Update: Papadopoulos’s attorney has weighed in…
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In addition to the news that former Trump campaign executive Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, have been indicted on 12 counts including tax fraud, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country, and conspiring against the US, unsealed court documents have revealed that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI.
Noting that the Russian government often uses foreign intermediaries to accomplish its foreign policy goals, the FBI said it investigated Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign adviser for the Trump campaign starting on March 2016 and continuing through most of the campaign, for any such contacts. This investigation included an interview in January 2017. According to the indictment, there is probable cause to believe that on Jan. 27, Papadopoulos made material false statements and omitted material facts to the FBI regarding his interactions during the campaign with foreign contacts, including Russian nationals.
Specifically, Prosecutors charged Papadopolous with lying to investigators and that he falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact, identified as a professor, who discussed “dirt” related to emails concering then-presiential candidate Hillary Clinton, when in fact, he had repeated communications with that contact while serving as an adviser on the campaign. Papadopoulos allegedly told the FBI that those conversations happened before he joined the campaign, statements rebutted by the Justice Department’s timeline.
Papadopoulos also shut down a Facebook account following a second interview in February. The account included communications with foreigners including Russian nationals – thereby obstructing the FBI’s investigation.
A self-described energy consultant, Papadopoulos was the youngest and least experienced member of the small foreign policy team Trump abruptly formed last March after coming under criticism for his lack of foreign policy expertise. Furthermore, the Washington Post reported that in at least half a dozen email requests sent between March and September 2016, adviser George Papadopoulos urged Trump or senior members of his campaign to meet with Russian officials. Some of those emails were read to the newspaper by a person with access to them.
These newly surfaced emails mark the latest in a long string of examples of the Trump team’s efforts to establish direct communication with Russia during the 2016 race.
In one, Papadopoulos offered to arrange “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump,” as quoted by the Post.
It is worth recalling, however, that as the WaPo first reported back in August, several Trump officials, including Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman, expressed concern over the proposed meetings. Other officials who raised concerns over Papadopoulos’s proposals to meet with with Russian officials include the Trump campaign’s co-chairman, Sam Clovis, and Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic.
Papadopoulos also passed on an exchange with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), which conveyed that the Russian foreign ministry was receptive to Trump making a trip to Russia. An official with the Council confirmed that a discussion about a U.S.-Russia dialogue “informally” occurred.
“We discussed the idea informally as one of the opportunities for … dialogue between Russia and the U.S.,” Ivan Timofeev told The Post. “RIAC often hosts meetings with prominent political figures and experts from the US and many other countries.”
Manafort, according to the report, passed on the note to one of his colleagues, saying “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”
“We thought we probably should not go forward with any meeting with the Russians until we have had occasion to sit with our NATO allies,” Clovis said in a March email discussing a potential meeting.
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Then there’s this from the WaPo’s initial account:
Papadopoulos emerges from the sample of emails as a new and puzzling figure in the examination of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials and their proxies during the 2016 election, now the subject of a special-counsel investigation.
Less than a decade out of college, Papadopoulos appeared to hold little sway within the campaign, and it is unclear whether he was acting as an intermediary for the Russian government, although he told campaign officials he was.
While the emails illustrate his eagerness to strengthen the campaign’s connections to the Russian government, Papadopoulos does not spell out in them why it would be in Trump’s interest to do so. His entreaties appear to have generated more concern than excitement within the campaign, which at the time was looking to seal the Republican nomination and take on a heavily favored Hillary Clinton in the general election.
The Papadopoulos emails are part of 20,000 pages of documents the campaign provided to Congress earlier this month.
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A growing question now is what Papadopoulos may have “given” the government as part of the plea agreement, and whather he has “flipped” on Trump:
Former US Attorney Preet Bharara says the FBI appears to have found a cooperating witnes in Pap – which is significant.
In his plea agreement, the government says it will offer leniency to Pap in exchange for his cooperation, and that sentencing will be delayed before cooperation is completed.
Finally, as The Smoking Gun asks, “did George Papadopoulos agree to wear a wire or make any FBI-monitored calls?“
And at least some, for now, believe the answer is yes:
Finally, with some asking whether the young ex-advisor may have had alterantive motives, the Guardian’s Jon Swaine points out that the former aide sought book publisher recommendations three weeks ago.
“Interested in meeting with a prominent publisher. Recommendations welcome, ” wrote Papadopoulos
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Here’s Pap’s plea agreeement:
….and the criminal complaint