Is the FBI in possession of evidence that “directly refutes” the narrative that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia? One Republican congressman says yes.
In an interview with “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News Channel, Rep. John Ratcliffe told host Maria Bartiromo that the FBI had evidence regarding Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ conversation with an Australian diplomat that it didn’t present to the special court that issued a warrant against Trump campaign aide Carter Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
While Papadopoulos wasn’t the target of that warrant, he was mentioned in heavily redacted portions of the warrant application, according to The Daily Caller.
Papadopoulos first came to the FBI’s attention when reports surfaced that he had a conversation with Alexander Downer, Australia’s top diplomat in the United Kingdom.
According to The New York Times, during a night of drinking in May of 2016, Papadopoulos — then a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign — is alleged to have told Downer that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
When hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee began appearing on WikiLeaks that July, the Australians passed the information on to American intelligence and an investigation quickly followed.
Papadopoulos would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a shadowy Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud. Mifsud, who has disappeared, was alleged by some to be the link between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
However, GOP lawmakers have said in interviews that they have evidence that would actually exonerate Papadopoulos, but haven’t elaborated.
During his appearance on Fox News, Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, gave one of the more comprehensive looks into just what those lawmakers have been saying the FBI is sitting on — and it has to do with what Papadopoulos said regarding that Russian dirt on Clinton.
“Hypothetically, if the Department of Justice and the FBI have another piece of evidence that directly refutes that, that directly contradicts that, what you would expect is for the Department of Justice to present both sides of the coin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to evaluate the weight and sufficiency of that evidence,” Ratcliffe said.
“Instead, what happened here was Department of Justice and FBI officials in the Obama administration in October of 2016 only presented to the court the evidence that made the government’s case to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.”
Ratcliffe said the whole thing can be cleared up if the president decides to declassify documents surrounding the warrant application — something he promised to do last month before quickly backpedaling.
The information in those documents, including 21 pages from the Page warrant, “would corroborate” Ratcliffe’s claims regarding Papadopoulos, Ratcliffe said. However, at the urging of the Department of Justice and foreign allies of the United States, Trump has allowed the documents to stay classified.
“My opinion is that declassifying them would not expose any national security information, would not expose any sources and methods,” Ratcliffe told Fox News.
“It would expose certain folks at the Obama Justice Department and FBI and their actions taken to conceal material facts from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
Even before the declassification kerfuffle, the Page warrant was a source of much sturm und drang inside the Beltway. I suppose that’s what you get when you obtain a court order based in no small part on a dossier that was little more than opposition-funded hearsay.
The Democrats want the controversy to go away, and there’s an easy way to do it: Declassify the documents.
If it sheds new light on the Papadopoulos conversation with Alexander Downer, it could tell us a lot about whether the FBI deliberately withheld information that could have quashed the Russian collusion narrative before it began.
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