MEADOWS: ‘The facts that we’re finding in here are astounding…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) George Papadopoulos, one of the key players involved in the alleged Russia collusion conspiracy to undermine the 2016 presidential election, met privately with members of two House committees on Thursday.
He offered new information that further undermines the legitimacy of the FBI’s pre- and post-election collusion investigations.
Papadopoulos’s classified testimony left several prominent Republicans very “concerned” about the origins of the FBI’s FISA-approved surveillance operations against the Trump campaign and presidential transition, and the legitimacy of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation that began after President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey last year.
“What we’re finding without talking about specifics of what’s going on is that the whole reason that this investigation was opened up was certainly not one built on a solid foundation,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, told reporters.
Meadows sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and suggested after hours of questioning that the so-called Russian dossier that was the basis for obtaining the initial FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, “was a piece of paper that quite frankly is not based on facts.”
The dossier was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, and was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign through the Democratic super-law firm, Perkins Coie. The FBI was even paying Steele at one point during the 2016 general election until he was caught leaking parts of the dossier to reporters.
The dossier, among other things, alleges that Trump had relations with Russian prostitutes in Moscow that involved urine. In Senate Judiciary Committee testimony earlier this year, Comey himself said the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”
For his part, Papadopoulos was a low-level, 28-year-old foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, who got caught up in the FBI’s surveillance dragnet after drunkenly boasting to a British spy that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from her emails. That statement alone prompted the FBI’s investigation.
But no evidence of wrongdoing was ever found, leaving Papadopoulos, like Carter Page, looking like potential patsies in a much larger intelligence community operation commonly referred to as Russia-gate.
“I’m very concerned,” Meadows said. “But the facts that we’re finding in here are astounding that we would allow this type of investigation go to be embarked upon without any real, solid foundation of collusion.”
“To see it from his [Papadopoulos’s] perspective gives me great pause and concern,” Meadows said.
Meadows saidsome Justice Department and FBI staffers should be referred to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility “to determine whether proper protocol was followed, and I’m certainly willing to encourage that.”
Full House committees were not present for Papadopoulos’s testimony, due to Congress being in recess — so elected officials can campaign in their home districts and states prior to the midterm elections.
Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin was present however, and said afterward the hours-long behind-closed-doors exchange was itself a conspiracy.
“There is a right-wing echo chamber that traffics in rumors and lies and fake news, and they all said it back to each other,” Raskin said.
Raskin also pointed to Papadopoulos’s guilty plea at the hands of Mueller’s special counsel.
But even that is suspicious, according to Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, who was also present. Papadopoulos was charged with lying to the FBI and received a 14-day jail sentence — a pittance considering he was alleged to have been a major player in the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
“I think he’s trying to understand how a 28-year-old campaign adviser who’d been on the job for less than a month has been embroiled in the highest-profile investigation in recent times,” Ratcliffe said about Papadopoulos.
“That’s why he was not charged with anything Russia collusion-related or Russian obstruction-related or anything Russia-related,” Ratcliffe added.
Ratcliffe also said committee members will “continue to question why the FBI and Department of Justice felt that there was probable cause to be looking at figures like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who had either minimal or nonexistent contact with the Russian government.”