George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser to President Trump, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal officials about contacts he had with people he believed had ties to the Russian government while he was affiliated with Trump’s campaign.
Papadopoulos, who was named by Trump in March 2016 as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, was first charged under seal in July and ultimately pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal agents investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.
According to court papers released Monday, those contacts included an unnamed overseas professor whom Papadopoulos met in Italy in March, the same month he joined the campaign. In April 2016, the professor told him the Russian government had “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, including thousands of Clinton’s emails.
That conversation occurred two months before the Democratic National Committee revealed it had been hacked and believed Russians were behind the attack. It also came about a month after an email account belonging to Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, was targeted with a phishing attempt that may have led to the hack of his emails. Podesta’s emails were released by WikiLeaks in October.
Papadopoulos, who was arrested when he arrived at Dulles Airport on July 27, signed a plea agreement that indicates he is cooperating with special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III, filings show. The charge against him indicates that Mueller is deeply examining any links between Trump aides and Russian officials as part of his probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
In a statement, Papadopoulos’s attorneys Thomas Breen and Robert Stanley said that they would refrain from commenting on the case.
“We will have the opportunity to comment on George’s involvement when called upon by the Court at a later date,” they said. “We look forward to telling all of the details of George’s story at that time.”
According to court filings, Papadopoulos gave several Trump campaign officials updates about his efforts to broker meetings between the campaign and the Russian government, forwarding information to unnamed people described as “high-ranking campaign officials” and “campaign supervisor.”
Papadopoulos’s emails began days after he was named to Trump’s campaign team and continued for months. At one point, he offered to set up a meeting directly between Trump and Putin.
In response, one high-ranking campaign official emailed another official Papadopoulos’s offer, adding, “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.”
The documents show Papadopoulos lied to federal agents about his interactions with the professor, saying their conversations predated his involvement with the campaign and indicating he believed the professor had low-level contacts in Russia. In fact, he knew that the professor had ties to senior levels of the Russian government, according to court papers.
In court filings, prosecutors quote from an email Papadopoulos sent to a campaign supervisor about his interactions with the professor in March. The email appears to match one described to The Washington Post in August in which Papadopoulos identified the professor with whom he met as Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy. The email was among more than 20,000 pages of documents the Trump campaign turned over to congressional committees after review by White House and defense lawyers.
Mifsud told The Post in an email in August that he had “absolutely no contact with the Russian government” and said he was an academic whose only ties to Russia are through academic links. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
In addition, Papadopoulos communicated with a Russian woman with ties to the government and a man in Moscow he believed was connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the filings show.
Trump identified Papadopoulos as one of his advisers in a March 2016 meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, during which the then-GOP candidate described Papadopoulos as “an energy consultant. Excellent guy.”
The court papers show that while he was serving as an adviser to the campaign, Papadopoulos met a Russian woman he believed was a niece of Russian President Vladimir Putin 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.
According to court filings, 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.
Papadopoulos emailed campaign officials about her offer. A supervisor, who is not named, wrote back, “Great work.”
The Post has reported that Papadopoulos repeatedly emailed top campaign aides to set up such meetings, and some emails show his offers were rebuffed.
However, court documents demonstrate that Papadopoulos had ongoing communications with his Russian contacts and campaign officials about the possibility of an “off the record” trip he might take to Moscow to help facilitate ties.
In one email exchange in August 2016, a campaign supervisor told Papadopoulos that he would “encourage” him and another unnamed foreign policy adviser to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” according to filings. The trip did not ultimately take place.
Prosecutors allege Papadopoulos also obstructed their inquiry by deleting a Facebook page that would have revealed his contacts with Russians not long after learning of the investigation.
At the time Trump identified Papadopoulos as an adviser, the hotel and real estate executive was rising in the field of Republican presidential candidates and his campaign was eager to show it had credible voices offering advice on foreign policy. On the same day, Trump also announced he was being advised by Carter Page, another energy consultant whose ties to Russia have been under scrutiny.
Papadopoulos initially drew attention because of his scant foreign policy background. He had earlier advised the presidential campaign of Ben Carson, but he had graduated from college less than a decade earlier and he appeared to have exaggerated his résumé.
Still, Papadopoulos was present later in March, at a meeting of the team in Washington that included both Trump and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, who had endorsed the campaign.
Throughout the summer, Papadopoulos met with foreign officials and gave interviews to media in other countries, sometimes describing Trump’s views on Putin on Russia.
He told a group of researchers in Israel that Trump saw Putin as “a responsible actor and potential partner,” according to a column in the Jerusalem Post, while later he met with a British Foreign Office representative in London and a Greek official in New York, British and Greek embassy spokesmen have said. He also criticized U.S. sanctions on Russia in an interview with the Russian news outlet Interfax.
The Post has also reported that Sergei Millian, who was a key source of information contained in a dossier of information about Trump’s ties to Russia, told people around him that he was in contact with Papadopoulos during the campaign.
Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.