of the iceberg?
Most have already come to the conclusion that the cooperative witness is a much bigger problem for Trump than Manafort or Gates since at least in the case of Manafort, the indictment was widely expected and didn’t seem to be causing any major waves for the president. But clearly, the Papadopoulos deal caught Team Trump by surprise, considering the way they’ve worked since the announcement to distance themselves from him.
And in fact, his plea deal presents quite a predicament for the Trump administration.
From the agreement:
In truth and in fact, however, and as set forth above, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for the first time on or about March 14, 2016, after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign; the Professor showed interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS only after learning of his role on the Campaign; and the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS about the Russians possessing “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton in late April 2016, more than a month after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had joined the Campaign.”
It’s what was in the pages of the documents pertaining to him that has me thinking, though.
If indeed the “Senior Trump Adviser” named in the Papadopoulos case is current Trump adviser Stephen Miller, it means a few different things. First of all, it means that someone currently in the administration was aware of blatant attempts at collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos sent emails between Russia and the campaign regularly, reminding everyone involved of a standing invitation at the highest levels of the Russian government to host Donald Trump. He also knew of the Russian government’s possession of “thousands of emails” belonging to Hillary Clinton that his Russian contact called “dirt” on Trump’s opponent.
While there is no evidence that either Papadopoulos or the “professor” in Russia that acted as his contact actually delivered on any such “dirt” on the Clinton campaign or the candidate herself, the existence of it is not in dispute, because there was another attempt to deliver the very same information to Team Trump just a few months after the professor offered it to Papadopoulos.
The meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, and Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower in June of that same year – 2016 – was initially billed as a discussion of “Russian adoptions.” But as an in-depth report from NPR uncovered, talk of the “adoption ban” by Russia on US citizens adopting Russian babies is actually “code” for the Magnitsky Act, the sanctions against Putin’s government that led him to stymie adoptions in retaliation.
In short, Veselnitskaya was not at that meeting with Trump Junior et. al. in order to discuss lifting the adoption ban in exchange for dirt on Clinton. She was there to directly exchange damaging information that would help Trump win the election for an agreement to lift the sanctions on Russia that were implemented under the Magnitsky Act. And everyone in the room that day, including the now-indicted Paul Manafort, knew it.
That’s not opposition research like one might find in the “Steele Dossier” funded initially by the conservative Washington Free Beacon and later by Democrats interested in the information. That’s treason.
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images