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December 17th, 2018

Insight

Does the latest Papadopoulos story on Trump and Russia sink or float?

John Kass

By John Kass

Published Jan. 6, 2018

Does the latest Papadopoulos story on Trump and Russia sink or float?

Depending on your politics, George Papadopoulos may be described in various ways.

To some, he's just a low-level "coffee boy" who, as an unqualified 20-something boaster, wormed his way into the chaotic Donald Trump presidential campaign and was later played by the Russians, a mysterious professor and a young woman presented as Vladimir Putin's "niece."

Others see him as a top foreign policy adviser, with influence in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and inside access that allowed him to arrange meetings with foreign governments.

But after The New York Times dropped its most recent scoop about the Trump-Russia investigation, you might want to think about Papadopoulos in a different light:

As a boy made of wood, tossed into the maelstrom to save drowning reputations desperate to grab any floating object.

What we do know is that special counsel Robert Mueller announced back in October that the 30-year-old from Chicago pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

What did he lie about? His attempts to connect the Trump campaign with Russians promising "dirt" on Trump's rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

If you despise Trump, you might see Papadopoulos as a martyr with hysterical Republican hatred pouring down upon him. If you support Trump, you might see Papadopoulos as a useful idiot, a tool of both the Russians, who know all about useful idiots, and Democrats clinging to their Russian collusion theory in order to delegitimize the 2016 election and explain away Clinton's loss, an outcome that led news anchors to cry on national TV.

In its recent story on Papadopoulos, the Times did not describe him as a boy made of wood. Nor did the paper describe him as the kind of good, buoyant timber that can be useful to men drowning in a stormy sea.

But the Times tossed him out upon the water, as the Mueller investigation suffered self-inflicted bad publicity, as Democrats worried about the strength of their Russia-collusion theory and as astounding conflicts of interest were revealed in stories about the personal politics of federal investigators.

Amid all this are questions about the FBI's use of a salacious file involving rumors about Trump and Russian hookers that was paid for and developed as an anti-Trump propaganda document crafted in support of the Clinton campaign.

What the Times reported is this:

Papadopoulos got drunk with some Australian diplomats at a fancy London wine bar, and like drunken pretend foreign policy experts tend to do, he opened his mouth. He said the Russians had dirt on Hillary. The Australians let the Americans know.

And the Obama administration, horrified, just had to do something.

As noted by the National Review's Andrew McCarthy, the Times reported months ago that what started the investigation was a Russian trip by another Trump adviser, Carter Page.

So the Trump-Russia story keeps morphing.

For much of 2017, the Trump-Russia story involved the so-called Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign, opposition research worked on by the wife of a top Obama Justice Department official that was likely used by the feds to secure surveillance warrants against team Trump.

Then, more recently, came something for Republicans to sink their teeth into, reports of conflicts of interest among top officials at the FBI and others.

Now it turns out it was really Papadopoulos all along? A young guy who couldn't hold his liquor in an evening out with Australians, bragging as some do when they get sloshed and want to be thought of as the most interesting man in the world?

"It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign," reported the Times. "Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America's closest intelligence allies."

Ah.

How convenient can this be? It's almost like a coincidence.

And it smells like herring.

Yet before the left dislocates its Twitter thumbs in tribal rage, let's be clear:

Mueller's investigation into Trump and Russia should proceed. As should a responsible congressional inquiry about the political conflicts of interest among the investigators of Trump and how the Obama Justice Department used the dossier to seek secret surveillance warrants for Trump advisers.

If Trump's people and/or the president are guilty of crimes, let them pay. But so far, we haven't seen any hard evidence. All we've seen is politics and more politics.

What we know is that the Trump people actively sought dirt on Hillary and didn't much care where it came from. And we know that some of the same investigators who found nothing wrong with Hillary Clinton's use of private email while the secretary of state determined -- according to released FBI phone texts -- to have an "insurance policy" should Trump do the unthinkable and win the election.

The danger in all of this isn't partisan tribal warfare. We survived the brawl between Jefferson and Adams. We survived Obama. We'll survive Trump too.

What we might not survive are unelected bureaucrats acting on their personal views, bending policy to their politics, whether that means unleashing Internal Revenue Service investigators upon political groups they find objectionable, or crafting an "insurance policy" to take down a president.

Because if the American people come to believe that a vast unelected bureaucracy runs things and remains unaccountable to voters, then we'll all be in deep water soon.

And there won't be enough floating boys made of wood to help us.

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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM.

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