Checking the facts regarding Trump’s Russia probe rhetoric
WASHINGTON — Russia tribulations provided fertile ground for President Donald Trump and others to sow confusion over the past week.
Over days of head-snapping developments, the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election produced indictments and a guilty plea reaching into Trump’s campaign team. A look back at the rhetoric: TRUMP tweet Tuesday: “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”
THE FACTS: George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying about his Russian interactions, was not as obscure as Trump makes him out to be. Trump named Papadopoulos to his foreign policy advisory council in March 2016, where he joined a short list of experts helping the candidate with international affairs.
“Excellent guy,” Trump told The Washington Post at the time. Trump also tweeted a photo of his March 31 advisory council meeting, with Papadopoulos among several advisers at the president’s table. Jeff Sessions, then a senator and now attorney general, was helping Trump’s campaign and attended at least two meetings of the advisory council with Papadopoulos also there.
In April 2016, Papadopoulos met a professor with connections to the Russian government for breakfast in London and was told Moscow had “dirt” helpful to Trump, namely Hillary Clinton emails. Investigators said Papadopoulos emailed a Trump campaign policy adviser the next day, saying, “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”
Investigators said his position with the campaign, though not senior, was significant to those who wanted to pass on helpful information. The allegations unsealed Monday state that “the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign.”
The adviser met later with more apparent Russian intermediaries.
Altogether, this episode provided evidence in the first criminal case connecting Trump’s team to Russian interests.
TRUMP tweet Monday: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”
THE FACTS: Not true, according to the indictment against Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for months last year, and against Manafort associate Rick Gates.
They are charged with criminal activities that go back to 2006 but extend to February of this year. The charges do not refer to Manafort’s activities with the campaign but rather accuse him of laundering money and conspiratorial acts before, during and after he was campaign chairman.
Manafort and Gates face 12 counts, which do deal largely with activities from 2006 to 2015, before Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016.
But both are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the U.S. from 2006 to this year.
And both are charged with conspiring together to make false statements and conceal crimes against the U.S., and to causing others to do so, from November 2016 to February 2017.
The indictment emerged from the broad investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It does not go to the heart of that matter.