For the first time, special counsel Robert S. Mueller has linked a Trump campaign aide to a well-connected Russian interlocutor, charging George Papadopoulos with making false statements to federal investigators about a 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked professor and “dirt” he promised on Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos, in a March 2016 email to the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team, pitched “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” according to the Washington Post, which cited documents obtained by congressional committees also investigating the Russia matter.
The onetime campaign aide initially told federal investigators that his interactions with the unmanned Russian professor occurred before he joined the Trump campaign or knew he would be joining it. On Oct. 5, he acknowledged those claims were false and he plead guilty to lying to federal officials. (The plea deal has been sealed since, and was released Monday a few hours after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his right-hand man were indicted on separate charges.)
Papadopoulos knew the professor had “substantial connections to Russian government officials” and told him “about the Russians possessing ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’” according to the plea deal document.
He got himself into hot water, however, by telling the federal investigators “multiple times” that the professor told him those things before he joined the Trump team.
“In truth and in fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS learned he would be an advisor to the Campaign in early March, and met the professor on or about March 14, 2016,” the government document states. “The professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign; and the professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS about the ‘thousands of emails’ on or about April 26, 2016, when defendant PAPADOPOULOS had been a foreign policy adviser to the Campaign for over a month.”
Initially, Papadopoulos called the Russian academic “a nothing” and “just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something."
“In truth and in fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS understood that the professor had substantial connections to Russian government officials,” the government said in the plea deal documents.
What’s more, Papadopoulos also knew the professor had met with Russian officials “immediately prior” to telling the Trump campaign aide about Clinton’s emails. Papadopoulos, “over a period of months,” tried “repeatedly” to use the professor’s connections “in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.”
He also pled guilty to false statements about his interactions with what the Justice Department described as a “certain female Russian national,” whom he initially claimed to have met before joining the campaign. He eventually admitted to meeting her after he joined the campaign.
“He believed that she had connections to Russian government officials; and he sought to use her Russian connections over a period of months in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials,” according to the court documents.
He also pled guilty to impeding the federal government’s probe into Russia’s election meddling.
The White House has declined to provide a statement on the indictments and the plea deal.
President Trump tweeted about the Manafor indictment, saying the alleged violations in that case occurred before he became campaign chairman. In a second tweet that would cover the Papadopoulos case, the president repeated his claim that “there is NO COLLUSION!”
....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017