Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian to Discuss ‘Dirt’ on Clinton:
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 that the Trump campaign was aware that the Russian government was trying to help Mr. Trump and that the campaign was eager to accept that help.
“They have dirt on her,” the professor told Mr. Papadopoulos, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”
Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested at Washington Dulles Airport on July 27 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 subsequent 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.
The documents released on Monday said that several senior campaign officials knew about some of Mr. Papadopoulos’s interactions with the Russians. The documents do not say whether he mentioned the Clinton emails to anyone.
The professor, who was not identified in court documents, introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to others, including someone connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a woman who he believed was a relative of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. 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. She was not actually a relative of Mr. Putin, according to court documents.
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.
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.
* * *
Mr. Papadopoulos was first interviewed by the F.B.I. in January, as the bureau was investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. In that interview, Mr. Papadopoulos said that he began communicating with the professor and the Russian woman before he became a foreign policy adviser to the campaign. He has since acknowledged that is untrue.
“The professor only took interest in defendant Papadopoulos because of his status with the campaign; and the professor told defendant Papadopoulos about the ‘thousands of emails’ on or about April 26, 2016, when defendant Papadopoulos had been a foreign policy adviser to the campaign for over a month,” according to the documents.
In February, Mr. Papadopoulos deleted his Facebook account, which included his communications with the Russians. Later that month, he began using a new cellphone number.
The documents say that Mr. Papadopoulos knew that the professor had met with senior officials in Moscow to discuss Mrs. Clinton’s email.
Mr. Papadopoulos alerted his supervisor and several members of the foreign policy team about his contacts, referring to his “good friend” the professor and a woman he called Mr. Putin’s niece. The campaign supervisor — who was not identified in the documents — said in response that he would “work it through the campaign” and added “Great work.”
The Justice Department said that Mr. Papadopoulos had hurt their investigation.
“Through his false statements and omissions, defendant Papadopoulos impeded the F.B.I.’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” the documents said.
Charlie Savage of the Times has the Highlights of the Special Counsel’s Case Against George Papadopoulos:
In the first charges in the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations with people linked to the Russian government about potential “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and Russia’s openness to “cooperation” with the campaign.
The facts surrounding the criminal case against Mr. Papadopoulos are directly significant in providing information about the central subject of his investigation. Here are highlights:
Lies about contacts with Russia-linked people
On or about the 27th day of January, 2017, defendant GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the Government of the United States, to wit, defendant PAPADOPOULOS lied to special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, concerning a federal investigation based out of the District of Columbia, 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.
Mr. Papadopoulos is charged with lying to the F.B.I. during an interview in early 2017. A 14-page statement of the offense that accompanies the brief indictment shows that Mr. Papadopoulos was questioned by the F.B.I. about his interactions during the campaign with two apparent Russian agents — an unnamed professor and an unnamed “female Russian national,” who each had substantial connections to Russian government officials. The indictment says Mr. Papadopoulos falsely played down the significance of those conversations and falsely said he had not yet joined the campaign when they reached out to him.
How they began talking
On or about March 14, 2016, while traveling in Italy, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met an individual who was a professor based in London (the “Professor”). Initially, the Professor seemed uninterested in defendant PAPADOPOULOS. However, after defendant PAPADOPOULOS informed the Professor about his joining the Campaign, the Professor appeared to take great interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS. Defendant PAPADOPOULOS was interested in the Professor because, among other reasons, the Professor claimed to have substantial connections with Russian government officials, which defendant PAPADOPOULOS thought could increase his importance as a policy adviser to the Campaign. On or about March 21, 2016, the Campaign told The Washington Post that defendant PAPADOPOULOS was one of five named foreign policy advisers for the Campaign. On or about March 24, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met with the Professor in London. The Professor brought with him a female Russian national (the “Female Russian National”), introduced to defendant PAPADOPOULOS as a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to senior Russian government officials.
The court filing identifies neither the professor nor the woman, who turned out not to be Mr. Putin’s relative. It also does not identify senior campaign officials, like Mr. Papadopoulos’s supervisor, to whom he reported on his contacts.
Trump was told of efforts to set up a meeting with Putin
On or about March 31, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS attended a “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the Campaign. When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. After his trip to Washington, D.C., defendant PAPADOPOULOS worked with the Professor and the Female Russian National to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government, and took steps to advise the Campaign of his progress.
Senior campaign officials were aware of these efforts and apparently sanctioned them; Mr. Papadopoulos’s supervisor told him “great work” in one email.
Learning the Russians have ‘emails’ and ‘dirt’ on Clinton
On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel. During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high level Russian government officials. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They (the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”
The court filing says Mr. Papadopoulos continued to discuss setting up a campaign-Russia meeting after this encounter. It does not say whether he conveyed to his campaign superiors this information about what Mr. Putin was said to possess.
Russians were ‘open for cooperation’
On or about May 4, 2016, the Russian MFA Connection sent an email (the “May 4 MFA Email”) to defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Professor that stated: “I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS responded that he was “[g]lad the MFA is interested.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to the High-Ranking Campaign Official, adding: “What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?” The next day, on or about May 5, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS had a phone call with the Campaign Supervisor, and then forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to him, adding to the top of the email: “Russia updates.”
The professor had put Mr. Papadopoulos in contact with someone described as “an individual in Moscow” who told Mr. Papadopoulos he had connections with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the MFA. A week after Mr. Papadopoulos learned from the professor that the Russians had “emails” and “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he received this apparent offer to cooperate with the foreign affairs ministry liaison. The filing does not say what the Trump campaign officials interpreted the word “cooperation” to mean when they saw the email.
Trump campaign officials were apparently cautious but interested
The government notes that the official forwarded defendant PAPADOPOULOS’s email to another Campaign official (without including defendant PAPADOPOULOS) and stated: “Let[‘]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
Notably, it was less than a month later that Donald Trump Jr. received an email from an intermediary with contacts in Russia saying the Russian government had information that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” which described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” setting up a now-famous meeting in Trump Tower on June 9.
A shift to pursuit of a potential secret meeting with campaign officials
From mid-June through mid-August 2016, PAPADOPOULOS pursued an “off the record” meeting between one or more Campaign representatives and “members of president putin’s office and the mfa.” For example, on or about June 19, 2016, after several email and Skype exchanges with the Russian MFA Connection, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed the High Ranking Campaign Official, with the subject line “New message from Russia”: “The Russian ministry of foreign affairs messaged and said that if Mr. Trump is unable to make it to Russia, if a campaign rep (me or someone else) can make it for meetings? I am willing to make the trip off the record if it’s in the interest of Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people.” After several weeks of further communications regarding a potential “off the record” meeting with Russian officials, on or about August 15, 2016, the Campaign Supervisor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the Campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible.”
The court filing tersely states that the proposed trip did not take place but does not explain why. But Mr. Mueller almost certainly knows more than he is willing to reveal at this stage. The court filings also reveal that Mr. Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27 and has been cooperating, meeting with federal officials “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller “knows more than he is willing to reveal” and is playing his cards close to his vest. More shoes are certain to drop as Mueller rolls up lower-level actors to get them to flip on bigger fish higher up the food chain. This is only the beginning, not the end.