An early foreign policy adviser and aide to President Donald Trump’s campaign team secretly pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with foreign nationals who he knew had ties to senior Russian government officials.
George Papadopoulos, 30, was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign in early 2016. He sent at least six emails to top Trump advisers during the campaign offering to set up meetings with Russian officials, The Washington Post reported in August. The first of those emails was sent in March 2016 with the subject line ” Meeting with Russian Leadership – Including Putin.”
The newly unsealed charge filed on October 3 by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said that on January 27, Papadopoulos lied to FBI agents about “the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”
Papadopoulos told the FBI that his outreach to the Russia-linked foreign nationals occurred before he joined the campaign, the FBI document said. But his first interaction with an “overseas professor” with ties to high-level Russian officials occurred on March 14, 2016, weeks after he joined the campaign. That professor told Papadopoulos just over a month later that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton that came in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to the FBI document.
Papadopoulos further told the FBI that he met with a Russian woman who claimed to be a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin — Papadopoulos described her as Putin’s “niece” in one email — before he joined the campaign, but he actually met her on March 24, according to the special counsel’s office.
“He believed 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,” the filing says.
The professor introduced Papadopoulos via email to an individual in Moscow with ties to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 18, according to the filing. They had multiple conversations over the next few weeks to lay the groundwork for a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.
Papadopoulos emailed then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in April saying he had received “a lot of calls over the past month” about how “Putin wants to host the Trump team when the time is right,” according to The Post. He emailed Lewandowski and another campaign adviser, Sam Clovis, on May 4 to ask again about setting up a meeting
“There are legal issues we need to mitigate, meeting with foreign officials as a private citizen,” Clovis replied.
Two months later, on July 14, 2016, Papadopoulos emailed one of the foreign contacts and indicated a meeting had “been approved from our side.”
The meeting, Papadopoulos wrote, would be “for August or September in the UK (London) with me and my national chairman, and maybe one other foreign policy adviser and you, members of president putin’s office and the mfa to hold a day of consultations and to meet one another.”
Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27, 2017 upon his arrival to Dulles airport in Washington DC and met with government agents several times thereafter. He pleaded guilty on October 5 and now appears to be a cooperating witness in Mueller’s investigation.