WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump dismissed George Papadopoulos on Tuesday as a "liar" and a mere campaign volunteer, but newly unsealed court papers outline the former adviser's frequent contacts with senior officials and with foreign nationals who promised access to the highest levels of the Russian government.
They also hint at more headaches for the White House and former campaign officials. Papadopoulos is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates possible coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 White House campaign.
Records made public Monday in Papadopoulos' case list a gaggle of people who were in touch with him during the campaign but only with such identifiers as "Campaign Supervisor," ''Senior Policy Advisor" and "High-Ranking Campaign Official." Two of the unnamed campaign officials referenced are in fact former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates. Both were charged with financial crimes in an indictment unsealed Monday.
The conversations described in charging documents reflect Papadopoulos' efforts to arrange meetings between Trump aides and Russian government intermediaries and show how he learned the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."
Though the contacts may not by themselves have been illegal, the oblique but telling references to unnamed people — including "Professor" and "Female Russian National" — make clear that Mueller's team has identified multiple people who had knowledge of back-and-forth outreach efforts between Russians and associates of the Trump election effort.
It's a reality that challenges the administration's portrait of Papadopoulos as a back-bench operator within the campaign, an argument repeated Tuesday by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who dismissed him as a "volunteer" with a minimal role.
In charging the 30-year-old Papadopoulos with lying to the FBI, Mueller's team is warning of a similar fate for anyone whose statements deviate from the facts.
"I think everyone to whom Mueller and his team wanted to send a message heard loud and clear the message," said Jacob Frenkel, a Washington defense lawyer.
The White House had braced over the weekend for an indictment of Manafort and for allegations of financial misconduct that it could dismiss as unrelated to the campaign or administration. Then came the unsealing of Papadopoulos' guilty plea and an accompanying statement of facts that detailed his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his cooperation with prosecutors since his arrest at an airport last summer.
The extent of the contacts is substantial. During a six-month period ending Aug. 15, Papadopoulos met, telephoned, Skyped or emailed his three foreign contacts or five different Trump campaign officials a total of 29 times. He also traveled twice to London and once to Italy. Another trip to Moscow was canceled.
There are clear indications prosecutors used Papadopoulos to gather more information about the campaign as they probe possible criminal activity.
He was arrested in July, but the case was not unsealed until Monday, giving prosecutors weeks to debrief him for information and use him to get deeper into the campaign. He was initially arrested on false statements and obstruction of justice allegations, but as part of a plea deal, pleaded guilty only to lying to the FBI, a possible token of leniency in exchange for further cooperation.
In court papers, prosecutors have said prematurely making the case public would hurt his ability to be a "proactive cooperator," which legal experts say could including surreptitious techniques like wearing a microphone to record conversations.
"I would infer from that that he was working proactively on behalf of the prosecutors, which would mean going out and obtaining evidence," said former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg.
Though the campaign officials and other people referenced in the complaint are not named, it's nonetheless possible to ferret out the identities of several.
For instance, Joseph Mifsud is the "London professor" who figures prominently in the case, according to a comparison of court papers and emails obtained by The Associated Press. Mifsud confirmed to The Telegraph newspaper that he is the professor mentioned as a would-be link between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In court papers, Mifsud is described only as a "London professor" who met repeatedly with Papadopoulos and offered to set up meetings with Russian officials who could provide "thousands of emails" with damaging information about Clinton.
The professor is also credited in the document with introducing Papadopoulos to a woman referred to as a "female Russian national" who served as a potential link to the Russian government. Papadopoulos described her incorrectly in emails to Trump campaign officials as Putin's niece. She has not yet been identified publicly.
Mifsud, a vocal Putin backer, told the newspaper the FBI case lacks credibility and that he did not tell anyone he could produce emails that would weaken the Clinton campaign.
Papadopoulos' place on the Trump campaign was formalized in March when Trump adviser Sam Clovis released the names of eight foreign policy advisers amid public pressure on Trump to disclose his foreign policy team.
CARTERVILLE — Carterville Community Unit District 5 school board met Monday to discuss a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Cambria regarding a proposed TIF district and possible litigation.
The Village of Cambria first offered to give all taxing bodies 15 percent of the TIF funds. Taxing bodies with an interest in the TIF include Anne West Lindsey Library District, Carterville School District, Williamson County Board, John A. Logan Community College District, Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois and others.
The school board discussed a new proposal in the negotiation process. It would give Carterville School District 15 percent, as well as a 10 percent rebate from one of the developers.
"The main thin to look at is whether 15 percent is in line with [agreements with] other towns within the school district," Kurt Schroeder, the district’s TIF counsel, said.
Carterville school district first entered a TIF agreement with Crainville for 27.6 percent of the funds. The agreement also has a provision that no residential properties will be included within the TIF boundaries. The board then entered similar agreements with Carterville and Herrin.
"This proposed TIF has a lot of residential property," Schroeder said. "Based on that, the agreement is not in line with what we've done with other municipalities in the district."
The audience was filled with around 50 residents of the school district who oppose creation of the TIF district in Cambria for residential development. One concern they share with the school board is the issue of school funding.
The Cambria TIF district is dual purpose. It will allow tax breaks for both commercial and residential development and includes 95 percent of the village. Property taxes would be abated for a period of 23 years for new residential development, while new development would draw families to the school district.
Home owners outside the TIF in Carterville and Crainville would most likely see property tax increases to help pay the cost of the growing school district.
“We are a tax cap county, so we cannot create a higher tax rate,” Schwartz said.
Tax limitations (commonly referred to as tax caps) slow the growth of revenues to taxing districts when property values and assessments are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. A taxing body, in this case the school district, can only increase property tax extension to the lesser of 5 percent of the increase in the national Consumer Price Index.
When there is positive growth in the Equalized Assessed Value or EAV, tax rates stay flat or decrease. When the EAV drops, tax rates increase.
“Any property in a TIF goes into an EAV that is flat for 23 years. They show no growth until the TIF expires,” Superintendent Keith Liddell said.
Board Vice President John Yewell gave a recent of example of how property values affect tax rates.
“Whe Circuit City went out of the TIF, we saw a tax decrease. Taxes then increased with the facility sold for one quarter of its value,” Yewel said.
“It would be a misunderstanding to say we don’t want Cambria to grow,” Schwartz said. “We just want to get the same deal that we have with the other municipalities.”
The board then went into executive session to discuss possible litigation. They came out of executive session, approved the minutes of the closed session and adjourned.
“I hope they can just meet somewhere in the middle,” Jennifer Ramirez said.
Carterville Mayor Brad Robinson said he feels like the Cambria TIF district takes away from the one thing generating growth in the area – the school district.
Cambria Village Board will vote on the TIF district proposal at a meeting at 4 p.m. Nov. 9 in the community building gymnasium.
CARBONDALE — A housing study currently being conducted on the northeast side of Carbondale will help city staff bring rehabilitation grants to the area.
Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) grants, awarded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, provide up to $45,000 per household to improve the homes of low-income residents.
Senior Planner Travis Taylor said the city has a long history of administering the CDAP grants. In the 1990s, staff secured funding for projects in the northeast neighborhood, and the past few CDAP grants were administered in northwest Carbondale.
“So now that we’ve hit the northwest, we’re going back to the northeast to target homes in need of rehabilitation and homeowners who need assistance,” Taylor said.
The grants “provide residents with safe and sanitary living conditions and help to stabilize neighborhoods and affordable housing in the community,” according to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.
“The $45,000 is used to bring the home up to building code, so it hits first and foremost the basic safety kind of items — so heating and air, roof, flooring, making sure that the house is livable and inhabitable, and then from there we can start to expand and make other improvements to the home as the money is available,” Taylor said.
Some homes won’t require the full $45,000, Taylor noted.
In order to determine a target area for the grants, staff will be conducting door-to-door surveys in northeast Carbondale from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for the next week.
The survey takes about five minutes to complete and focuses on demographics, household income and the condition of homes. Every home in the area must be surveyed.
The funds are Community Development Block Grant monies that flow from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to the state.
“They dole out the funds competitively to communities and organizations that apply through their CDAP grants,” Taylor said.
Once the city identifies the specific target area within the northeast neighborhood and proves that there is an adequate number of homes that need rehabilitation within the area, homeowners will be asked to complete applications. Those applications will be ranked in order of need.
The city hopes to rehabilitate about 10 homes in total, Taylor said.
“Funding is by no means guaranteed, but I would say that as long as we put our best foot forward here and get a good application together and are able to get the surveys that we need to submit the application, then we have a very good chance to get the funding,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the city will apply for the grants in December and hopefully receive funding by spring or summer.
“I would invite residents to contact me if they have any questions. Even if they’re not in the target area, the city has other funding available for home rehabilitation, although it’s in more limited scope than these comprehensive and substantive grants we receive from the state,” Taylor said.
Taylor can be reached at 618-457-3233 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.