WASHINGTON ― Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), responsible for the much-hyped but ultimately underwhelming GOP memo alleging FBI bias against President Donald Trump, on Monday continued to defend the memo on Trump-friendly Fox News.
But he may want to get his basic facts straight.
Trump authorized House Republicans to release the memo on Friday, as part of a broader effort to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. Nunes was widely maligned for basing the memo on cherry-picked evidence, and the document’s contents mostly confirmed previous reporting about the investigation, rather than revealing any new bombshells.
Among other details, the memo corroborated The New York Times’ reporting that the original FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign began with then-campaign adviser George Papadopoulos drunkenly admitting to an Australian diplomat that he’d been informed that Russian officials had “dirt” on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos, who served on a foreign policy advisory council for Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty in October for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, a major turning point in Mueller’s investigation.
While appearing on Monday’s edition of “Fox & Friends,” Nunes tried to downplay Papadopoulos’ role in Trump’s campaign.
“As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos never even had met with the president,” Nunes said.
One slight problem with Nunes’ claim: There is photographic evidence of him meeting with Trump during the campaign, from a March 2016 gathering of the council on which Papadopoulos served.
Papadopoulos is seated four places to Trump’s right in the above photo.
Trump and his allies have offered dubious defenses in an effort to distance the president from the Russia probe. They’ve done this in part by trying to minimize the roles of indicted aides like Papadopoulos.
In October, Trump tweeted that Papadopoulos was merely a “young, low level volunteer” whom “few people knew” ― even though during his campaign, Trump had praised the foreign policy adviser as “an excellent guy.”
Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo memorably dismissed Papadopoulos as just “a coffee boy” for the campaign.
When asked about the photo of Trump and Papadopoulos, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders minimized it.
“The president has thousands of photographs with millions of people,” she told reporters in October.
In a Monday morning tweet, Trump, an avid “Fox & Friends” viewer, praised Nunes.