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Devin Nunes: Trump never met with Papadopoulos. Reality: here’s a photo.

An astonishingly brazen lie.

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Rep. Devin Nunes is the author of a newly declassified document falsely insinuating the FBI misused US surveillance law to go after President Trump under the pretext of investigating Russia. On Monday morning, Nunes went on Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite TV show, to discuss Trump’s alleged persecution — and told a lie so brazen that there’s photographic proof of its wrongness.

The lie concerned George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign’s foreign policy adviser who pled guilty to lying to the FBI last year and became a major witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. According to Nunes, Papadopoulos was a completely marginal figure in Trump world. So unimportant, in fact, that Trump never met with him.

“As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos never even knew who Trump was — never even met with the president,” Nunes said.

This is not true. We know it’s not true because there is an actual photograph of Papadopoulos and Trump together — one that was released by the Trump campaign. It’s from a March 2016 meeting of Trump’s foreign policy advisory staff; Papadopoulos is highlighted; Trump is on the right:

In fact, this specific meeting is quite important. According to internal Trump campaign emails obtained by the Washington Post, Papadopoulos offered to broker “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.”

In other words, not only did Trump meet with Papadopoulos, but they literally discussed building a bridge between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Papadopoulos is a crucial figure in the Trump-Russia saga: He was one of the first Trump figures to be approached by the Russians promising emails and he ignited the FBI’s investigation in June of 2016 by getting drunk at a London bar and bragging to an Australian that he was connecting the Trump campaign with the Kremlin.

That drunken confession undercuts the central thrust of the Nunes memo because the FBI was alarmed about Trump’s possible ties to Russia long before it started surveilling Carter Page, the former Trump adviser Nunes claims was surveilled by the FBI under false pretenses.

Now is probably a good time to note that Nunes, in addition to being the chair of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, has a vested interest in the FBI laying off Trump. He served on the Trump transition team after the election — a team whose actions are currently being scrutinized by Mueller’s team to see how they fit in with the overall Trump/Russia scandal.

Here’s video of Nunes’s statement, in case you want to watch Republican fake news in action:

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