Andrew McCarthy, a prominent columnist for National Review and the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the South District of New York, says in his latest piece that the case against former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos is nonsensical and weak. Papadopoulos, who has been charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for lying to the FBI, is supposedly Suspect Zero when it comes to initiating the Bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. The story goes that Georgie drunkenly spilled the beans to an Australian diplomat last spring, letting this guy know that Russia had some “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and that the Trump folks were determined to get their hands on it.
That story is dubious enough, but McCarthy says that the charge of false statements against Papadopoulos is even more suspicious.
“Congress should be taking a very hard look at the prosecution of George Papadopoulos. To these eyes, the harder one looks, the more the Papadopoulos case appears to be much ado about nothing. That is no small thing: The ‘much ado’ here is a purported Trump–Russia conspiracy to subvert a presidential election,” writes McCarthy.
McCarthy notes that while the 13-page “Statement of the Offense” against Papadopoulos goes into great detail about all of the supposed colluding this low-level aide did against the United States, it underwhelms by only charging him with a false statement to investigators about timing. Papadopoulos told agents that he met with a Kremlin-affiliated academic named Joseph Mifsud before being named to the Trump campaign; investigators found that he did so after being appointed. And even that is arguable, since Papadopoulos was not officially named as a policy advisor until after the meeting. Strange stuff.
McCarthy, though, is not so much questioning the strength of the charge as he is the veracity of the underlying meetings. In other words, does Mueller believe that Papadopoulos was really in contact with an agent of Moscow?
“When one looks carefully at Mueller’s statement of the offense, and at the one-count criminal-information to which Papadopoulos pled guilty, one realizes Mueller is not claiming that Mifsud and his associates truly were Kremlin operatives — only that Papadopoulos was under the impression that they were,” he writes. “The information legalistically accuses Papadopoulos of lying about his ‘interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.’ That is, Papadopoulos is accused of misrepresenting his subjective state of mind, not objective reality.”
If it turns out that Papadopoulos was merely meeting with some dude who wildly and inaccurately claimed he had an inside track to the Kremlin and access to emails that didn’t actually exist…this is extremely important for the American people to know. This devastates the entire Russian collusion case and turns it into something of such minor scandal that it barely deserves a day’s worth of media coverage. If THIS is the thin thread upon which the Mueller investigation hangs…the Democratic Party (and many top officials in the Obama administration) is going to have a lot of explaining to do.