It’s not a stretch at this point to say that the greatest threat to the Trump presidency is not Robert Mueller’s investigation but the drinking habit of George Papadopoulos. In May 2016, after having many drinks, Papadopoulos confided to Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer that he “had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.” After WikiLeaks and DCLeaks began publishing stolen emails, Ambassador Downer contacted U.S. authorities and the FBI began a counterintelligence investigation. As it turned out, the source for Papadopoulos was a shadowy Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud.
Then, last Thursday, Papadopoulos and his wife were drinking vodka at Chicago’s Hydate club when they were approached by a stranger who recognized them from photographs in the media.
Jason Wilson, a computer engineer who lives in Chicago, told ThinkProgress that Papadopoulos said during their conversation that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out anything he could about the hacked Hillary Clinton emails that [Professor Joseph] Mifsud had mentioned.
Wilson said he recognized Papadopoulos and his wife Simona Mangiante at Hydrate, a Chicago nightclub, on Thursday night at approximately 11 p.m. Wilson sat down their table and introduced himself. He said the couple, who were drinking vodka, were extremely friendly and a bit flattered that Wilson had recognized them.
After some conversation about the city and their marriage, Wilson turned the topic to the Russia investigation, asking Papadopoulos whether he thought Wilson would be disappointed when all the facts came out. Papadopoulos responded that things were “just getting started” and emphasized [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’ role, particularly his connection to Papadopoulos’ contacts with Mifsud.
This is going to get George in a big pile of trouble because he’s not supposed to discuss the case. His wife has been left to try to clean up the mess.
Simona Mangiante, in an interview with ThinkProgress on Friday night, confirmed that she was at Hydrate with George Papadopoulos on Thursday…
…In a subsequent interview with ThinkProgress on Sunday about the details of Wilson’s account, Mangiante said that Papadopoulos talked with Wilson but insisted that he would not have discussed his interactions with Sessions because he is not allowed to discuss the details of the case. Asked to clarify whether it was Wilson’s account that was untrue or the underlying story about Sessions, Mangiante said the only thing she wanted to say on the record was “no comment.”
That wasn’t good enough, obviously, she called ThinkProgress back yesterday and then wrote a note to Wilson on Twitter.
Mangiante called back later Sunday to say that she had talked to Papadopoulos and that he denied having shared any new details about the case with Wilson. “Those things also never happened,” she said. She did acknowledge that Papadapolous and Wilson were talking about the Russia investigation, however.
Mangiante also contacted Wilson over Twitter on Sunday evening to discuss this story, chalking up the situation to “a misunderstanding!” She said that “there is nothing George could reveal about the investigation apart from commenting what is already public.”
The Papadopoulos couple really has no choice but to deny Wilson’s account. But there’s no reason to doubt what Wilson says was discussed. According to Wilson, Papadopolous said that Jeff Sessions was well aware that Professor Mifsud was his source and that he had encouraged him to find out from Mifsud everything he could about the content of the emails.
Mueller knows this already, presumably, but he may not have enough corroborating evidence to support the charge. He will be very displeased to see this story in the newspapers since it will make gathering that corroboration much harder to accomplish. This is precisely why Papadopolous is supposed to keep his yap shut instead of talking to strangers in night clubs after drinking too much vodka.
Jason Wilson is now an important witness in the case. Whether his testimony will be helpful or not depends on whether what Papadopolous said comports with what he’s told Mueller’s investigators.
In the short term, this could ironically give Trump the cause he’s been seeking to sack Sessions. But it will also make it harder to replace him as attorney general with someone who will help him kill the investigation.