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