Top officials on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rebuffed requests from a lower level volunteer seeking meetings between the then-real estate mogul and Russian government, according to email exchanges leaked to The Washington Post.
According to The Post, George Papadopoulos, an energy consultant, sent a half-dozen emails to Trump campaign officials suggesting and requesting meetings between Trump and members of the Russian government, including Vladimir Putin.
The campaign emails, which were read to The Post by an unidentified source, reveal a previously-undisclosed connection between a member of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Papadopoulos indicated in some of the emails that he had contacts close to the Russian government.
But the exchanges also run counter to the allegations that the campaign colluded with the Russian government prior to the election.
That’s because Papadopoulos, a former research fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, had his requests for meetings shot down by campaign officials, including policy director Sam Clovis.
Papadopoulos sent his first inquiry on March 24, 2016, just three days after he was announced as an adviser on the campaign. In an email to Clovis, which had the subject line, “Meeting with Russian Leadership – Including Putin,” Papadopoulos suggested “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.”
Clovis opposed the idea.
“We thought we probably should not go forward with any meeting with the Russians until we have had occasion to sit with our NATO allies,” Clovis responded, according to The Post.
Chuck Kubic, a retired rear admiral and campaign foreign policy adviser, also cautioned against the request.
“Just want to make sure that no one on the team outruns their headlights and embarrasses the campaign,” he wrote.
Carter Page, another campaign volunteer, was included on the email chain. Page has been a central figure in the ongoing Russia probe, which is now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Last year, the FBI obtained a foreign intelligence surveillance warrant against Page after he visited Moscow in July. He has denied meeting with Russian government officials to discuss the campaign.
The Post’s source for the emails is unclear.
Notably, congressional panels investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government have recently been provided with thousands of Trump campaign documents, including emails.
The campaign provided 20,000 documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. And emails have been subpoenaed by two other congressional panels investigating possible collusion.
One former Trump campaign official who has been interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee recently told The Daily Caller that staffers had a stack of hundreds of campaign emails on hand.
Papadopoulos continued his campaign to bring the Trump campaign together with the Russian government in emails in April to Corey Lewandowski, who then served as Trump’s campaign manager.
Papadopoulos said that he had received “a lot of calls over the past month” regarding a Russia meeting.
“Putin wants to host the Trump team when the time is right,” he wrote, according to The Post. Lewandowski appears not to have responded.
On May 4, Papadopoulos forwarded a note he had received from a group funded by the Russian government inquiring about a Trump visit to Moscow.
The email from from Ivan Timofeev, an official in the Russian International Affairs Council, a group founded by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Clovis also dismissed that inquiry.
“There are legal issues we need to mitigate, meeting with foreign officials as a private citizen,” he wrote to Papadopoulos.
But Papadopoulos persisted, forwarding the same invitation to Manafort several weeks later.
“Russia has been eager to meet with Mr. Trump for some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss,” Papadopoulos wrote.
Manafort appears to have shrugged at the idea. He forwarded the message to his business partner, Rick Gates, saying that “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”
Manafort’s response to Papadopoulos’ request is “concrete evidence that the Russia collusion narrative is fake news,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told The Post.
“Mr. Manafort’s swift action reflects the attitude of the campaign — any invitation by Russia, directly or indirectly, would be rejected outright.”
Manafort is a central figure in the ongoing collusion investigation, which is being conducted by three congressional committees and Mueller.
FBI agents acting on a search warrant obtained by Mueller, raided Manafort’s Virginia residence last month. But rather than searching for evidence of campaign collusion, agents were reportedly looking for financial records of Manafort’s overseas business activities.
Though the email traffic suggests that members of the Trump campaign were hesitant to have direct talks with Russian government officials, the campaign has showed a willingness to meet under certain conditions with operatives loosely associated with Moscow.
The June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting is the most notable example.
On that day, Manafort joined Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. in a meeting with a group of Russians who had promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. accepted the meeting even after being told that a “Russian government attorney” would be providing the Clinton dirt.
“I love it,” was his response to the request.