In late October 2016, less than two weeks before the presidential election, a former adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, George Papadopoulos, denied to an FBI confidential source that the campaign was involved in the circumstances surrounding the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, calling the idea “illegal.”
CBS News has now reviewed the transcript of the conversation between Papadopoulos and the confidential source working for the FBI, and has published key excerpts below.
The recorded conversation between Papadopoulos and the confidential source working for the FBI was documented in the December report issued by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz into the FBI’s surveillance of campaign aide Carter Page and other actions related to the FBI probe known as “Crossfire Hurricane.” But the excerpts of the transcript published here provide new details about the interaction between Papadopoulos and the FBI source in the final days of the presidential campaign.
His conversation with an Australian diplomat in May 2016, in which he said that Russia had political dirt on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, spawned the two-year Russia investigation. Papadopoulos, among the first Trump campaign associates to face criminal charges related to the Russia investigation, served a brief prison sentence for lying to the FBI about his contacts with foreign nationals during the campaign.
The failure by government investigators to include key sections of the Papadopoulos transcripts in the warrants, including denials the campaign “was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like Wikileaks,” to surveil Page was listed among the 17 inaccuracies and omissions documented by Horowitz in his December report. He described the omission this way: “Papadopoulos’s statement to an FBI CHS (confidential human source) in late October 2016 denying that the Trump campaign was involved in the circumstances of the DNC hack.”
The transcript, in which Papadopulos is apparently given the code name “Crossfire Typhoon” or CT, at the end of the hours-long conversation, shows the confidential human source questioning him about the DNC hack:
CHS: You don’t think anyone from the Trump campaign had anything to do with the f***ing over the, at the DNC?
Papadopoulos: No. I know that for a fact.
CHS: How do you know that for a fact?
Papadopoulos: ‘Cause I go, I’ve been working with them for the last nine months. That’s (unintelligible) And all of this stuff has been happening, what, the last four months?
The FBI source then pressed Papadopoulos on whether someone on the Trump campaign might have been secretly involved.
CHS: But you don’t think anyone would have done it, like under, undercover or anything like that?
Papadopoulos: No, I don’t think so…..There’s absolutely no reason…First of all, it’s illegal, you know, to do that s***.
Earlier in the profanity-laced conversation, which covered a wide range of topics, the confidential source asked about Moscow’s election meddling.
CHS: You think Russia’s playing a big game in this election?
CHS: Why not?
Papadopoulos: Why would they?
CHS: Don’t you think they have special interests?
Papadopoulos: Something like that (Banging sound) I don’t think so. That’s all bull****. No one know’s who’s hacking— them.
CHS: You don’t think that they, that they hacked the, the DNC? Who hacked the f***ing DNC then?
Papadopoulos: Could be the Chinese, could be the Iranians, it could be some Bernie, uh, supporters. Could be— Anonymous.
The conversation continued, with the FBI source zeroing in on Russia and then-candidate Trump.
CHS: Do you think they have interest in Trump?
Papadopoulos: They, dude, no one knows how a president’s going to govern anyway, You don’t just say, oh I like —
CHS: He is very limited in what he can do anyways so like (laughs)…
Papadopoulos: I mean, the r-the Congress is very hostile with Russia anyways, so…I don’t know, I don’t know. And even Putin said it himself (unintelligible) (rustling) It’s all, it’s like conspiracy theories.
In his December report, Horowitz faulted the FBI for failing to include evidence that undercut the surveillance warrant application for Page, and three subsequent renewals. Conversations involving Papadopoulos were the catalyst for opening the FBI probe into any alleged coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia in late July 2016.
However, Horowitz also noted in his report that “Case Agent 1” had said of a similar recorded conversation with Papadopoulos in September 2016 “the Crossfire Hurricane team’s assessment was that the Papadopoulos denial was a rehearsed response, and that he did not view the information as particularly germane to the investigation of Carter Page.”
Case Agent 1 told the OIG that he and the team had discounted Papadopoulos’ denials for a number of reasons, but a footnote to the report said the agent realized in hindsight that the denials, as well as the team’s assessment of his denials, should have been shared with Justice Department’s office of intelligence (OI) “in order for [OI] to make the determination whether [those denials] should be in the application.”
Horowitz noted in his report intelligence received from a friendly foreign government that Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton…”
Faulting the FBI, Horowitz wrote that because the surveillance target has “no defense counsel,” there is a special obligation on the FBI and Justice Department to “over tell” the story and include a “full and accurate” presentation of the facts to meet the bureau’s standard of “scrupulously accurate.”
Apart from the serious flaws Horowitz found in the FBI investigation, he said in his report that “we concluded that the quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open the individual investigations on Papadopoulos, Page, Flynn, and Manafort in August 2016 was sufficient to satisfy the low threshold established by the Department and the FBI.”
In response to the Horowitz report, the FBI has undertaken a broad review of the FISA process, and Director Christopher Wray “ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s recommendations.”