Former Trump Campaign Adviser Charged With Lying To F.B.I. About Contacts With Russia
In addition to the indictments of Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Klein, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller also revealed this morning that they had charged and reached a plea agreement with George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign official, on charges of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his contacts with Russian officials regarding the 2016 while he was working for Trump:
WASHINGTON — A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.
The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.
“They have dirt on her,” the professor told him, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”
Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested in July and has since been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, records show. Mr. Papadopoulos’s conversation in April raises more questions about a meeting in June at Trump Tower, where Mr. Trump’s eldest son and senior advisers met with Russians who were similarly promising damaging information on Mrs. Clinton.
Taken together, the meetings show that early in the presidential race, people at the heart of Trump campaign and on its fringes were aware that Russian government officials were trying to help Mr. Trump.
The professor whom Mr. Papadopoulos met was not identified in court documents. The professor introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to a woman identified as a relative of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, and to someone in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, court records show.
“We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” the woman, who was not identified, told Mr. Papadopoulos in an email.
Mr. Papadopoulos told the F.B.I. in January that the professor was “a nothing.” But Mr. Papadopoulos now acknowledges that he knew the professor had “substantial connections to Russian government officials.” Attempts to reach Mr. Papadopoulos on Monday were not successful.
The United States government has concluded that Russia hacked Democratic email accounts and released thousands of embarrassing messages related to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. The emails began appearing online in the summer of 2016. The Trump campaign has repeatedly denied any inside knowledge about that.
Mr. Papadopoulos was one of a small group of foreign policy advisers that Mr. Trump announced in March 2016. Another of the advisers, Carter Page, has met with the F.B.I. about his own meetings with Russians.
More from The Washington Post:
George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser to President Trump, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal officials about his contacts with Russian nationals he believed had ties to the Russian government during Trump’s presidential campaign.
Papadopoulos, who was named by Trump in March 2016 as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russians when he was interviewed in January by federal agents who were investigating Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
Papadopoulos told agents that he had been in contact with a Russian professor even prior to joining the campaign. In fact, prosecutors say he met the man in March 2016 and was told by the professor the next month that he had damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, including thousands of Clinton’s emails.
Papadopoulos also falsely told agents he believed the professor was a low-level person in Russia, but, in fact, he knew that the professor had ties to senior levels of the Russian government, according to court papers released Monday.
Neither Papadopoulos nor a representative could be reached immediately Monday for comment.
Papadopoulos’s plea indicates he is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The charge indicates that Mueller, who is known to be probing alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, is deeply probing contacts with Trump campaign aides and Russian officials.
The court papers show that Papadopoulos had also met a Russian woman he believed had ties to the Kremlin and with whom he communicated about setting up a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.
He told agents that he met the woman a year before joining the Trump campaign, but, in fact, he met her only after he was named to the campaign and communicated with her for months while working with Trump aides, the documents show.
Papadopoulos’s plea agreement shows he was introduced to the woman by the professor, and she claimed she was a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the plea, she told Papadopoulos she would like to help set up meetings for the Trump campaign with her associates to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under a future President Trump.
Off the top, it’s worth noting that the charges against Papadopoulos come in the form of an Information rather than the Indictment that was issued against Manafort and Gates. The difference is significant and indicates the extent to which Papadopoulos has likely been cooperating with Mueller and his investigators. An Information is an initial charging document in which the charges against a defendant and the facts supporting them are laid out. They can, and often do, form the basis for an arrest but generally must be followed up by a formal Indictment via a Grand Jury after a period of time that is usually already set forth in the relevant state or Federal laws or Rules of Court. Mueller could have chosen to proceed via an Information with respect to Manafort and Gates too, but it appears that he chose to go through with an Indictment in that case in part due to the fact that the Statute of Limitations on some or all of the charges may have been about to expire had action not been taken. Additionally, the Indictment indicates that the evidence it is based upon was found by a Grand Jury to have been sufficient probable cause that crimes were committed. In the case of an Information, there is no such finding although the document is generally required to set forth the supporting facts for the charges. In this case, the fact that Mueller reached a plea deal with Papadopoulos led to the decision than an Indictment is not necessary in the case since there would be a guilty plea.
Papadopoulos is not a well-known figure like Manafort and, to some extent Rick Gates, but the fact that he has been charged and pled guilty to charges directly related to both the 2016 campaign and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. As the Information embedded below indicates, Papadopoulos apparently had contact with Russian officials in the past and those contacts increased once he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign specifically on foreign policy issues. As the Information alleges, at some point in early 2016 Papadopoulos told an unnamed Trump campaign official that he had been in contact with someone close to the Russian government who said that they could provide damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails to the campaign and the unnamed official responded: “That’s great.” It’s unclear what happened after that, but the reader will recall that this is nearly the same response that Donald Trump Jr. gave in response to another campaign aide in June 2016 regarding what ultimately became the meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Manafort, and Jared Kushner and an attorney with a long history of ties to the Russian government. Whether these two incidents are related is unclear, but it does lead one to wonder if the top campaign official named in the indictment might be Trump Jr. himself or someone such as Manafort or Kushner.
While the charges against Manafort and Gates are potentially more serious in terms of the sentence they could serve if convicted, the charges against Papadopoulos would seem to be the most significant news of the day. Unlike the Manafort and Gates case, these charges are directly related to both the issue of Russian interference in the election and the question of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials. This makes it much harder for the Trump Administration to dismiss today’s news as something unrelated to the investigation and unrelated to the campaign itself and it also puts a lie to the line that Trump himself and those close to him had no contact with Russian officials regarding the campaign. Additionally, the fact that Papadopoulos entered a guilty plea means that he’s most likely cooperating with Mueller and the his investigators in their ongoing investigation of Russian interference and contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign. Based on the Information, it seems clear that he was in some sense the initial point of entry for such contacts, so Mueller would obviously be interested in what he knows about what may have happened after he brought these contacts to the attention of people higher up in the campaign than he was. The question, of course, is how far up the food chain Papadopoulos can take Mueller and his team in the coming months. We don’t know that for sure, but this one should clearly make everyone at the White House nervous.
Here’s the Information filed against Papdapoulos:
And here’s the Plea Agreement: