Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley pressed Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding the “selective use” of emails in court filings in the case against former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, according to a letter sent Friday to Attorney General William Barr.
In the letter to Barr, Grassley referred to a letter he sent Mueller on Nov. 16, 2017, two weeks after prosecutors revealed that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Grassley said that prosecutors’ “statement of offense” against Papadopoulos quoted selectively from campaign emails in a way that suggested that the Trump campaign wanted a low-level staffer to meet with Russians.
“In addition, on November 16, 2017, the Committee wrote to Special Counsel Mueller regarding the selective use of emails in the George Papadopoulos Statement of Offense,” reads the letter from Grassley, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when he sent the missive to Mueller.
The Republican said that other campaign emails showed that the Trump team merely wanted a campaign aide to reject offers to meet with Russia.
“As one example, in the absence of additional context, news outlets have seized on the fragment cited in the Statement’s footnote to suggest that a Trump ‘Campaign official suggested ‘low level’ staff should go to Russia,’” Grassley wrote in his letter Friday, citing a CNN article that interpreted the Papadopoulos filing as possible evidence that the Trump campaign encouraged staffers to meet with Russians.
The statement of offense quoted from a May 21, 2016 email that Papadopoulos sent to Trump campaign official Sam Clovis with the subject line, “Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.”
“Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss,” wrote Papadopoulos.
According to Mueller’s filing, Clovis forwarded the email to another campaign official, writing: “Let[‘]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
“In full context, the emails in question actually show that the Trump Campaign wanted someone ‘low level’ to decline these types of invitations,” Grassley wrote.
Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail on Sept. 7, 2018 for making false statements to the FBI, did contact his Trump campaign bosses about potential meetings with Russians. He promoted the idea after meeting Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who claimed to have links to the Russian government.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s case on Oct. 5, 2017 to lying to the FBI months earlier about his interactions with Mifsud. Prosecutors said that Papadopoulos lied when he claimed to have met Mifsud before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016.
Papadopoulos did tell the FBI that Mifsud claimed during a meeting in London in April 2016 that he had learned that Russia had “thousands” of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The FBI would open its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign based on a tip about Papadopoulos that had been provided by the Australian government. Alexander Downer, the top Australian diplomat to the U.K., claimed that Papadopoulos told him during a meeting in London on May 10, 2016 that Russia had information that could harm Clinton’s campaign.
Papadopoulos’ light sentence in the Mueller probe has been widely interpreted as a clue that prosecutors do not believe he colluded with Russia or handled any of Clinton’s emails.
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