The political world learned a new name on Monday, that of George Papadopoulos, the former adviser to President Trump's campaign caught up in the Robert Mueller investigation. Papadopoulos has admitted lying to the FBI about his outreach to Russian individuals in a bid to get "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, and several stories are now raising a troubling new concern for the White House: that Papadopoulos wore a wire as part of his cooperation in order to get a more lenient sentence. The details:
- Key phrase: Court documents highlighted by Brad Heath of USA Today label Papadopoulos a "proactive cooperator." The documents from Mueller's office say Papadopoulos "indicated that he is willing to cooperate with the government," and hint at the reason his arrest remained under wraps for three months: "Public disclosure ... would significantly undermine his ability to work as a proactive cooperator."
- Which means what? The documents don't spell out what Papadopoulos did to earn the label proactive cooperator, "but one nerve-racking possible implication is that Mr. Papadopoulos has recently worn a wire in conversations with other former campaign officials," writes former US attorney Harry Litman in the New York Times. "This will surely have members of Mr. Trump's inner circle agonizing about the possibility and wondering who else might have been similarly cooperating with the investigation."
- Makes sense: Papadopoulos "was a perfect guy to try to recruit for that—young, in over his head, outside the Trump inner circle and therefore owing little loyalty to the administration," writes blogger Allahpundit at Hot Air. Mueller could have threatened a long prison sentence if he didn't help out.
- Proven tactic: In response to the wire-sting possibility laid out in detail at Hot Air, Jason Zengerle tweets that he once wrote a story for the New Republic about the FBI using "exactly this scenario," and links to it here.
- Who is Papadopoulos? NPR runs down what's known about the 30-year-old energy lawyer, who graduated from DePaul in 2009. He served in an unpaid position on the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser, pitching himself as an expert on oil and gas and in Mediterranean energy policy. The Washington Post reported in April 2016, however, that he seemed to have significantly embellished his resume.
- Trump's words: On Tuesday, Trump distanced himself from Papadopoulos, calling him "low level" and "proven to be a liar." But in March 2016, he told the Post editorial board that Papadopoulos was an "energy and oil consultant, excellent guy."
- 3 key parts: The plea agreement for Papadopoulos has three key sections, writes Jeremy Stahl at Slate. The first details the adviser's communication with a "professor" claiming to have Clinton-related emails, the second refers to an email forwarded by Papadopoulos to campaign staffers promising "cooperation" from the Russians, and the third is a subsequent phone call between Papadopoulos and a campaign supervisor. "If there is a smoking gun lurking somewhere in Monday’s news, it is likely to emerge from these exchanges," writes Stahl, who lays out the possibilities.
- And another: At CNN, Chris Cillizza notes that the legal documents specify that the "professor" who reached out to Papadopoulos did so only after the latter had become affiliated with the Trump campaign. "That. Is. A. Very. Big. Deal," he writes, referring to the investigation of collusion.
- On his own? PolitiFact tries to suss out how important of a role Papadopoulos played as a foreign policy adviser, but it refrains from drawing a true-or-false conclusion because so much is "open to interpretation." One interesting point: "There is some evidence to support the argument that Papadopoulos was freelancing by pushing the Russia connection."
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