To be absolutely clear, we can’t know the precise significance of Team Mueller abruptly ending the timeline it recites in the charges against Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, on July 22, 2016, the same day Wikileaks published the hacked DNC emails. Tierney Sneed does a great job carefully running through the most likely possibilities.
But let’s be honest.
There is every reason in the world to think that rather than coming to an abrupt halt the communications in Trump World would have ramped up dramatically. This was the day after the Republican National Convention had ended. The Democratic National Convention was set to start in just a few days. Hacked emails from Guccifer 2.0 had already been leaked to The Hill on July 18, 2016, priming the pump. Just a few days later, on July 27, 2016, Trump himself said in public that he hoped Russia would find Hillary Clinton’s missing “33,000” emails. This was top of the mind.
Papadopoulos stayed with the campaign, by his own admission, all the way through the transition. So he didn’t go anywhere. It’s hard to believe that his communications with his Russia connections–and his dutiful relaying of those communications to other campaign officials–merely ceased right as the hacking took center stage in the election.
It is much more plausible that Mueller is holding things back, for a variety of sound strategic reasons. He’s building a case. A lot of attention has focused on what Papadopoulos did after his arrest in July 2017, when he began cooperating with Mueller. Did he wear a wire? Did he snag more Trump officials in Mueller trap? Perhaps. We don’t know. But the far more interesting period for me came a year earlier.
What did Papadopoulos do and say–and with whom did he share his doings–between July 22, 2016 and Inauguration Day? Mueller doesn’t want us to know yet.