At trial, Harvard officials explain rejecting alternatives to using race in admissions

Pedestrians near the gate to Harvard Yard at Harvard University

Among other options, Harvard considered nixing what its documents described in somewhat vague terms as “other practices that allegedly benefit white applicants.” | Scott Eisen/Getty Images

BOSTON — Two Harvard faculty members who served in top roles at the school testified Tuesday that they thoroughly reviewed alternatives to considering race in Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process, but concluded that other measures would fail to maintain racial diversity or have unacceptable impacts on the overall quality of students entering the elite university.

Michael Smith, the former dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Rakesh Khurana, the current dean of Harvard College, both detailed their roles in the process Tuesday during the ongoing trial in a federal lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action group accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants.

Smith said a three-member panel carefully evaluated 10 different proposals for things Harvard could do or stop doing in a bid to try to keep up minority enrollment without providing what the school calls a “tip” for racial minorities in the admissions process. All the options were lacking, he said.

“We did not find any race-neutral alternative or combination of race-neutral alternatives that provided the same … diversity-related educational benefits,” said Smith, a computer science professor who served as the head of Harvard’s arts and sciences schools from 1997 to earlier this year.

Among the options the school considered: simply dropping race as a factor, more aggressive recruiting a stronger push for geographic diversity, eliminating the early action admissions cycle, and dropping consideration of test scores.

Harvard also considered nixing what its documents described in somewhat vague terms as “other practices that allegedly benefit white applicants” — a reference to preferences for children of alumni, for children of Harvard faculty and staff and for recruited athletes.

“We felt that no race-neutral alternative could substitute for our consideration of race as one consideration among many in our admissions,” Smith said.

Lawyers for SFFA, the group pressing the lawsuit, suggested that the review was either a sham or designed to reach a pre-ordained conclusion. Under questioning by SFFA attorney Adam Mortara, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana acknowledged that the first draft of the panel’s report was written by attorneys in Harvard’s general counsel’s office.

However, under cross-examination by Harvard attorney and former solicitor general Seth Waxman, Smith said having lawyers deeply involved was not unusual. He acknowledged the report was prompted by SFFA’s suit and said the panel needed someone who understood Supreme Court opinions on affirmative action.

“Our Office of General Counsel is just as good as somebody from the staff of the college,” the ex-dean said.

He also said that in meetings at the end of the process: he, Khurana and Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons met to refine and finalize the report without any lawyers or other individuals present.

Smith acknowledged that some of the simulations of race-neutral measures produced roughly the same number of ethnic and racial minorities in the aggregate, but the number of African-American students dropped by as much as 32 percent — from about 14 percent of the class to about 10 percent.

“This felt like a bridge too far,” the former dean said. “We’re going backward from where we are. … There’s already a sense, as these committees have heard, of alienation and isolation interfering with these individuals’ ability to pursue their academic studies on our campus. Those impacts are already felt by individuals here. We’re not looking to make that worse.”

Khurana also expressed a concern that having minority admittees with a dramatically different economic profile than Harvard’s relatively affluent class could lead to stereotyping. “We wouldn’t want students to think that, for example, students of color only come from modest socioeconomic backgrounds,” the dean said.

Mortara suggested that stance was in tension with other efforts Khurana has pressed to make Harvard more open to students with limited financial means. The SFFA attorney asked the dean if he believes Harvard’s policies reinforce privilege.

“I think higher education is part of the solution to addressing issues of inequality and privilege,” Khurana said. “I wish we had a more equal society, though.”

Khurana drew a rare inquiry from U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs after he expressed worries that letting the level of African American students drop to 10 percent ran the risk of creating a “token” experience.

Burroughs, an Obama appointee hearing the case without a jury, asked a short time later what the dean meant. “How do you kind of measure what’s enough?” she asked.

“I don’t think there’s a quantitative number,” Khurana said, adding that there needed to be enough minorities that stereotypes about them would be “broken.”

Smith also rejected SFFA’s contention that Harvard is clinging to its preference for alumni children in order to maintain a flow of donations from their parents. “That is not the reason why we keep our legacy preference,” he said, adding that alumni conduct admissions interviews and remain active in school activities. “All of these things matter, not just financial.”

Smith said the school’s initial efforts to boost financial aid packages over a decade ago helped diversity, but more recent tweaks don’t seem to have helped. “Putting more money into financial aid programs alone is not making change” in who applies, he said.

SFFA also called a former Harvard admissions officer who handles the office’s databases, Elizabeth Yong, to testify that Fitzsimmons and other admissions officials request and receive frequent updates on the demographics of the accepted applicant pool as the process unfolds.

SFFA lawyer Katherine Hacker emphasized that the breakdowns contain data on the number and percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the pool, but do not list similar data for whites. Harvard’s counsel noted that the compilations include many other demographics, like gender, proposed major, Harvard “lineage,” nationality and geographic distributions.

During her testimony, Yong confirmed that Fitzsimmons was rather agitated in the wake of a 2012 article by Ron Unz accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans. “Fitz is on a tear about this Asian-American thing,” she wrote in an email to a colleague. Yong seemed eager to bow out of any rebuttal. “I decided to pull the I’m a geek and know nothing about writing,” she wrote in the message.

If SFFA’s lawyers were hoping that Yong, who is Asian-American, had some resentment or deep-seated concern about Harvard’s practices, there was no hint of that in her testimony. Yong said flatly that she had “never” seen any indication of bias or discrimination against Asian-Americans in her decade as an admissions office or the quarter-century she’s spent handling Harvard’s admissions data.

During her testimony, Yong did disclose that it’s common for Harvard admissions officers who attended the school to take a peek at the details of why they got in.

“When I first started working in the admissions office, I looked at my profile, which everyone does,” she said. On the surface, “you wouldn’t see anything that would distinguish me from any other solid applicant,” Yong added.

In the early 1990s, Harvard resisted giving all students access to records containing details on why they were admitted, but the school relented after a ruling from the Education Department that they must be disclosed under federal law.

However, Yong said she believed being Asian-American, attending a Boston high school and coming from parents who never graduated from high school contributed to her admission. “All of those combined, I believe, to help me go to Harvard,” she said.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue Wednesday from minority recruiting leaders for Harvard, followed by one of SFFA’s technical experts. Harvard may being calling witnesses as soon as Friday, likely students who will testify about how they benefited from the school’s diversity.

Josh Gerstein is a senior White House reporter for POLITICO.

Silicon Valley silent on Saudi money amid Khashoggi scandal

Ro Khanna

“In addition to pulling out of the conference, Silicon Valley needs to be quite clear that they’re not going to accept any additional Saudi investment,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), whose district encompasses the headquarters of Apple, Tesla and Intel. | Reed Saxon/AP Photo


Some Democrats want tech companies to reevaluate all their dealings with Riyadh in light of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death.

Tech executives withdrew in scores from a high-profile Saudi investment summit amid the uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — but top Silicon Valley companies show no signs they plan to unwind their lucrative business ties with the country.

The oil-rich kingdom, with its long history of human rights violations, is the single largest funding source for U.S. startups — and a financial pipeline for companies like Uber, Twitter and Tesla.

Story Continued Below

Now some Democrats want tech companies to reevaluate all their dealings with Riyadh in light of Khashoggi’s death, even after executives from companies like Uber and Google pulled out of their planned appearances at the Saudi-led Future Investment Initiative summit that kicked off Tuesday.

“In addition to pulling out of the conference, Silicon Valley needs to be quite clear that they’re not going to accept any additional Saudi investment,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), whose tech-heavy district encompasses the headquarters of Apple, Tesla and Intel, told POLITICO.

In a Facebook post, Khanna said: “We must lead with our values.”

The Saudi furor adds to a long list of political headaches for the tech sector, which has come under fire in Washington for everything from Russian social media interference to data privacy violations to Republican complaints that major internet companies are biased against conservatives.

But the fallout from the Khashoggi killing threatens the bottom line of the tech industry, which has looked to Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets for money to grow its businesses.

Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft have struck major investment deals with Saudi investors in recent years, and Twitter counts Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as one of its top shareholders. The Saudi financial fingerprint also extends to other well-known brands such as Snap and Tesla.

Twitter declined to comment on Tuesday about whether it planned to sever ties with Saudi leaders in light of the scandal. Uber, Lyft and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. Snap declined to comment.

Saudi investors have poured at least $14.1 billion into U.S. companies as of 2017, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data that counted only cases where Saudis have a 10 percent or higher voting ownership.

Exactly how much of that money was funneled to tech is difficult to ascertain, as some industry-specific data is not disclosed. But the kingdom’s investors have taken part in high-profile venture capital deals like the $963 million investment round this year for Magic Leap, a maker of augmented reality headsets.

While Silicon Valley has been largely quiet about the Saudi money, some voices are questioning the industry’s reliance on the kingdom’s wealth.

“If you’re taking billions of dollars from people whose values are incompatible with yours, you can’t say with a straight face that you disagree or dissent,” said Wesley Chan, managing director at Silicon Valley-based Felicis Ventures, who previously held a variety of positions at Google.

“You can’t say you believe in free speech and political debate, and then all of a sudden take money from folks who may have been involved in the horrendous and hideous murder of a respected journalist,” Chan said. “It results in massive moral peril for people that choose to associate with them.”

The Khashoggi affair isn’t the first time Silicon Valley has been pressed to reckon with Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights. The tech sector ran into similar questions over its ties to Saudi Arabia last year after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman detained numerous members of the Saudi royal family at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

A United Nations report in August added to the pressure on the tech industry. U.N. analysts found that a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may have committed war crimes in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed in airstrikes.

“There’s plenty of money in Silicon Valley and we don’t need to take investments that are tainted with the blood of tens of thousands of killed Yemenis,” said Khanna, an outspoken critic of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

While tech companies haven’t shown any inclination yet to unwind business ties with Riyadh, they are trying to keep the kingdom at arm’s length in public.

As the Saudi investment summit began on Tuesday, one of the country’s top tech partners, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, was nowhere to be found and his name was no longer listed as a speaker on the event’s website, according to reports from the scene.

Saudi officials are putting $45 billion into SoftBank’s Vision Fund, a massive investment vehicle that has backed U.S. companies like Uber and Slack. Japan-based SoftBank is also majority owner of U.S. wireless carrier Sprint, which is seeking approval from regulators to merge with T-Mobile.

SoftBank did not return a request for comment on Son’s conference plans or the future of the Vision Fund’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Live coverage: Abrams faces Kemp in Georgia debate showdown

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are set to clash on Tuesday in the first debate of their razor-tight gubernatorial race in Georgia. 

The race has been marked by sharp attacks from both parties, especially over allegations of voter suppression. Kemp and Abrams are neck-and-neck, according to recent polls, and the race has been rated as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report. 

The two will be joined by libertarian candidate Ted Metz.

Follow along with The Hill’s live coverage of the debate, due to start at 7 p.m. ET. 

Kemp goes on attack, Abrams touts bipartisanship in closing statements

8:07 p.m.


Kemp during his final remarks went on the attack against Abrams while the Democratic candidate made an appeal to bipartisanship. 

Abrams referred to herself as the only candidate with a “strong record of bipartisan leadership,” rattling off her support for “cradle to career” education, small businesses, the agricultural sector and Medicaid expansion.

Kemp framed his run as an end to the “craziness” of Abrams’ “extreme” run for governor.

The Republican called her campaign “the most extreme Georgians have ever seen” as she is “lying about my record to hide her extreme agenda.” 

“This race is about the soul of our future,” he concluded with urgency. 

Abrams says expanding Medicaid is her ‘day one priority’

7:57 p.m.

Abrams proudly stood by her call for Medicaid expansion as her “day one priority,” calling it the only solution to the issue of disappearing rural hospitals. 

Abrams, who has been looking to appeal to the state’s moderates, said she has “reached across the aisle” on health care throughout her career. 

Voter suppression leads to sharp exchange

7:49 p.m.

Kemp strongly defended himself against allegations his office had sought to suppress voters.

He said he is “absolutely not” using his position as secretary of State to suppress the minority vote, calling the idea  that he is doing so a “farce” and a “distraction” from Abram’s “extreme agenda.” 

Kemp touted that under his tenure, minority participation is up 23 percent while noting that more people are on voter rolls and elections have seen “record turnout.”

Abrams brought up her family’s history while noting the “right to vote is a right” and saying under Kemp, more people have lost the right to vote while he has also helped create “an atmosphere of fear.”  

“Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote. It’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won’t count,” she said.

Wages for police officers becomes an issue in debate

7:36 p.m.

Abrams, in a biting question for Kemp, asked why he does not believe it is the state’s “responsibility” to address the fact that more than 3,000 law enforcement officers in Georgia are on food stamps due to low wages.

“Why is it not the governor’s responsibility to ensure that law enforcement officers protecting our state are paid a living wage?” Abrams asked. 

Kemp responded by invoking his endorsement from Gov. Nathan Deal, who he claimed has dealt with the issue by increasing pay for some law enforcement offices. 

Abrams shot back by saying that she will always make sure police officers “can put food on their tables while we ask them to protect our families.”  

Abrams says she helped pass gang violence bill Kemp boasts about 

7:45 p.m.


Abrams, in response to a question about gang violence, said she helped pass a gang violence bill that Kemp has praised.

“Mr. Kemp has praised a bill that was passed to fight gangs as the strongest in the nation,” she said. “I helped pass that bill.” 

She then segued into her younger brother’s struggles with drug addiction, saying she is “very familiar with the challenges not only of gang violence but also the drug epidemic.”  

“I have a younger brother who grapples with drug addiction,” she said, the second mention of her brother in the debate so far.

Kemp accuses Abrams of supporting voting by “illegal” immigrants

7:32 p.m.

Abrams shot back at Kemp’s accusation that she wants people who are in the country “illegally” to vote in elections.

Calling herself “one of the foremost experts in the state on the expansion of voting rights,” Abrams said she has “never in my life asked for anyone who is not legally eligible to vote” to do so.

“What I’ve asked for is that you allow those that are legally eligible to vote, to allow them to cast their ballots,” she continued.

Kemp accuses Abrams of not having previously paid taxes

7:30 p.m.

Kemp seeks to make an issue of taxes, accusing Abrams of not having paid taxes even though she’s a tax attorney. 

“When you put politics over paying the government the taxes you owe that does make you unfit to be governor,” he said, while also noting “My wife and I have always paid our taxes.”

Abrams responds by explaining that in 2015 and 2016 she became the primary caregiver for her parents. When her father had to pay for cancer treatment, she had to defer taxes.

“You can defer taxes but you can’t defer cancer treatment.”

Kemp, Abrams spar over immigration 

7:22 p.m.

Kemp and Abrams began sparring over immigration right away, with Kemp standing by his belief that undocumented immigrants do not count as “our own people.” 

The Republican candidate doubled down on his belief that students benefitting from the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should not be allowed to receive in-state tuition for the state’s colleges. 

“I’ve been running my whole campaign on putting Georgians first,” Kemp said. “I think we need to continue to do that.” 

He criticized Abrams’ support for Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, which can provide financial assistance to undocumented students. 

Abrams stepped in with a rebuttal, framing the argument as an economic one. She said the HOPE Scholarship can help fuel the state’s economy and address its nursing shortage. 

“These are young people who were brought here not by their own volition,” she said of DACA recipients.

Candidates spar over health care

7:18 p.m.

Abrams touts her “bipartisan” health care plan, promising it would cover half a million Georgians and “will give them the access to health care they need.”

She also said Kemp has no plan for healthcare, “other than saying trust your insurance companies.”

Kemp responds by saying Abrams would make current insurance plans “illegal,” would not allow holders to chose their doctors and said “she would raise your taxes to pay for it.”

Kemp also said Abrams was promoting a “single payer health care plan” and will cut Medicaid and Medicare to pay for it.

“My health care makes premiums more affordable,” he said as well as lowering prescription drug costs.

Kemp also said strongly he supports pre-existing conditions, calling it “absurd” to say otherwise.

And we are back …

7:10 p.m.

“The beauty of live TV,” says one of the moderators as the live stream resumes, with the fire alarm now off.

Fire alarm interrupts the debate

7:08 p.m.

A fire alarm broke out not 10 minutes into the start of the debate. The candidates, looking perplexed, looked to the moderators who said a fire alarm appeared to have been set off.

The debate is now on a break.

Kemp says he will not resign as secretary of state 

7:06 p.m.

The first question for Kemp was whether there is an ethical dilemma with his position overseeing the state’s elections during his run for governor.

One of the moderators asked Kemp to respond to calls by Abrams and others for his resignation.

“It’s our county elections officials that are actually holding the election that is going on right now,” he said. 

He said “local, bipartisan election boards” tally the votes that are then sent to his office.

Kemp said he would not aside if his tight race with Abrams comes to a recount

Flag-burning comes straight off the bat

7:05 p.m.

Abrams was asked about a flag-burning incident in which as a college freshman she was photographed burning the state flag containing the confederate symbol in 1992.

She said her protests were because she, like others, “were deeply disturbed” by the divisiveness of the flag. She also highlighted the Kemp lated voted in favor of changing the flag.

She then quickly pivoted to the present.  

“Im fighting now for Georgia values,” she said, while saying she’s now fighting for things like health care access, education and “good prosperous jobs.”

All set for what promises to be an interesting debate

6:51 p.m.

All eyes are on the Georgia gubernatorial debate, which pits Abrams, a former minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, against Kemp, the current secretary of state.

Likely topics of discussion will include allegations of voter suppression, the role of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump’s new tax cut: report MORE, and what to do about illegal immigration.

Both sides have staked out divergent views on these topics, setting up what should be a good debate.

A convenient omission? Trump campaign adviser denied collusion to FBI source early on

By John Solomon
Opinion Contributor

Just weeks after the FBI opened a dramatic counterintelligence probe into Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump’s new tax cut: report MORE and Russia, one of his presidential campaign advisers emphatically told an undercover bureau source there was no election collusion occurring because such activity would be treasonous.

George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosPapadopoulos set to testify before House lawmakers Mueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Calif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison MORE says his spontaneous admission to London-based professor Stefan Halper occurred in mid-September 2016 — well before FBI agents and the Obama Justice Department sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant to collect Trump campaign communications in the final days before the election.

“He was there to probe me on the behest of somebody else,” Papadopoulos told me in an interview this week, recalling the Halper meeting. “He said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?’”

Papadopoulos said Halper also suggested the Trump campaign was involved in the hacking and release of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU ‘meme ban’ proposal Dems lower expectations for ‘blue wave’ Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor’s debate | DNC chief pushes back on ‘blue wave’ talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE’s emails that summer. “I think I told him something along the lines of, ‘I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. What you are talking about is treason. And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it,’” Papadopoulos recalled.

The former campaign aide is set to testify behind closed doors Thursday before two House panels.

Sources who saw the FISA warrant and its three renewals tell me there is no mention of Papadopoulos’s denial, an omission of exculpatory evidence that GOP critics in Congress are likely to cite as having misled the court.

A source directly familiar with the Russia probe declined to discuss specifics of the Papadopoulos-Halper conversations but acknowledged the FBI possessed one or more transcripts that called into question the Trump campaign’s — and specifically Papadopoulos’s — alleged complicity with Russia.

The FBI officially opened the Trump-Russia case on July 31, 2016, based on suspicions that Papadopoulos had prior knowledge that Russia hacked Clinton’s emails, but it quickly pivoted by early fall 2016 to evidence such as the Democratic-funded dossier produced by Christopher Steele, and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page’s trips to Moscow. The FISA warrant was drafted to target surveillance at Page but also cited Papadopoulos in a section that suggested Russia was coordinating election collusion through Page and “perhaps other individuals associated” with Trump’s campaign.

“The truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,” one source said.

Some in Congress are bracing for the possibility that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Papadopoulos set to testify before House lawmakers Rod Rosenstein has no conflict MORE might argue in his interview with lawmakers that the FBI did not have an obligation to disclose all exculpatory evidence to the FISA judges. Such an argument is contrary to how the court works, according to officials who prepare FISA warrants. The FBI is required to submit only verified information and to alert the court to any omissions of material fact that cast doubt on the supporting evidence, including any denials, these officials told me.

Papadopoulos said his discussions with Halper — identified this year by The Washington Post as an FBI informant in the Russia case — were among more than a half-dozen contacts that U.S. and Western intelligence figures initiated with Papadopoulos during the campaign.

Other contacts were initiated by Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials, an Australian intelligence agent, an Australian diplomat, an Israeli diplomat and British diplomats, Papadopoulos told me. At least one contact sought to offer him sex in return for information, he alleged.

Nearly all the contacts occurred in London, between April and October 2016, while Papadopoulos served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, and after a different London professor, Joseph Mifsud, had told Papadopoulos the Russians planned to release thousands of emails from Clinton they possessed, Papadopoulos said.

Papadopoulos said he never asked Mifsud for the emails and did not act on his tip, though he told a few people about Mifsud’s claim. Papadopoulos eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing and content of his conversations with Mifsud; he was sentenced to 14 days in jail.

Once Mifsud conveyed the information to him, Papadopoulos began getting overtures from Western and U.S. intelligence.

In late April 2016, for example, two officials at the U.S. embassy in London, who identified themselves as DIA officers, probed Papadopoulos for information about Trump and Russia.

“They were wining and dining me as if I were Marilyn Monroe,” Papadopoulos told me. “They said, ‘You are an individual, George, that has tons of contacts in Athens and you are a subject of interest.’”

He said the two intelligence officers then asked about Moscow: “They were trying to find out why Trump was willing to work with Russia. They were trying to act as if they were pro-working with Russia.”

Around the same time, he said, an Israeli diplomat who portrayed himself as friendly to the Obama State Department, and decidedly opposed to Trump, befriended him in London. The Israeli official questioned him about where Trump stood on Russia and Iran issues, and introduced Papadopoulos to a woman he identified as his girlfriend.

That woman, Papadopoulos said, apparently worked for Australian intelligence and set up a meeting for him at a London bar to meet the Aussie ambassador to England, Alexander Downer.

It was at that May 10, 2016, meeting that the FBI alleges Papadopoulos told Downer he knew the Russians had thousands of Clinton emails they planned to release later in the campaign. That release occurred in July, after which Downer reported his Papadopoulos information to U.S. authorities.

Papadopoulos said he doesn’t remember telling Downer about the email claim but does remember making a passing reference a few weeks later when he met the Greek foreign minister. “He basically told me, ‘Where you are sitting now, Putin will be sitting there tomorrow.’ And I just had this nervous reaction and said, ‘Oh, hey, I heard this thing about emails.’ It was nothing else.”

Whatever the case, the uninvited overtures continued in London.

The most significant, in Papadopoulos’s mind, was in September 2016 when Halper invited him to London to write an academic paper for $3,000.

A former adviser to Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, Halper was a respected professor at Cambridge University who frequented policy conferences deemed friendly to Western intelligence and diplomats. Two sources confirmed to me that the Washington Post article claiming Halper was a confidential human source who reached out to Papadopoulos at the FBI’s behest was true.

The sources said Halper reached out to other Trump campaign aides in the summer and fall of 2016, including Carter Page (who became the subject of the FISA warrant) and senior adviser Sam Clovis, though it is not clear if the FBI prodded him to do so. A spokesman for Cambridge and Halper did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Papadopoulos said when he arrived in London for his meeting with Halper, strange things began to happen, beginning with the young woman who served as a guide. “She was trying to seduce me and was trying to hint that, ‘I want to sleep with you but you have to give some information first,’” he recalled.

Papadopoulos said he rejected that overture and then got another unexpected invite, this time from the British foreign ministry. He said two diplomats quizzed him about Trump’s positions on Iran, Russia and Brexit, and arranged a follow-up meeting with a more senior British official back in the United States.

Then, Papadopoulos recalled, Halper set up a meeting at a swanky London club fancied by diplomats. The conversation started with Halper challenging Papadopoulos on some of his views on the Middle East, but quickly turned to Russia.

“He puts his phone out in front of him and right away I saw what he was doing: this guy is obviously recording me,” Papadopoulos recalled.

At one point, Halper asked him about the hacked Clinton emails and “if I was involved and if the campaign knew,” he recalled.

Papadopoulos said he again denied involvement. “‘That would be treason. I don’t know what you are talking about and I have nothing to do with Russia,’” he recalled saying.

Papadopoulos said he does not believe he ever told anyone in the Trump campaign about the Russia emails, though he did offer to broker a summit between Trump and Putin — an idea that never gained traction with campaign insiders.

Democrats doubt Papadopoulos’ story about the emails. “It just stretches, I think, most people’s credibility that if Papadopoulos had this knowledge and he wanted to try to further ingratiate himself with the campaign, that he wouldn’t have shared that with somebody on the campaign,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE said recently on CNN.

But some Republicans are convinced that Papadopoulos was targeted by a Western intelligence operation designed to discredit or infiltrate the Trump campaign, and that the Obama CIA may have played a role.

That suspicion is triggered by testimony that former CIA Director John Brennan gave to the House Intelligence Committee more than a year ago, when he acknowledged reaching out to the FBI in July 2016 to try to get an investigation started into Trump and Russia — even though he knew such an investigation was “well beyond my mandate” as CIA chief.

“I was worried about a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons” in the Trump campaign, Brennan testified.

Whether the half-dozen Papadopoulos overtures by Western intelligence officials were directed or assisted by the CIA, or were purely coincidental, one important concern lingers: If Papadopoulos is telling the truth, the FBI possessed a critical piece of exculpatory evidence by September 2016 that called into the question the legitimacy of its Trump-Russia collusion probe.

If the FBI did not disclose that evidence to the FISA court a month later when it sought the surveillance warrant, it likely committed a grave abuse that furthers the narrative that this probe was infected more by politics than evidence.

And those who signed the FISA warrants — including Rosenstein — have serious questions to answer.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill.

No, these photos don’t show police officers beaten by migrants

Widely circulated social media posts falsely claim that Mexican police officers were brutally beaten by a caravan of migrants making its way through Central America.

“Mexican police are being brutalized by members of this caravan as they attempt to FORCE their way into Mexico – And WE are supposed to believe these are just poor, helpless refugees seeking asylum??? I am 100% behind POTUS deploying our military!” read one post on Twitter accompanied by an image of a bloodied Mexican officer.

A Facebook post on the pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” group page similarly claimed that the image and others came from recent interactions between Mexican police and migrants headed toward the U.S.

But the posts are wrong. A reverse search shows the images are in fact from a 2012 interaction between police officers and students in Mexico, not any recent altercation with the migrant caravan.

Both posts garnered roughly 10,000 shares, but the latter has been removed from Facebook.

A reader flagged this item to the POLITICO fake news database.