The government transparency group Judicial Watch has published the document that the FBI drafted to open Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible links to the Russian government.
Congressional Republicans have long fought with the FBI and Justice Department to obtain the document, which lays out the FBI’s rational for opening Crossfire Hurricane. It is also likely at the center of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
Durham has questioned the FBI’s justification for opening the investigation.
The FBI document, dated July 31, 2016, shows that the FBI opened the investigation based largely on a tip about Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. The tipster’s name is redacted in the Judicial Watch copy, but Alexander Downer, the former Australian high commissioner to the U.K., has publicly acknowledged providing a memo to the FBI about Papadopoulos.
Downer and his deputy, Erika Thompson, met with Papadopoulos at a London bar on May 10, 2016.
Downer claimed in a memo he wrote after the encounter that Papadopoulos made a vague reference to the Russian government possibly helping the Trump campaign by releasing information that would hurt Hillary Clinton.
According to Downer, Papadopoulos “also 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 (and President Obama).”
Downer provided the memo to a State Department official at the U.S. embassy in London on July 27, 2016, after WikiLeaks began releasing emailed hacked from the Democratic National Committee.
Peter Strzok, the FBI’s deputy chief of counterintelligence, drafted a so-called Electronic Communication (EC) on July 31, 2016 formally opening Crossfire Hurricane.
“This investigation is being opened to determine whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia,” Strzok wrote.
While the EC lays out much of what was already known about the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, it contains a peculiar passage that does not match what Downer has said about his conversation with Papadopoulos.
It says that an individual whose name is redacted claimed that an unidentified government “had been seeking prominent members of the Donald Trump campaign in which to engage to prepare for potential post-election relations should Trump be elected U.S. President.”
“One of the people identified was George Papadopolous (although public media sources provide a spelling of Papadopoulos), who was believed to be one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers.”
The passage redacts the name of the country being referenced, though the Russian government is readily identified in other parts of the EC.
And nowhere has Downer claimed that Papadopoulos conveyed that the Russian government was trying to engage members of the Trump campaign in preparation for a relationship after the election.
The FBI — and later the special counsel’s office — investigated whether Papadopoulos acted as a foreign agent of both Russian and Israel. The special counsel’s report said there was not evidence that Papadopoulos acted as a foreign agent of either country.
Papadopoulos did plead guilty on Oct. 5, 2017 to making false statements to the FBI regarding contacts he had with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic who told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos has said that he dismissed Mifsud’s remark. He has also said he does not recall discussing Clinton-related material or Russia with Downer.
Downer stopped far short in his memo of suggesting that Papadopoulos and the Trump campaign were working directly with the Russian government.
“It was unclear whether he or the Russians were referring to material acquired publicly of through other means,” Downer said in the memo.
“It was also unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer. We note the Trump team’s reaction could, in the end, have little bearing of what Russia decides to do, with or without Mr. Trump’s cooperation.”