One of Donald Trump’s foreign-policy advisers reportedly sent an email to other campaign officials proposing a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a Washington Post report published on Monday.
The Post reports internal campaign emails reveal that days after Trump selected his foreign-policy team, George Papadopoulos, a campaign volunteer with limited foreign-policy experience, sent an email with the subject: “Meeting with Russian Leadership – Including Putin.”
Papadopoulos allegedly attempted to initiate “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump,” The Post reported.
The plans raised alarms with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, who believed NATO allies should be notified prior to making a decision. Additionally, former Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, another Trump adviser, believed that the plans could be violating US sanctions on Russia and the Logan Act, a law that “prohibits U.S. citizens from unauthorized negotiation with foreign governments,” according to The Post.
Papadopoulos reportedly pressed on anyway – sending multiple emails to the Trump campaign, requesting an audience to meet with Russian officials. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was said to have turned down Papadopoulos’ request in May 2016.
The information stemmed from over 20,000 pages of files that Trump’s campaign gave to congressional committees for review as part of their investigations into Russia interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s possible cooperation with the Kremlin.
Papadopoulos has frequently criticized what he saw as the Obama administration’s inadequate efforts to strengthen ties with Russia, and insisted a Trump presidency would change that. He told Interfax in a September 2016 interview that the Obama administration was declaring its intentions to cooperate with Russia “without taking concrete actions. There was no practical cooperation, and their words differed from their actions,” Papadopoulos said.
“That is why Russia does not believe in American promises, and the atmosphere of mutual confidence has been lost. Trump, if elected president, will restore the trust.”
Paul Manafort’s shifting reactions
Observers have noted the differing reactions from Manafort, who reportedly rejected Papadopoulos’ pitch for a meeting with Russian officials in May, but later took a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June. Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attended that meeting, along with several others, under the impression they would receive information that was damaging to Hillary Clinton.
Some have suggested that Manafort’s earlier reticence toward meeting with Russian operatives on the campaign trail could imply that he understood those meetings would be problematic. That notion could subject Manafort to further scrutiny by investigators probing Russia’s interference in the election, in light of Manafort’s willingness to meet with Russian officials later at Trump Tower.
Manafort has increasingly become a central focus for special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. FBI agents in July raided his home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs in search of tax documents and foreign bank records. Former prosecutors have characterized the raid as evidence that the FBI does not trust him.