Notes of an FBI briefing in March 2017 indicate since-fired bureau agent Peter Strzok spread incorrect details about the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Strzok incorrectly claimed in his 2020 book, Compromised, that Australian diplomat Alexander Downer was spurred to inform the U.S. government about a May 2016 conversation he had in London with George Papadopoulos (in which the Trump campaign associate allegedly mentioned Russia might have dirt on Hillary Clinton) only after hearing then-candidate Donald Trump say in July 2016: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails.”
It now appears he also made that false claim in March 2017 when briefing Justice Department and FBI officials about the Trump-Russia investigation. Strzok admitted in September 2020 he had gotten that detail wrong in his book, though he downplayed it.
The mistake now seems like a pattern.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded Australia actually informed the United States of this Papadopoulos conversation on July 26, 2016. Trump made the comment about Russia on July 27.
Newly released handwritten notes labeled as by Tashina Gauhar, then the associate deputy attorney general, indicate Strzok made the same misleading claim about Trump’s remarks prompting the Australian to reach out to the FBI when briefing then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente and others on March 6, 2017.
Notes from Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools state it was Strzok who handled the Papadopoulos angle of the briefing.
BIDEN DISINFO CHIEF NINA JANKOWICZ PUSHED TRUMP-RUSSIA COLLUSION CLAIMS
“Papadopoulos … May 2016 … Friendly Liaison that Papadopoulos said Trump campaign could release info hurtful to H [Hillary Clinton] … Make a report & file it,” Gauhar wrote. “Then see release of DNC hack + Trump comment about Russia release more … Foreign Service remembers conversation + reaches out to FBI.”
Notes from Schools largely match this, writing, “PS [Peter Strzok]: Papadopoulos in May. Trump team received suggestion from R [Russia] that it could assist Trump team by having info that would embarrass Clinton and Obama. We start seeing release of DNC hack. Trump if you’re listening. We open up umbrella investigation — Crossfire Hurricane.”
Schools added that the FBI briefed U.S. Attorney Zach Terwilliger “on predication and how he [Papadopoulos] fit in.”
The notes were made public by attorneys for Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was indicted in a case brought by special counsel John Durham for allegedly concealing his clients, Clinton’s campaign and “Tech Executive-1” Rodney Joffe, from former FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016 when he presented discredited Trump-Russia claims.
Sussmann’s team cited legal analysis by Strzok when unsuccessfully arguing for dismissal.
A calendar invitation for the 2017 meeting said the organizer was Gauhar, while other required attendees were Baker, acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, FBI counterintelligence official Bill Priestap, James Rybicki of the FBI, and members of DOJ’s National Security Division.
Strzok previously admitted his book mistake during a Zoom discussion when asked about the contradiction unearthed by the Washington Examiner.
“So, I got that wrong. So, I was writing my book without the benefit of the notes — the FBI had those — and the IG report had not been issued,” Strzok said. “What happened was there was a big dump through WikiLeaks that occurred prior to the Australians notifying us, and it’s absolutely as the IG report describes it. [The Australians] saw that, that prompted their memory of the conversation, and then they began the process of contacting us overseas and giving that information to us. My recollection is, and the reason why I mentioned that conversation about Trump’s speech and ‘Russia, are you listening?’ — when we finally in the Counterintelligence Division got that lead from the friendly foreign government, it was at the same time as Trump was making those comments, which were really concerning.”
Strzok called it “a little error,” saying: “I know some people are scrubbing timelines for little details and scoping headlines around them, but that was an honest mistake based on a lack of a specific recollection, and then, after I had submitted my book to pre-pub review, all this information came out afterwards.”
Strzok’s book came out in September 2020, months after Horowitz’s report was released in December 2019 and more than a year after Mueller’s report was made public in April 2019.
His book falsely claimed “the communication … had been precipitated by a public statement by Donald Trump,” and “in Downer’s recounting, Trump’s words jarred his memory of a series of conversations months earlier.”
Strzok made the same false claim on CBS when asked if Trump’s words brought the investigation down on himself. Strzok replied, “According to what the foreign government told us, yes.”
Trump suggested to the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 2019 that his comments were “sarcastic.” He told Mueller’s investigators he “made the statement … in jest and sarcastically.”
The “opening electronic communication” for Crossfire Hurricane was authored by Strzok and authorized by Priestap at the end of July 2016. The investigation didn’t interview Papadopoulos until January 2017.
It was then Papadopoulos revealed his April 2016 conversations with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who the Trump campaign adviser claimed told him the Russians had damaging information on Clinton. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements about his communications with Mifsud.
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Horowitz found the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation had “sufficient factual predication.” Then-Attorney General William Barr and Durham disagreed.