Donald Trump and his surrogates are working hard to distance themselves from campaign foreign adviser George Papadopoulos—and for good reason. Because, even though the items contained in Papadopoulos’s Statement of the Offense are a very small, tightly edited subset of Papadopoulos’s work and communication with the campaign, they lead to some really interesting possibilities.
For example, on April 26, Joseph Mifsud (“the Professor”) informs Papadopolous that the Russians have obtained “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” The statement doesn’t say directly that Papadopoulos is informed that these emails were stolen from the DNC and John Podesta, but it does note that Mifsud says that "the Russians have emails of Clinton.”
Immediately following this conversation, Papadopoulos contacts the campaign, though the details aren’t revealed. Then, on April 27, Papadopoulos emails both Paul Manafort (“the High-Ranking Campaign Official”) and someone else (“the Senior Policy Adviser”). What Papadopoulos tells them about the emails in this email isn’t noted.
Papadopoulos continues to talk with Mifsud, and with a Russian national about a potential meeting. He calls Sam Clovis (“the Campaign Supervisor”) on May 5 to talk about it and continues sending emails titled “Russia update.” He communicates with Manafort again on May 14, and with another senior person in the campaign (“the Other Campaign Supervisor”) on May 21.
Considering the reach of Papadopoulos’s communications, it’s safe to assume that when Rob Goldstone contacts Donald Trump Jr. on June 3, all the senior staff of the Trump campaign are already aware that Russia has thousands of emails stolen from Democratic sources. When Natalia Veselnitskaya maintains that most of the talk at the June 9 Trump Tower meeting was about the Magnitsky Act, she could be telling the truth—the Trump team already knew what Russia had to sell. So they only needed to negotiate the payment.
And one other thing—the distribution. Even for the Trump campaign, receiving gigabytes of stolen data directly would be dicey. They needed a way to make the material public, and make it feasible for Trump to use—not easy for stolen goods.
So … whose idea was WikiLeaks? Was it Russia that made the call to Julian Assange, or was it someone inside the Trump campaign?
It was July before the first material from the DNC popped up on WikiLeaks. The first hint that they had this information came in a tweet on July 4—a month after the Trump Tower meeting. WikiLeaks published a few Clinton emails that day, but they were emails obtained normally through FOIA rather than stolen. On July 19, WikiLeaks finally began pushing out emails stolen from the DNC. Trump immediately began to use the material in his campaign.
Members of the Trump campaign were certainly aware of WikiLeaks before this time. Trump himself talked—negatively—about the site when they released classified information in 2010. It’s also clear there was communication between Trump’s data team and Assange.
We know this much:
- What did Russia have? Gigabytes of stolen emails.
- When did Trump know they had them? In April, months before others were aware.
- What did Russia want for this material? Action on sanctions.
- How did they decide to distribute the material? Through WikiLeaks.
The Trump campaign and Russian representatives arranged to talk about this exact topic on June 9 in Trump Tower. The only real questions are: Did Trump agree to the price, and who determined the timing and distribution of the emails?