Trump adviser emails show attempts to set up Russia meeting, report says

Three days after then-candidate Donald Trump appointed his foreign policy team in March 2016, adviser George Papadopoulos emailed seven campaign officials with the subject line "Meeting with Russian Leadership -- Including Putin," according to a report from The Washington Post.

Papadopoulos offered to facilitate "a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump," according to internal campaign emails read to The Post. The emails also expressed that Papadopoulos' Russian contacts welcomed the potential meeting.

The conversations are recorded as part of the more than 20,000 pages of documents forfeited this month to congressional committees by the Trump campaign after they were reviewed by White House and defense lawyers. The selection pertaining to Papadopoulos' emails were read to The Post by a person with access to them, and portions of the text were confirmed by two additional sources who also had access to the exchanges.

Papadopoulos' proposed meeting set off a chain of concerned reactions from Trump campaign officials. Campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis suggested discussing with NATO allies before making any plans to meet with the Russians and adviser Charles Kubic expressed a variety of legal concerns, citing the Logan act, which prohibits citizens from participating in unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments.

Then-campaign manager Paul Manafort rejected one of Papadopoulos' requests in May 2016 for Mr. Trump to participate in a Russian meeting. At the time, the Trump campaign was focused on securing Mr. Trump's position as the Republican Party's candidate.

Eschewing the concerns of more experienced campaign advisers, Papadopoulos persisted in suggesting the meeting. Between March and September, he sent at least six requests for Mr. Trump or his team members to meet with Russian officials.

It is unclear from Papadopoulos' emails what benefit the Trump campaign would reap from meeting with the Russian government.

Three months following Papadopoulos' proposed meeting, Mr. Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort met at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer after being promised potentially damaging information on former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. claimed that his father did not have knowledge of the meeting.

That meeting, in addition to several other Trump campaign communications, are now under the scrutiny of the Special Counsel led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller assigned to investigate potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In July 2016, then-senator and Trump foreign policy adviser Jeff Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak-- a meeting he has since disclosed in his recusal from any Russia-related investigation into the Trump campaign. In the same month, Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page spoke at an event at a university in Moscow, although he claims the speech was independent of the Trump campaign.

Following his previous efforts, Papadopoulos reached out to then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to explain that he was receiving "a lot of calls over the past month" about arranging a meeting between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.

"Putin wants to host the Trump team when the time is right," Papadopoulos wrote on April 27, according to The Post.

A week later, Papadopoulos forwarded a note from the leader of the government-funded Russian International Affairs Council on to Lewandowski and others.

In the forwarded message, a senior official to the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev explained that Russian foreign ministry officials welcomed a visit from Mr. Trump to Moscow. Timofeev also requested that the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians to outline a formal letter regarding the meeting.

Clovis responded that, "There are legal issues we need to mitigate, meeting with foreign officials as a private citizen," and there is no apparent response from Lewandowski, according to The Post.

Papadopoulos later forwarded the same Timofeev message to Manafort.

"Russia has been eager to meet with Mr. Trump for some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss," he told Manafort, The Post reports.

"We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips," Manafort responded while forwarding the email to his deputy Rick Gates, who agreed with Manafort on the subject.

Timofeev confirmed that his organization had discussed a potential meeting with the Trump campaign.

"We discussed the idea informally as one of the opportunities for . . . dialogue between Russia and the U.S.," Timofeev said to The Post in an email. "RIAC often hosts meetings with prominent political figures and experts from the US and many other countries.," he said, noting that his organization would have been open to meeting with other presidential candidates' campaigns.

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    Blair Guild is a politics reporter and video producer for CBS News Digital.