George Papadopoulos
George Papadopoulos

George Demetrios Papadopoulos (born August 1987) is a former member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. On October 5, 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016 relating to U.S.-Russia relations and Trump's campaign.

Involvement in Donald Trump's presidential campaign

According to court records, Papadopoulos was recruited to join Trump's foreign policy advisor team in early March 2016 by Sam Clovis. In a meeting on March 6, the official told him that one of the campaign's foreign policy priorities was to improve U.S.-Russia relations, though Clovis later denied having said that. Donald Trump identified Papadopoulos as one of his campaign's foreign policy advisors on March 21, 2016, in an interview with the editorial board of The Washington Post. Trump said: "He’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy".

At the time he was living in London, where he was approached by Joseph Mifsud, a professor with connections to high-ranking Russian officials.[ Mifsud was a regular at meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club, an annual conference held in Sochi, Russia, attended by Vladimir Putin. Mifsud told him the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails." The two met on March 14 and 21, 2016. At the March 21 meeting Mifsud brought along a Russian woman, Olga Polonskaya, who posed as Putin's niece.

Papadopoulos sent emails concerning Putin to at least seven campaign officials. Clovis, as Trump national campaign co-chairman, encouraged Papadopoulos to fly to Russia to meet with agents of the Russian Foreign Ministry, after being told that Russia had "dirt" on Clinton it wanted to share with Trump's campaign. This occurred before there was public knowledge of the hack of Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta's emails, both of which U.S. intelligence agencies believe were carried out by Russia. In May 2016, Papadopoulos told the top Australian diplomat to the United KingdomAlexander Downer, that Russia had "political dirt" on Hillary Clinton, leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Between March and September 2016, Papadopoulos made at least six requests for Trump or representatives of his campaign to meet in Russia with Russian politicians. In May, campaign chairman Paul Manafort forwarded one such request to his deputy Rick Gates, saying "We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal." Gates delegated the task to the campaign's correspondence coordinator, referring to him as "the person responding to all mail of non-importance."

In an interview about Russia–United States relations with Interfax in September 2016, Papadopoulos said that Barack Obama had failed to follow through on his promises to cooperate with Russia, and asserted that the U.S. had made insufficient joint efforts with Russia against terrorism. As foreign policy advisor during Trump's campaign, Papadopoulos helped set up a New York meeting between Trump and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian head of state. On January 20, 2017, just hours before Trump was going to be inaugurated, Papadopoulos and incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus met with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. Just after Trump became President, Papadopoulos visited Israel and told settlers in the West Bank that Trump supported their settlements.

Senator Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, said in October 2017 that the panel was interested in Papadopoulos because he had sent e-mails attempting to set up meetings between Trump and Putin. The recipients of emails about outreach to the Russian government reportedly were Clovis, Corey Lewandowski, Manafort, Gates, representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ivan Timofeev, and others.

Arrest and guilty plea

The Statement of Facts of Guilt, filed October 5, 2017, and unsealed October 30, 2017, showing the facts admitted by Papadopoulos as part of his guilty plea
Main article: 2017 Special Counsel investigation

After being interviewed by FBI agents on January 27, 2017, Papadopoulos deactivated his Facebook account, which contained correspondences with Russians, and created a new one. Papadopoulos was arrested at Washington-Dulles International Airport on July 27, 2017, and he has since been cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation. On October 5, 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to making false statements to FBI agents relating to contacts he had with agents of the Russian government while working for the Trump campaign. The guilty plea was part of a plea bargainreflecting his cooperation with the Mueller investigation. Papadopoulos's arrest and guilty plea became public on October 30, 2017, when court documents showing the guilty plea were unsealed. As of January 17, 2018, Papadopoulos had not been sentenced.

Following his guilty plea, Trump belittled Papadopoulos as a "young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar" and said few people in his campaign had heard about Papadopoulos. FactCheck.org and PolitiFact, among others, noted that during the campaign, Trump named Papadopoulos as one of his five foreign policy advisers—alongside Keith KelloggCarter PageWalid Phares and Joseph Schmitz—and described Papadopoulos as an "excellent guy". From March to August 2016, Papadopoulos "was identified as having contacts with senior members of the Trump campaign on at least a dozen occasions."  On January 22, 2017, shortly following Trump's inauguration as President, Papadopoulos met with the head of Israel's Shomron Regional CouncilYossi Dagan, in Washington D.C. Papadopoulos was reported to have communicated to Dagan the Trump administration's desire to work closely with Israel on the question of settlements.

Papadopoulos's fiancée said his job on the campaign was to set up meetings with foreign leaders and that he had been in regular contact with high-ranking campaign officials.  She later predicted Papadopoulos's role in the Russia investigation would be similar to that of John Dean of the Watergate scandal.