The Curious Case Of Corey And The Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts

November 10, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Corey Lewandowski has always been somewhat on the fringes of congressional and federal investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.

But new questions surrounding what he knew about the dealings of former campaign foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos surfaced this week, with Lewandowski acknowledging for the first time that he personally approved of a heavily-scrutinized July 2016 trip Page took to Moscow and telling the press that he just didn’t know if Papadopoulos had contacted him about linking the campaign up with the Russian government.

These additional details paint a murky picture. But they puncture Lewandowski’s previous blanket denials that no campaign staffer he knew of “ever had a contact with a Russian agent or a Russian affiliate or anybody that has to do with Russia.”

In a Thursday phone interview with TPM, Lewandowski expanded on his recent claim that his memory of the Moscow trip discussion was jogged by the release this week of Page’s lengthy testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

“He said in that testimony, I believe, and you can go back and read it, that he was explicitly told that he could not travel on behalf of the campaign and make sure that he did not represent the campaign in any way, shape or form,” Lewandowski said.

Though Lewandowski previously denied ever meeting Page and explicitly said that he “granted nobody permission” to go to Russia, he said that reviewing the transcript reminded him that this interaction transpired. When Politico first reported his approval of the trip back in March, Lewandowski said he didn’t “remember” if he’d received Page’s email request because he was so inundated with correspondence at the time it was sent.

Lewandowski takes a similar line on possible communications with Papadopoulos. The former campaign adviser’s plea agreement with the federal government, unsealed last week, alleged that a number of senior officials were kept in the loop about Papadopoulos’ contacts with his Russian connections. The Washington Post identified Lewandowski as the “high-ranking campaign official” who allegedly received five such communications from Papadopoulos between April and June 2016.

Papadopoulos’ missives include alerts about “Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump”; offers to put the campaign in touch with individuals in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were seeking “cooperation” with Trump; and an overture from Papadopoulos asking if he could travel to Russia in Trump’s stead.

Lewandowski told TPM he’s not so sure he’s the one who received them.

“I have not seen any emails from George Papadopoulos to me that I’m aware of regarding anything that would relate to that,” he told TPM. “I believe he went through his contacts on the campaign and I was not that contact.”

Pressed on whether he was denying he was the “high-ranking campaign official,” Lewandowski echoed comments he made to NBC last week, saying, “I don’t think that’s been determined.”

So he never received the emails?

“What I’m saying is I don’t think there’s been—anybody has confirmed that I was the person George Papadopoulos was referring to because that has not been confirmed, to the best of my knowledge,” Lewandowski said. “And nobody asked me about them.”

The final message to the “high-ranking campaign official” that was catalogued in the charges against Papadopoulos was allegedly sent on June 19, 2016. Lewandowski stepped down from the campaign the next day after losing a protracted power struggle to then-adviser Paul Manafort, who took over as campaign chairman.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has requested copies of all of the Trump campaign’s Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to mid-2015, has interviewed Lewandowski, but he told TPM he has not yet received any interview requests from either the House Intelligence Committee or special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller’s office declined TPM’s request for comment, while a House Intelligence Committee spokeswoman did not respond.

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