Former Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis was questioned last week by special counsel Robert Mueller and testified before the investigating grand jury in the inquiries into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a revelation that came as a surprise to Trump’s White House, reports ABC News
Sources with knowledge of the investigation tell ABC News that the White House first learned of Clovis’ grand jury testimony from media reports.
A White House source familiar with the investigation tells ABC News “the White House was surprised to learn Mr. Clovis had been contacted by the Special Counsel’s office as part of their separate probe of Mr. Papadopoulos’ activities.”
Clovis, who currently serves as the senior White House adviser to the Department of Agriculture, has been identified as the top campaign official who encouraged Trump’s former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, to set up a meeting with Russian officials who had promised to provide “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
According to the Post, Clovis, who was then the Trump campaign co-chairman, encouraged Papadopoulos to make the trip to Russia in order to take an “off the record” meeting with government officials there.
Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to the FBI as part of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The DOJ unsealed Papadopoulos’s court filings on Monday shortly after it announced charges against two other higher-ranking, Trump campaign officials — Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
The Hill notes:
According to those documents, Papadopoulos corresponded with an unnamed individual who was identified only as a “campaign supervisor” — in March regarding his contact with a foreign professor and a Russian woman about setting up a meeting between Russian officials and the campaign. The documents alleged that the intention of the meeting was to discuss U.S.-Russia relations under a prospective Trump administration.
The Post identified that “campaign supervisor” as Clovis.
According to ThinkProgress, Clovis praised Papadopoulos’ outreach efforts, telling him “great work” in regards to a March 2016 meeting during which Papadopoulos and a “London professor,” as well as a Russian woman incorrectly described as “Putin’s niece,” discussed plans for a potential meeting between the campaign and “Russian leadership.”
On or about April 26, 2016, Papadopoulos told the FBI he had a breakfast meeting with “the professor,” who tells him he met with high-level Russian officials in Moscow. “The professor” relays that the Russians have “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos later told the FBI, the professor said, “[The Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”
I would encourage you” to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” Clovis wrote in an August email to Papadopoulos, in response to plans suggested by Papadopoulos to go to Russia and meet with Russian officials off the record.
Clovis’s lawyer Victoria Toensing told the Post that Clovis “always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign” and described Clovis’s statements to Papadopoulos as him “being polite.”
Read Papadopoulos’s unsealed court papers below: