Clowns and Imbeciles and Spies and Paul Manafort

Charlie Neibergall/AP
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Former Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo went on MSNBC this afternoon and said George Papadopoulos was “stupid” and “had no business” being at that March 2016 foreign policy advisor meeting where he apparently talked up his ability to set up meetings with Russians or even with Vladimir Putin. He went on to say that Papadopoulos was only there because Donald Trump was getting slammed for not having any foreign policy advisors and a group was thrown together with basically zero idea of who the people even were.

“He was invited in because at the time the campaign was really reeling from criticism that it had no foreign policy or other advisers,” Caputo said during an interview with Katy Tur. “Donald Trump prided himself on running a lean and mean campaign. That group was slap dash put together in a way another campaign wouldn’t do it. Papadopoulos had no business being there.”

This is all 100%, unquestionably true. As I wrote yesterday, you can’t read the emails or anything else about Papadopoulos without concluding he is basically a clown who had zero business having any advisory role with any campaign. Indeed, the team clearly was quickly tossed together to quiet a damaging storyline that Trump had no one advising him on anything having to do with foreign policy and was clearly entirely ignorant on the subject himself.

But none of this is a defense. It’s irrelevant. He had no business being there and yet he was there. According to government charging documents he remained an advisor almost until the end of the campaign and was clearly in regular email contact with the campaign’s policy director, Sam Clovis. The Trumpers have long pushed this argument that they were too inexperienced, disorganized or simply too stupid to have conspired with Russians to subvert the election. That’s not how it works. As we’ve noted in recent days, intelligence operatives (of any country) are looking precisely for people who are desperate, stupid, inexperienced, crooked when they are trying to penetrate or compromise any organization or find collaborators within it. That is when you have something to work with.

The Trumpers might just as well have said well, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, two complete neophytes and rubes, had zero business with senior roles running the campaign and meeting with foreign government emissaries as we know they did in the June meeting at Trump Tower. Definitely, “stupid”, definitely “no business” being there. And yet they were there. Desperate, stupid, inexperienced, crooked – the Trumpers checked basically every box.

Which brings us back to Paul Manafort. He was looped in on at least some of those emails from Papadopoulos. He was also in that June Trump Tower meeting. The more we learn about Paul Manafort, the more he seems extremely crooked and very desperate. But he’s not at all inexperienced and he’s not stupid. He’s worked in politics for decades. He’s worked abroad in countries where dealing with foreign and US intelligence operatives goes with the territory. It’s very hard to imagine that Manafort, being on the receiving end of multiple approaches and simultaneously trying to use his newfound profound prominence to ‘make himself whole’ with people in Ukraine and Russia didn’t have a pretty clear sense of what was going on.

Mueller and his deputies seem to think the same thing.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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