White House dis­tances it­self from ad­viser who lied to FBI about Rus­sia

Irish Independent - - News - Rob Crilly New York

THE White House yes­ter­day tried to distance it­self from Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a Trump cam­paign ad­viser, af­ter he ad­mit­ted ly­ing to the FBI about meet­ings he had with peo­ple linked to Rus­sia.

Mr Pa­padopou­los, a lit­tle-known for­eign pol­icy ad­viser who joined the Trump cam­paign in March 2016, lied in Jan­uary about com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple who he be­lieved had ties to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

His ad­mis­sion pro­vides the clear­est ev­i­dence yet that Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign team was aware that the Krem­lin was ac­tively try­ing to help their cause.

Mr Trump’s cam­paign has al­ways de­nied col­lud­ing with Rus­sian ef­forts to sway the elec­tion out­come.

Court doc­u­ments re­leased yes­ter­day stated that Mr Pa­padopou­los was al­legedly told by an in­ter­me­di­ary – a Lon­don-based pro­fes­sor – that Moscow had dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion and that Mr Pa­padopou­los then tried to set up a visit to Rus­sia.

“They have dirt on her,” the pro­fes­sor told Mr Pa­padopou­los, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments. “They have thou­sands of emails.”

The ex­change hap­pened on April 26, months be­fore the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee re­vealed it had been hacked.

Mr Pa­padopolous was ar­rested in July.

The doc­u­ments un­sealed yes­ter­day show he has been co-op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors led by Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence and any col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign.

Yes­ter­day, Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, the White House press sec­re­tary, in­sisted Mr Pa­padopou­los was a mi­nor player who was not act­ing at the be­hest of the cam­paign. “He was a vol­un­teer on the cam­paign and a vol­un­teer mem­ber of an ad­vi­sory coun­cil that met one time,” she said.

While much of the at­ten­tion was fo­cused on the ar­rest of Paul Manafort, who served for three months as cam­paign chair­man, Mr Pa­padopou­los’s role could be more dam­ag­ing to Mr Trump. Court pa­pers de­scribe how he passed on over­tures from the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, invit­ing Mr Trump to Moscow. When he de­scribed his con­tacts to an im­me­di­ate su­pe­rior, he was praised for “great work”.

Other of­fi­cials dis­cussed the of­fer, with one higher rank­ing fig­ure re­spond­ing: “We need some­one to com­mu­ni­cate that DT is not do­ing th­ese trips. It should be some­one low level... so as not to send any sig­nal.”

The Rus­sians fol­lowed up their of­fer by say­ing that if Mr Trump could not at­tend then the of­fer could be ex­tended to a cam­paign of­fi­cial.

A fig­ure re­ferred to as a “cam­paign su­per­vi­sor” en­cour­aged Mr Pa­padopou­los to make the trip him­self, although in the end it never hap­pened.

He was first in­ter­viewed

by the FBI in Jan­uary and again in Fe­bru­ary, when he said he would co-op­er­ate and de­scribed the con­tacts as oc­cur­ring be­fore he joined the Trump cam­paign.

How­ever, the crim­i­nal com­plaint says that days later he switched mo­bile phones and de­ac­ti­vated his Face­book ac­count, which con­tained de­tails of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions, be­fore set­ting up a new pro­file on the so­cial me­dia site.

Mr Pa­padopou­los first of­fered his ser­vices to Ben Car­son, a ri­val of Mr Trump’s for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. When Dr Car­son dropped out, he joined the small team work­ing for Mr Trump who un­veiled his five-mem­ber for­eign pol­icy group dur­ing a con­fer­ence call with the ‘Wash­ing­ton Post’.

He named Mr Pa­padopou­los, say­ing: “Ge­orge is an oil and gas con­sul­tant; ex­cel­lent guy.”

Mr Pa­padopou­los pleaded guilty on Oc­to­ber 5 to ly­ing to FBI agents, ac­cord­ing to a court state­ment from Mr Mueller’s of­fice. The charge car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of five years in prison and a $250,000 (€214,000) fine, which could be re­duced as part of his plea deal. (© Daily Tele­graph Lon­don)

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders

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