by Chuck Ross
Internal FBI messages declassified this month make a cryptic reference to an audio recording of a conversation between a Fox News executive and George Papadopoulos, a revelation that the former Trump campaign aide calls “disturbing.”
The message in question is from the Lync account of Peter Strzok, who was the FBI’s lead investigator on Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
“I know you’re not point on this anymore, but typhoon got a call from the VP at Fox News yesterday, who advised that the government was conducting ‘checks’ on him a few months back,” reads a message sent to Strzok on Jan. 12, 2017.
“I haven’t listened to the exact audio, but I’m guess [sic] that’s the FARA checks that we did with DOJ on our 4 main guys; especially given the article that you pushed yesterday.”
Reached for comment, an FBI spokesperson declined to explain the messages.
The Daily Caller News Foundation first published the batch of Strzok messages on Thursday.
Papadopoulos was one of four targets of Crossfire Hurricane, which looked into whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Investigators referred to him by the code name “Crossfire Typhoon.”
The message does not address who recorded the conversation between Papadopoulos and the Fox executive, or how the bureau obtained it.
Papadopoulos told the DCNF that the revelation is “disturbing.”
The FBI conducted electronic surveillance against another Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, and obtained what are known as national security letters (NSLs) against other Trump advisers, including Papadopoulos.
NSLs allow the government to obtain records of phone calls, but not the contents of the calls themselves. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), investigators can listen in on calls as they occur.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report said that the Crossfire Hurricane team used FISA only to monitor Carter Page. The report said that the FBI considered pursuing FISA coverage of Papadopoulos but that government lawyers vetoed the idea.
The FBI used other covert methods to obtain information from Papadopoulos. The bureau used at least two confidential human sources, including former Cambridge professor Stefan Halper, to meet with and secretly record Papadopoulos.
Halper also met with and recorded Page.
Papadopoulos provided the DCNF with the name of a Fox News executive he had several contacts with during the time period in question. The Fox News executive told the DCNF through an intermediary that he does not recall any conversations about the topics described in the FBI message.
The Crossfire Hurricane investigation was folded into the special counsel’s probe in May 2017.
Another message from the Strzok cache shows him speculating about what information Papadopoulos would provide FBI agents ahead of their first interview with the ex-Trump aide on Jan. 27, 2017.
“I think our anticipation is he has visibility into a conversation about the Russian offer of help (and I’d be willing to bet if he talks, he fingers Page or Manafort),” Strzok wrote to another FBI official, according to the messages.
A report of the special counsel’s investigation said that prosecutors found no evidence to substantiate their initial suspicion that Papadopoulos, Page, or anyone else from the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.