When CNN reported late Thursday that the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, intended to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Donald Trump knew in advance of his son’s June 2016 meeting with Russians who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, the summer-time Trump Tower confab from two years ago re-entered the limelight.
A quick retweet of the story by Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, pushing what I knew was a false narrative, sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole known presidentially as Spygate. What began as a deep-dive into the Trump Tower meeting unearthed yet further proof of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to surveil former Trump advisor Carter Page and revealed additional evidence implicating the State Department in targeting Trump.
Some Strange Coincidences Among Trump Tower Players
In early June 2016, Rob Goldstone, a publicist Donald Trump Jr. knew from his father’s time with the Miss Universe pageant in Russia in 2013, contacted the younger Trump with news that a “crown prosecutor” for Russia had offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Goldstone’s reach-out culminated in the brief June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower.
In addition to Goldstone and Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law), and then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort attended the meeting. Goldstone brought four Russians: Russian-American lobbyist Rinait Akhmetshin; a Russian real-estate developer, Ike Kaveladze; lawyer and former Russian prosecutor Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had promised the dirt on Hillary; and Veselnitskaya’s interpreter, Anatoli Samochornov.
After news of the meeting broke in July 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings to investigate whether there was any evidence of collusion to interfere in the presidential election between the Trump campaign and the Russian attendees. The testimony established that the only incriminating evidence Veselnitskaya offered consisted of information indicating donors illegally contributed to Clinton. It showed the promise of “dirt” was merely a pretext to provide Veselnitskaya access to Trump Jr. so she could lobby against the Magnitsky Act—a law establishing sanctions against Russian human rights abusers—and to discuss Russian adoptions.
While the hearing uncovered zero evidence of collusion with Russia, the attendees’ testimony and Veselnitskaya’s written statement revealed two strange coincidences that, considered in light of other evidence implicating Obama administration officials and career DOJ and FBI employees in spying on the Trump campaign, proved suspcious.
All These People Sure Get Together a Lot
First, the evening before the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya and Samochornov had dinner with Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS. The evening after the Trump Tower meeting, they again dined together. Since Fusion GPS procured the anti-Trump Steele dossier for Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, then shared the salacious and unverified hit piece with the FBI, which used the information to obtain a FISA court order to spy on Page, the Trump Tower meeting appeared yet another set-up by either the Democratic campaign or the Democrats running the DOJ and FBI.
Simpson, however, testified that the dinner meetings stemmed from Fusion GPS’s separate work for Veselnitskaya related to her representation of a Russian company called Prevezon. The DOJ had instituted a civil forfeiture case against Prevezon in New York City, and Veselnitskaya hired an American law firm to defend her clients, which in turn hired Fusion GPS. In researching the players involved in the DOJ’s case against Prevezon, Fusion GPS discovered what appeared to be “financial misconduct by major contributors to the Clinton Global Initiative, a project of the Clinton Foundation.” Veselnitskaya sought to shop this information to Trump Jr.
Further, the same day as the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya attended a court hearing in the Prevezon case. Simpson testified that he did not know of the Trump Tower meeting and averred that he never discussed Fusion GPS’s separate work investigating Trump. Samochornov confirmed that the dinner meetings related to the Prevezon case and that no mention was made of the Trump Tower meeting or the separate investigation into Trump. Veselnitskaya’s statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee told a similar story.
Given Fusion GPS’s role in procuring the Steele dossier, the revelation that the Trump Tower attendees were connected to Fusion led some to posit that the meeting was a set-up. However, while the timing and overlap of characters seems highly suspicious, I agree with Andrew McCarthy, who convincingly analyzed the connections in much greater detail here, that “[i]n the end, it all seems like sound and fury signifying nothing.”
That Wasn’t the Only Weird Coincidence
Yet a second strange coincidence stems from the Trump Tower meeting—this one involving Veselnitskaya’s interpreter, Samochornov. Samochornov testifed that he had worked for years as a contractor for Meridian International, and during that time he served as an interpreter for then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton on one occasion. Two or three times, Samochornov interpreted for then-secretary of state John Kerry. He also interpreted former president Barack Obama’s United Nations summits and then-vice president Joe Biden’s United Nations’ speech.
Additionally, an archived FBI press release from 2010 identified Samochornov as the program officer of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The event promoted in the press release? Then-acting FBI special agent in charge Lauren C. Anderson’s “summary of the international scope of the FBI under circumstances relating to counterterrorism and criminal cases and the collaboration between various countries’ national intelligence services, based on her own extensive background and international cases she investigated.”
The press released added that Anderson told the guests of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership program how teamwork between the United States and our European allies allows the FBI to fight international crime. After new sources identified Samochornov as the Russian interpreter, outlets also began reporting that his wife works for the State Department, in the Office of International Visitors.
These coincidences, coupled with Rep. Devin Nunes’ (CA-R) complaint earlier this month that the DOJ is still withholding from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), “critical documents detailing the FBI’s use of informants to spy on the Trump campaign prior to the official launch of the Russia collusion investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane,” heightened my suspicion.
But then I read the transcript of Samochornov’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His frank, open responses to the committee’s questions, including a detailed explanation of his work as an interpreter for Veslnitskaya, rings true. Samochornov testified under oath that he did not discuss the Trump Tower meeting with anyone, which would preclude him from being a snitch.
Of course, he could be lying, but I seriously doubt it. Instead, it seems that Veselnitskaya, Hillary, Kerry, Obama, Biden, and the Department of State all used Samochornov for a simple reason: Samochornov “is the best interpreter in New York, hands down.”
The Mysterious Joseph Mifsud Resurfaces
But while Samochornov’s involvement seems innocent enough, the sojourn into his history snagged another thread: In reading the old FBI press release, the aforementioned “United States Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program,” struck a chord of familiarity. Sure enough, the program is run by the State Department’s Office of International Visitors, which sponsors the Global Ties national conference. The February 8, 2017, Global Ties conference in Washington DC featured Joseph Mifsud as a speaker.
Mifsud was the Maltese professor connected to the London Centre of International Law, where former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos served a short stint in the spring of 2016. In April of that year, upon returning from a trip to Russia, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary.
The FBI later claimed that it launched Crossfire Hurricane in July 2016, after learning that Papadopoulos had repeated Mifsud’s claim to an Australia diplomat in London over drinks. Mifsud denied Papadopoulos’ version of the events and claimed that he told the FBI as much during a February 2017 interview with federal agents while in DC for the conference.
The State Department’s involvement with the Global Ties conference merited only passing mention two months ago, but since then we have learned of extensive connections between the State Deparment and the launch of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign, which The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross detailed recently here.
In light of those revelations and the FBI’s past collegial relationship with the State Department’s Office of International Visitors, the invitation to Mifsud to speak at the Global Ties’ conference appears to have been either to provide cover for Mifsud to speak to the FBI, in which case he would be a plant, or a set-up to give the FBI access to the supposed Russian spy. But why then did the FBI release Mifsud and allow him to leave the country?
Let’s Review the Carter Page FISA Applications to See
The recently released Page FISA applications might provide a hint, I thought, so I pulled the sections discussing Papadopoulos from the four applications to compare. A spare line, unblackened portion, or even the addition of several redacted paragraphs might give some insight.
The important comparison would be between the second application filed in January 2017 (by mid-January, because the October 21, 2016, surveillance order expired in 90 days) and the FISA application filed in April 2017, because three significant events occurred during that time.
First, the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos on January 27, 2017. Second, the FBI reportedly interviewed Mifsud in early-to-mid February, 2017 in Washington DC, when Mifsud spoke at the Global Ties conference. Third, the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos again on February 16, 2017. The April 2017 application should have included details from these interviews, especially details from its interview of Mifsud, who, after all, supposedly provided the information that launched Crossfire Hurricane.
But the page-plus summary of Papadopoulos’ role in the Trump campaign and his supposed nexus to “coordinated efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election” remained unchanged. (Compare pages 93-94 with pages 191-192 of the released FISA applications available here.) The only apparent change in that section came in the concluding paragraph, detailing Page’s “established relationships with Russian Government officials,” with a slight addition to the footnote. (See page 192 of the FISA Application file.)
Of particular note, the footnote included a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request exemption notation, b7D-1, which allows the government to withhold information that “could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.”
These facts indicate that the DOJ did not inform the FISA court of the FBI interviews with Papadopoulos and Mifsud. But it should have, especially if Mifsud denied Papadopoulos’ claim that the Maltese professor had bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary. Or was Mifsud an FBI informant or an asset of a foreign government, and was that instead what the DOJ told the FISA court?
It’s time for the FBI to come clean: Who was Mifsud, and what was his role in the launch of Crossfire Hurricane? And did the State Department assist the FBI in handling Mifsud? Congress and the president supposedly hold power over these agencies. They, and we, need the answers.