An informant was sent by the FBI to infiltrate the Trump campaign in the hopes of ascertaining whether officials were colluding with the Russian government on interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The informant interacted with three Trump campaign staffers: foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, and Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis.
In response to the revelation, the President has called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into whether FBI or DOJ officials abused their power in surveilling the organization.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” President Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday.
The informant, an American academic who has ties to both American and British intelligence services, met with the Trump campaign officials to try and gain details about the interactions between those officials and Russian operatives.
ITN is not reporting the informant’s name following warnings from U.S. intelligence community members to news outlets that doing so may endanger him or other informants.
The source first met Page in July of 2016 at a British symposium. Page recounts the conversations as being pleasant but not memorable. The conference took place just days after Page traveled to Russia to give a speech at that country’s New Economic School. The speech was largely critical of U.S. foreign policy.
Page says he does not recall what he and the professor discussed. He says the two men subsequently met several times in the Washington D.C. area.
In late August 2016, the source then reached out to Clovis. Clovis, through an attorney, said the informant offered his services to the campaign as a foreign policy adviser. Clovis says he and the source met at a hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, for coffee toward the end of the month.
“It was two academics discussing China,” Clovis’ attorney, Victoria Toensing, told The Washington Post. “Russia never came up.”
The informant then reached out to Papadopoulos. “I understand that this is rather sudden but thought that given your expertise it might be of interest to you,” the informant wrote in an email to Papadopoulos in September 2016.
The source was offering Papadopoulos a $3,000 honorarium for writing a research paper on a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the area Papadopoulos’ expertise.
Papadopoulos accepted the offer and flew to London two weeks later where he and the source met for several days along with one of the source’s assistants, a young woman. Over drinks on one of the nights the source asked Papadopoulos about hacked DNC emails that were made public earlier that summer and whether he knew anything about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Papadopoulos denied any knowledge.
It was subsequently revealed that individuals connected with the Russian government reached out to Papadopoulos offering to provide the Trump campaign with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, in late spring/early summer 2016. Papadopoulos’ divulgence of those contacts to an Australian diplomat, and that diplomat’s communication to U.S. authorities is how the FBI-Russia investigation began.
Papadopoulos’ denials frustrated the source. His assistant also pressed Papadopoulos on knowledge of the Russian interference efforts, also to no avail.
Upon returning to the States, Papadopoulos wrote the 1,500-word research paper and was paid the $3,000. “Enjoyed your paper. Just what we wanted. $3,000 wired to your account. Pls confirm receipt,” the source reportedly wrote. Papadopoulos says he and the informant again never spoke again.
The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into the allegations. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has asked the Department of Justice’s Inspector General to look into the actions of FBI and DOJ officials.
“Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement after a meeting yesterday between the President, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Rosenstein.
Rosenstein had issued a statement on Sunday saying, “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
Photo by Quentin Bouvier via Flickr