From Russia with Love: Papadopoulos, Leverage, and How We Move Forward - by Greer Clem
Thirty year old former Model UN leader George Papadopoulos is waking up today a household name in America. His indictment, released by the Justice Department yesterday, is the most iron-clad proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government we have seen thus far. While Manafort and Gates’ twelve glorious indictments were vindicating and significant, Papadopoulos’s sheds more light on the actual motivation the Russian government had to assist the Trump campaign. And that’s incredibly important, because what Mueller is doing now is building a cage slowly around Trump himself. Trump may be attempting to pass off collusion for ignorance, but Manafort, Papadopoulos, Gates, Don Jr., Jared, and others – they’re going to be the bars that cage him in. What Mueller is building is a case of intent, not negligence and not coincidence, and that is ultimately what will bring justice to this story.
First, I want to go through some of the highlights from the Papadopoulos indictment, because it illuminates the timeline that is so crucial here. Papadopoulos was first interviewed by the FBI on January 27, 2017. This was part of the FBI’s open investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, “including the nature of any links between individuals associated with the campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Bear in mind that this first interview took place a mere 17 days into the Trump presidency; the FBI wastes no time.
In this first interview, Papadopoulos claimed that he had interacted with a London professor who he knew had connections to Russian government officials, but that he had done so before his association with the Trump campaign. In truth, he had learned he would be an advisor to Trump’s campaign in early March, 2016, met the professor on March 14, 2016 and was told about thousands of emails with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton on April 26, 2016. What this timeline shows about this relationship was that the professor only became interested in Papadopoulos after learning he was working for the Trump campaign. No offense to Papadopoulos, but having “Model UN” on your resume really isn’t enough to justify the interest of the Russian government. As it turns out, adding “Trump advisor” is plenty.
The professor then introduces Papadopoulos to a “female Russian national” and supposed relative of Vladmir Putin himself. In one of Papadopoulos’s emails to campaign officials, he refers to her as “Putin’s niece.” On March 31, 2016, Papadopoulos attends a national security meeting with the Trump campaign in D.C., where he presents an opportunity for Trump and Putin to work together. After the meeting, he is praised for his “great work.” The female Russian national then goes to Moscow and meets with the Duma (Russian parliament) and reports back that the Russian federation “would love to welcome Trump once his candidature would be officially announced.” Papadopoulos and this Russian national then have a series of back and forth emails in which they try to arrange a time that Trump can fly to London for an in-person meeting with Putin. Papadopoulos writes to campaign officials, saying, “The advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ' neutral' cities.’” Not at all sketchy.
All of this on its own is pretty damning, but let’s think about this in the context of motive. It was not until April 26, 2016, that Papadopoulos was informed that the Russian government had thousands of emailing containing “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Does it seem likely that the Russian government had these emails laying around and were just waiting for an opportunity to use them? No, it doesn’t. What seems much more likely is that, after Papadopoulos met the London professor, that professor then reported to the Russian government that they had a U.S. presidential candidate who may be willing to work with them. What could Russia do to leverage this position? Supply that candidate with something that would endanger his opponent’s political lead. It thus seems much more likely that Russia, a nation where illegal government activity goes unpunished, obtained these emails so that they then had leverage that would interest the Trump campaign.
But why go to all this trouble? Isn’t this liberal paranoia? Well, not really. See, the thing that Putin and Trump have most in common is that they want to roll back Obama-era regulation. Trump will do anything that reverses Obama’s legacy, and part of that legacy is the Magnitsky Act, the one thing that Putin hates the most about America. His response to the Magnitsky Act, which prevented top Russian officials from using American banking systems, traveling to the U.S., and publicly listed those involved in Sergei Magnitsky’ s death, was nothing short of villainous. He responded by banning American families from adopting Russian children, going so far as to name the ban after a child who tragically died in the care of his adopted American parents. So, no, this isn’t paranoia, this is logical conclusion.
But if this isn’t enough to convince you on its own, consider the Magnitsky Act motivation in the context of definitive evidence that the Russian government paid for millions of ads and articles to muddy our electoral process. And this isn’t speculation; American intelligence agencies have confirmed this and the Senate Intelligence Committee has endorsed these findings. As early as March, 2016, the Russian government knew they had an American presidential candidate who would work with them and 7 months to help make his presidency a reality.
This whole story comes down to leverage. Russia had the leverage to help the Trump campaign, and the campaign in turn had leverage to help lift Russian sanctions and allow their government to continue its reign of abuse. This leverage does not erase the fact that millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump, that they all had unique reasons for doing so, and that our national politics are more divisive than ever. But it offers something all Americans should be united against: an invasion of our Democratic process. There will be many who will refuse to see the truth of these findings about Trump campaign representatives. There will certainly be those who decry this investigation as a “witch hunt” propagated by incensed liberals. But those people deny the threat our democracy faces, and regardless of how you feel about Trump’s political policies and promises to our country, we should all be agreed that, at the very least, he allowed this collusion to occur. It’s more likely he was a complicit actor, but even if he merely let it happen, that’s not the kind of leader we need. That is not a leader who will defend the democratic standard our nation has set for the world at large for over 200 years. And supporting Mueller’s investigation as Special Counsel goes hand in hand with protecting our democracy. Calling for his dismissal would signal that we are okay with allowing our electoral process to be manipulated. This isn’t about parties or platforms, it’s about the protection of American institutions and the transparency of our leadership. We can expect the Trump administration to adhere to neither, and for that reason alone, he should no longer be President.