The top Trump campaign official who assembled members of the foreign policy team that became the subject of the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling went on an Iowa radio show Monday to detail his recollections of meeting with an informant reportedly working for the feds.
Sam Clovis told the Simon Conway Show that he and the informant — an American academic based in Britain — met at a DoubleTree hotel in Virginia just outside of Washington on September 1, 2016. The two sat for coffee and had a “high level” academic discussion about China, Clovis said.
“It was like two faculty members sitting down in the faculty lounge talking about research,” Clovis, who served as the campaign’s national co-chairman, said. “There was no indication or no inclination that this was anything more than just wanting to offer up his help to the campaign if I needed it.”
President Trump met Monday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats about turning over information about the informant to Congress.
Clovis, on the radio show, alleged that the informant meeting appeared to be “a deliberative and intentional effort on the part of the leadership of the FBI to create something that didn’t exist.”
The FBI, he claimed, was trying to “literally like plant evidence or to create an audit trail that would lead investigators on to something, then they would have justification to go back to their FISA warrants and all the other things.”
He said that the informant, in an email back and forth setting up the meeting, used his previous contact with Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page as “bonafides” to get in front of Clovis. Page had met the informant at a July 2016 conference, and was in touch with him on multiple occasions.
Clovis’ lawyer, Victoria Toensing, previously said, according to the Washington Post that the informant had not mentioned his other Trump contacts when reaching out to Clovis. Clovis said he wasn’t sure “where she got that information,” since she had access to the emails setting up the September 2016 meeting.
Toensing, in an phone interview Tuesday with TPM, backed up Clovis’ account. She told TPM that the informant had said in an email to Clovis that Page had recommended that they meet. She also claimed that the informant had told Page when they met at the conference that he was a big fan of Clovis’. Page confirmed Toensing’s account in an email to TPM.
Clovis suggested that the informant then used their meeting to get a meeting with George Papadopoulos.
The informant would eventually meet with Papadopoulos in mid-September, according to the New York Times, where he would ask Papadopoulos what he knew about Russia’s efforts to influence the election. (Papadopoulos denied having any insight, according to the Times.)
Clovis said Monday that his meeting with the informant was focused solely on the informant’s China research. Clovis claimed he didn’t think anything of the meeting, as the campaign already a had a “host” of people with China expertise, and that he didn’t even bother to open the attachments that the informant later emailed him on Sept. 27 with more of his research.
“I took a meeting like this probably once a day — I had somebody like this who would sit down with me,” Clovis said. “Literally dozens of people that had academic credentials that wanted to help and be involved, and I met with them all the time.”
Update: This story has been updated to include Carter Page’s confirmation that the informant told him he was a big fan of Sam Clovis’.