The head of the U.S. intelligence community under President Obama said on Tuesday that he was not aware of the former Trump campaign adviser who was recently reported to have been the catalyst for the FBI’s investigation into Trump campaign collusion.
In an interview on CNN, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that when he left his Obama administration job on Jan. 20, 2017, George Papadopoulos “was not a name on my radar scope.”
The admission is somewhat surprising given Papadopoulos’ purported importance to the Russia probe.
The 30-year-old energy consultant was identified in a New York Times article published over the weekend as a catalyst for the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government.
That investigation, which began in July 2016, was opened after the Australian government told the FBI that Papadopoulos had told Aussie diplomat Alexander Downer during a drunken conversation that he had learned that the Russian government possessed dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The Times cited four anonymous government officials who claimed that Papadopoulos’ barroom conversation — and not the infamous Steele dossier — was a spark for the investigation.
The reporting drew pushback from Republicans who questioned why, if Papadopoulos was so central to the Russia inquiry, he remained a mostly anonymous figure until just a few months ago.
One former Trump campaign adviser who has been interviewed extensively by Russia investigators told The Daily Caller that many more questions were asked in those interviews about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page than about Papadopoulos. (RELATED: ‘Too Convenient’ — Republicans Push Back On NYT’s Trump Probe Origin Story)
Most of the collusion allegations had centered on Page, an energy consultant who joined the Trump campaign at the same time as Papadopoulos, who joined the Trump team as a volunteer after leaving the Ben Carson presidential campaign.
The Times reported back in April that a trip that Page took to Moscow in July 2016 was a catalyst for the Russia investigation. That piece made no mention of Papadopoulos.
“There were other factors that I think were the stimulus for the investigation and the revelation about George Papadopoulos — which was not a name on my radar scope when I left — I think also was another factor,” Clapper said on CNN.
Also in his interview, Clapper claimed that parts of the dossier have been corroborated. But when pressed about which sections of the 35-page Democrat-funded report have been verified, Clapper cited only two claims from the dossier that have nothing to do with campaign collusion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “animus” towards Hillary Clinton “and the determination of clearly favoring…Trump to win the presidency,” were the two dossier allegations that Clapper says have been corroborated.